Fun: The Overlooked Special Ingredient

You’re walking over a bridge. Or a hill. Or whatever landmark in your hometown that has the best view. You turn your head and notice the sun setting down. Light streams through buildings and over the horizon. It’s a perfect image. You whip out your phone, stick out your tongue, and snap a selfie with the sun in the background. You crop the photo, give it the right filter, upload it to your social platform, and watch the likes and comments roll in. You feel good. You keep on walking, looking for that next perfect shot.

As we spiral deeper into our self-made well of social media, several essayists, journalists, politicians, and philosophers have questioned why we enjoy our platforms. They’ve analyzed this notion through political, economic, social, and experimental perspectives. Many of these ideas have merit, but there is a simple answer that’s often overlooked: It’s fun.

It’s a basic concept, but a crucial one. People want to have fun. We’ll put up with a lot of inconveniences in our pursuit of amusement. How many people have tolerated hour-long lines to experience five-minute roller coasters? How many gamers grind through difficult levels just to enjoy one great boss fight? How many readers have slogged through mediocre chapters to reach one excellent passage? I’m sure you’ve put up with some strange stuff in your quest for fun; it’s human nature. Fun is integral to our lives; marketers would do well to remember this fact.

Pinterest certainly has considered the importance of fun. They’ve recently released several tweaks to their platform, some cosmetic, others substantial. One of the big additions is Lens.

Lens is a deconstruction tool for the social age. It allows users to snap a photo and break it down piece by piece. Let’s say you’re standing in the mall, slightly bored and looking for something to do. You spot a mannequin sporting a stylish Fall weather ensemble and you take a pic. Lens will pick apart that image into its relevant categories (shoes, hat, pants, jacket, etc.) and provide similar or related materials you can shop through. It gives instant information to serious shoppers and curious passersby alike. Most of all, it’s fun. It’s an engaging way to get people in the shopping mood. Even people who don’t want to buy anything could have fun deconstructing a photo. It’s a fusion of commerce and entertainment. The market will decide if it’s a success, but at the very least it’s an interesting experiment.

Marketers should follow Pinterest’s lead. They shouldn’t ripoff the Lens idea wholesale (unless they think they can get away with it), but they should pay attention to its core mandate: Fun. The advertising landscape is changing. People are turning off ads and retreating to their social bubbles. Companies need to connect with these customers and they need to do so through the user experience. It’s the easiest way to engage potential consumers. Above all else, the user experience should be fun. It should be an enjoyable, entertaining experience. People should look forward to using your service, not dread it.

Think back to what you’ve endured to achieve something fun. Think about what you enjoy. Think about the products you like and why you always return to them. Once you understand that, you’re ready to see the user experience through a new, better lens.