It turns out, what you don’t know will kill you after all. Think of the first person to eat holly berries, or the first to discover poison ivy. Think of the Wright brothers, who were the first to conquer flying. Think of the first person to test a parachute – which astonishingly happened over 100 years before the first plane took flight.[i]Each of these examples is evidence of humanity’s innate curiosity.
Curiosity has been studied in psychology for years, catching the attention of pioneers of the field, including James, Pavlov, and Skinner.[ii] Recently, the concept of using curiosity to attract consumers has become a source of interest for marketers as well. Neuromarketing is steadily gaining credibility in the field, lending credence to the idea that curiosity, among other physiological and neural signals, can help marketers gain insight into consumers’ motivations, preferences, and decisions.[iii]
Curiosity marketing is related to scarcity marketing. It’s about leaving your audience wanting more – so much so that they perform a desired action. That action might be signing up for a newsletter, clicking a link to view your content, or even making a purchase.[iv] Marketers create curiosity in their audiences by creating a gap between what consumers know and what they want to know. They do this by providing information in small bits to maintain interest.[v]
George Loewenstein, a leader in the fields of behavioral economics and neuroeconomics, dubs this disconnect between acquired information and desired information “the curiosity gap.”[vi] There are many marketing influencers in the world who would disagree on the best ways to create a curiosity gap, but a common thread among them is to always, always, always be authentic with your content. Digital natives today are far too wary of clickbait articles, and many will distrust you if your content comes across as disingenuous – particularly Gen Xers.[vii]
There’s a fine line to be walked when creating curiosity advertisements, but if it’s done well, curiosity can turn consumers into impulse buyers. In order to accomplish this, marketers should become storytellers and study their buyers more than they study their competitors – particularly in B2B companies.[viii] They should be concise, show the value proposition right away, take a stance with their language, and steer clear of exaggeration.[ix]
One of the best examples of curiosity marketing is the subject line of an email. Think of the luxury purse brand that leads with “For the Love of Limited-Edition,” or the eco-friendly cosmetics company that catches readers’ attention with “Easy plastic-free swaps.” News organizations might lead with their biggest headlines, such as “Hackers target coronavirus vaccine data,” and companies launching new products might tease major themes: “Introducing Workout Plans.” Each of these are real subject lines from promotional emails received by one of our contributors.
Clearly, curiosity marketing is more pervasive than one might have initially thought. Packaging is another great place to pique a consumer’s curiosity. Coca-Cola knows this and has created Sip & Scan – an interactive packaging experience available on a number of their products. On the packaging, users will find a URL, which they enter into their phone’s web browser. They’ll tap “SCAN NOW,” which launches the phone’s camera, allowing the user to scan a unique icon on the packaging and bringing them to a landing page with exclusive experiences, rewards, sweepstakes, and more.[x] Participating brands include Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Powerade, Dasani, Barq’s, Smart Water, Seagram’s, Peace Tea and more.[xi]
Sip & Scan is meant to get the drinker’s attention: “What’s that icon in the design on my Peach Peace Tea? There’s a URL, I’ll look it up.” The packaging provides just enough information to get the user curious, and from there, the journey is in the customer’s hands. It’s interactive, experiential, and unique.
Spotify has taken the idea behind curiosity marketing to heart as well. For five years, they’ve been creating “Discover Weekly” playlists for their users, generating recommendations based on past listening history.[xii] Their advertisements for the service have traditionally used principles of curiosity marketing: “Get Lost. Your Discover Weekly playlist is 30 songs you didn’t know you loved yet.”[xiii]
This is a perfect example of curiosity marketing, and Spotify has incorporated it into their social media strategy as well. On July 24, 2020, Taylor Swift released a surprise studio album titled folklore, which is available to stream through Spotify. On the company’s Twitter account, they said “The new @taylorswift13 album” is not a sentence we thought we’d be typing in 2020. Stream all 16 songs from #folklore now.”[xiv]
The company uses this strategy for new music and podcasts regardless of artist, genre, or subject: give a teaser about the new sound or new content, and let the listener do the rest. When the user wants more, they’ll do anything to know more and avoid missing out. It’s a lot like playing hard-to-get; it might be effective, but don’t overdo it.
Questions for Marketing Managers:
- How can marketing managers utilize curiosity marketing while avoiding the pitfalls of clickbait?
- Does curiosity marketing work for every type of product or service? When might it be more effective, and when might it be inappropriate?
- In your opinion, is curiosity marketing a fad in the marketing industry? Will it stand up against traditional marketing strategies in the long term?
[i] Editors. (2019). First parachute jump is made over Paris. History.com. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-parachutist
[ii] Kidd, Celeste and Hayden, Benjamin. (2015). The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity. Neuron. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4635443/
[iii] Harrell, Eben. (2019). Neuromarketing: What You Need to Know. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/01/neuromarketing-what-you-need-to-know
[iv] Hiesboeck, Martin. (2018). Curiosity Marketing: The Ideal Solution for Digital Natives. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@martinhiesboeck/curiosity-marketing-the-ideal-solution-for-digital-natives-596da92c3381
[v] Matias, Rebecca. (2018). Creating Loyal Customers Through Curiosity Marketing. Callbox. Retrieved from https://www.callboxinc.com/growth-hacking/loyal-customers-curiosity-marketing/#disqus_thread
[vi] Lewkowicz, Kayla. How to Create the Curiosity Gap in Your Marketing. Ivy Exec. Retrieved from https://www.ivyexec.com/career-advice/2016/curiosity-gap-marketing/
[vii] Hiesboeck, Martin. (2018). Curiosity Marketing: The Ideal Solution for Digital Natives. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@martinhiesboeck/curiosity-marketing-the-ideal-solution-for-digital-natives-596da92c3381
[viii] Matias, Rebecca. (2018). Creating Loyal Customers Through Curiosity Marketing. Callbox. Retrieved from https://www.callboxinc.com/growth-hacking/loyal-customers-curiosity-marketing/#disqus_thread
[ix] Lewkowicz, Kayla. How to Create the Curiosity Gap in Your Marketing. Ivy Exec. Retrieved from https://www.ivyexec.com/career-advice/2016/curiosity-gap-marketing/