The first time I heard about the ‘goose bumps test’ was when I listened to one of my favourite radio shows, Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1. A former megastar electro ensemble, Swedish House Mafia, explained that they use it every time they write music. “Goose bumps never lie” – claimed the musicians. (Listen to that show here.)
Back in 2010 I didn’t think much of it, but as time passed ‘Goose bumps never lie’ started to mean a lot more, now that I am trying to dig deeper and deeper into the topic of content creation and distribution and understanding how users engage with brand messaging when it is presented in an interruptive format (pre-roll, pop-up, interstitials) vs. involvement (native advertising).
First thing’s first, why do we get goose bumps when we listen to music or watch a video?
‘In 2001, neuroscientists Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre at McGill University in Montreal provided an answer. Using magnetic resonance imaging they showed that people listening to pleasurable music had activated brain regions called the limbic and paralimbic areas which are connected to euphoric reward responses.’ – BBC.co.uk
‘A Team of Canadian researchers suggest that when we are moved by music, our brains behave as if reacting to delicious food, psychoactive drugs, or money. The pleasure experience is driven by the “reward” chemical dopamine, which has been linked to addiction. It produces physical effects known as “chills” that cause changes in the skin’s electrical conductance, heart rate, breathing and temperature.’ – cmuse.org
So it comes down to two elements when it comes to creating content – be it video or music – that evokes goose bumps: buildup and a sudden change. It is all about tricking the brain into thinking that it knows what is coming up and then introducing a sudden change – new instrument, new plot line, unique perspective to a common topic etc.
Let’s see it in action. This recent Nike ad from Wieden+Kennedy takes a unique turn during a basketball game:
P&G puts things in the perspective in this touching video:
What is interesting is that sad themes that give you goose bumps can often induce positive feelings. ‘One of the most intriguing explanations for music’s “chill” effect has been offered by neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp. Neurobiologist Jaak Panksepp found that people more often feel chills or goose bumps when listening to music when the music evokes a sad feeling or is compounded by a sad memory, as opposed to happy feelings or positive memories. He thinks this may be due to evolution – this response may be similar to those our ancestors felt when they heard the cry of a lost loved one bringing about a desire for close physical contact and keeping families together.’ – Mental Floss
And to prove that you don’t have to be a mega brand to create content that is both amazing and touching, here is an example of an amazing piece created by a small shop – Green Shoe Studio: