In theater, there’s a basic, confined realm in which all of the action takes place. The set, the actors, and action all take place within the three visible “walls” of the stage (stage left, stage right, and up-stage – or the back). Then, there’s the fourth wall, located down stage, toward the audience where, although there’s normally no physical boundary, it’s understood that the action stops there, and the audience is left to simply witness.
“Breaking the fourth wall” is when the action and the confined comfort of “the stage” is compromised. The actors and the action cross that “invisible boundary” and it goes spilling into the audience. Sometimes it creates havoc like in the musicals “Hair” and “Godspell” from the 60’s and 70’s. And other times, it creates further engagement from the audience as in “Cabaret,” where the first few rows of the audience are (somewhat… tee hee) willing participants in the story.
Although the audience is bound from the action up on the big screen, movies also play with that fourth wall. Some of my all-time favorites have utilized this technique like “Blazing Saddles,” where characters speak to the camera several times, and, at one point, Sheriff Bart rides his horse past a full orchestra playing the score for the movie – a prime example. Others examples include “A Christmas Story,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Wayne’s World” (one and two), and “Young Frankenstein” – all of which, by breaking that fourth wall, create a movie experience that is personally unique to each viewer.
So, the question I pose to you is, from a branding standpoint, how do you break through the fourth wall? How do you create an engaging brand experience in which your customers can take part? Have you “Elfed yourself” lately? Is it as simple as creatively creating a “sub-class” of soda drinkers (silly, but I switched for a while)? Or has your favorite brand become integrated into your every-day life?
Hmmmm…. Food for thought.
Until Next time