The Power of What You Leave Out

One of rock’s greatest albums.  Nothing written on the front of it.  No band name.  No album name.

Would Zeppelin IV have been a bigger success if they would have written “Led Zeppelin” across the front?  Not likely.

One of the very cool aspects of this classic album is the mystery behind the strange cover.

How about this album?

It didn’t have a name either.

Would it have been bigger if they would have called it “A Doll’s House” as originally planned?  Nope.  Part of the mystique of  “the white album” is that it wasn’t called officially ”the white album”.  It wasn’t called anything at all.

The lack of anything on the front, other than the text “The BEATLES” and a serial number, is part of the legacy of the album.

The Beatles and Led Zeppelin tapped into the power of the incomplete.
Leondardo Davinci called it “sfumato“, which loosely translated means “smoky”.  He made the lines on the Mona Lisa’s face intentionally smoky, blurred, and almost incomplete in order to engage the mind.
Michaelangleo called it “non-finito” or “unfinished”.  He left sculptures partially entombed in stone and intentionally left many things looking unfinished in order to capture your attention.
In-N-Out Burger calls it the “secret menu“.  Actually, they don’t.  Their customers do.  In-N-Out Burger only has four food items (besides drinks) on their menu.
Yet there are literally dozens of “secret” menu items you can order.  The menu never acknowledges them.  Their staff never talk about them.  Yet you can walk into any In-N-Out Burger and ask for “The Flying Dutchman” or a “3 By Meat, Animal Style” and you’ll get exactly what you asked for.
Part of the allure of In-N-Out Burger is the secret menu.  And thanks to the internet, the secret menu is hardly secret anymore.  In-N-Out has attempted to address that by denying a secret menu exists.  They offer an explanation here.
Why does this work?

The human mind hates loose ends.  We watch bad movies right to the end because we would rather put up with a crappy movie rather than deal with not knowing what happened.   When we see the Mona Lisa, we see a truly human face because our mind completes the picture beneath the smoky lines.  We are engaged.

What does your brand intentionally leave out?
Do your customers have a secret menu to order from?

Have you had the guts to release an album without your name on it?

Creating a little mystery around your brand will go a long way toward engaging the mind of your customers.

3 Responses to “The Power of What You Leave Out”

  1. Darrin M. Harvey says:

    Damn Steve this is a good one! I've read it a few times now, really brilliant brother!


  2. Steve says:

    Thanks Darrin! Much appreciated.

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Davinci, In-N-Out Burger, Led Zeppelin, Michaelangelo, The Beatles 3 Comments