HOW TO BE INTERESTING (OR THE MAGIC ANIMAL GAME)

A series of insightful questions to use in branding … and dating.

Here at Manifesto, we help brands put their best foot forward. Marketing is, after all, a means of attracting people who might value what you have to offer. But it’s not just about looking good. It’s also about being interesting. It’s a lot like dating, that way. We try to present the best parts of ourselves to attract people who share the same values. We try to be interesting to the right people. But how do we actually go about being interesting?

Our job as agents of brand communications is to help companies identify their brand values and attributes so they can be communicated in a way that is easily understood and (hopefully) interesting. We try to highlight their strongest features and give them that light touch that will help them stand out. Like wearing a color that brings out your eyes. But first, we have to determine what those key details are. To do this well, we really have to get to truly know our clients.

It’s a good thing we like asking questions.

Being a good interviewer is critical to getting good answers. Not only do you have to do some clever detective work to make certain connections, you also have to make the process engaging for the interviewee. Nothing loses someone’s interest faster than being asked to respond to a long series of impersonal questions. This is why Manifesto has developed and draws from a wide range of activities and exercises that make the process of introspection a little more enjoyable. We treat interviews like a game.

Largely speaking, our goal is not only to understand our clients, but to ultimately help our clients understand themselves. When we do this right, it’s enlightening for both parties. An accurate and thoughtful snapshot of what makes them beautiful or special really helps an organization align around its fundamental attributes. And who doesn’t like to feel recognized for that which makes them unique? Revealing these hidden gems within an organization enables alignment and clarity, and also helps to move them forward.

It turns out that people — as in actual humans — also appreciate feeling understood. Go figure, right? Whether it be branding or dating, asking provocative questions can help us uncover these truths. It turns out, when we show interest in someone and reflect their best back at them, we actually become more interesting ourselves. This is probably best revealed in one of my favorite quotes:

“If you want to be interesting, be interested.”
-David Ogilvy (the father of advertising)

We all love to feel interesting, and as saying goes, “The more you give, the more you get.” So, in the spirit of spring, I thought I’d share one of my favorite interview techniques that will not only help you make friends at your next party, but it may help you shed some light on your core brand attributes (whether it’s your personal brand or a business).

The thing I love about this game is:

  1. It’s fun and insightful
  2. It encourages a subtle, non-threatening introspective inquiry
  3. It has an interesting twist or payoff at the end that is quite revealing for both the interviewee and interviewer.

THE MAGIC ANIMAL GAME

This game requires nothing but listening skills and a little bit of memorization. I’ll go on to describe why this game is so impactful after I tell you how it works. I strongly encourage you to play along in your head as you read through — the second time is never as potent as the first.

STEP 1 — The Interview

Okay, I’m going to ask you to name your three favorite animals — or at least, three that come to mind. With each animal, however, I’d like you to also include an attribute that you ascribe to this animal. Don’t worry. There are no wrong answers here.

Example: I like monkeys because they’re clever.

When you’re playing with a friend, it’s important to repeat both the animal and the attribute back to the interviewee after the person has responded. So go ahead and play along:

Name your favorite animal — _______________
What attribute do you associate with this animal? ___________________

Name your second favorite animal — _______________
What attribute do you associate with this animal? ___________________

Name your third favorite animal — _______________
What attribute do you associate with this animal? ___________________

Did you come up with your list? Take a second to review. You’re only going to get one chance at this!

STEP 2 — The Reveal

Once the person has gone through their list, it’s now time to unpack the meaning of each animal. Each animal represents a different layer of self perception. And this is where it gets interesting! Go through the list one by one, but with one addition. After you rattle off the animal and the attribute, you then get to reveal the connection to a trait aspect of their identity.

Animal #1 — This animal represents how you see yourself (i.e., your perceived self)

Animal #2 — This animal represents how you want to be seen (i.e., your Ideal self)

Animal #3 — This animal represents how you’re really seen (i.e., your real self)

RESULTS

Mind blowing, right? Well, at least a little bit revealing perhaps. The great thing about this game is that it allows you to be interested, which is always interesting. One thing I’ve definitely learned over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. And if you let them talk, you’ll likely be fascinated by the results. And they’ll relish the attention, and the perspective shift.

WHY IT WORKS IN DATING

There is no question more central and timeless than, “Who am I, and where am I going?” We’re all trying to better understand ourselves and how we fit into the world. When we allow ourselves to see another human, we allow them to be seen. It’s like getting an exceptional photo taken of us when we aren’t even looking. We suddenly see ourselves for who we are.

While this is a fun way to encourage self-discovery, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. At Manifesto, we use lots of thinking exercises to facilitate this kind of discovery process (usually not pertaining to animals). We find this work enthralling, and our clients often call it clarifying. Once we understand our values and sense of self, it’s much easier to plot a clear path forward. It creates consistency around communications, enables teamwork, and helps leaders move forward with confidence and purpose.

If you’d like to talk to us about the myriad ways we can help your organization unpack and align your values, give us a call. We love this stuff. And I promise we’ll be interesting.

Dan Olson is a Senior Strategist at Manifesto, who is genuinely interested in just about everything and everyone, including you.

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