We are drowning in a flood of information, on our desktops, our mobile devices, our televisions; from product videos to long-form written content, from Instagram images to LinkedIn posts.
Every avenue of marketing has been deployed, from aggressive advertising, email, to inbound strategies, podcasts, and webinars. And yet, marketers continue to come up with new (or not so new) concepts to get through to the customer. Or bring back old can trusted ways of attracting business.
One of these is curiosity marketing.
Curiosity as a concept is nothing new. Just think of cliffhangers in TV series, the anticipation created before a commercial break to make sure you stay on the channel, pre-announcements of products, leaking information before a launch, teaser landing pages, and all the other tricks in the toolkit of the scarcity marketers.
Curiosity comes into play everywhere, from podcasts to panel shows. As digital platforms change the way they display content, marketers must adapt. For years we tried to find the perfect still image for our video content; now it is about the first six seconds of an ad shown on Youtube. If you cannot arouse the viewers’ curiosity, they will not watch your ad.
Digitally native users are a particular are a hard nut to crack. Their brains have been conditioned to the myriad of stimuli already present everywhere in the digital world. They recognize icons, colors, and sequences of actions faster than older generations, and are much quicker to dismiss clues set by marketers. But the one thing they have in common with everybody else is curiosity.
I recently advised a luxury car accessory maker on the launch of their digital campaign. Instead of showing the product in detail, with high-resolution images, technical descriptions, and videos of flashy cars on a race track, we made only a simple landing page with a black background and a simple statement highlighting one feature of the flagship product. This that attracted the attention of car fanatics. We then promoted the website on Instagram and within 3 months had over 150’000 people in the target market signing up for a newsletter – an ideal basis for future marketing efforts.
Nothing was revealed about the product publicly, only in the newsletter. The buzz created by this form of curiosity marketing was amazing.
Curiosity, FOMO, and Scarcity
Curiosity belongs in the same corner as scarcity marketing and exploiting FOMO – the fear of missing out, and the FOMO is a powerful force indeed.
Curiosity is built into the digital world like nothing else: you have to click on the teaser headline, the blurry image; you have to follow up on that murky statement because you do want to know, otherwise you could miss the latest trend, the big discount, or the change to win the big prize. Our innate human curiosity is the best tool for marketers to exploit – if they do so in an ethical way.
Curiosity and Ethics
The problem with curiosity marketing is the potential for abuse. How often have you clicked on something “interesting” only to find out it led to a spammy website or even a dangerous corner of the web where malware entered your computer, or nefarious elements tried to scam you or get a hold of your credit card data.
Thus, big brands are wary of playing the curiosity game. Gen X consumers have known from earliest childhood how to spot dodgy calls to action. Uusing the tricks of curiosity marketing without having built a reputation for honest, meaningful interaction with the consumer can totally ruin a brand’s image, as we see in scandal after scandal.
Authenticity and Consistency
The key to engaging via curiosity marketing is pure and adulterated authenticity. Don’t use other people’s tricks, don’t copy other people’s strategies. Only by nurturing an authentic dialog with your audience and engaging with them human-to-human, honestly and open, will you be able to use curiosity to increase your fans’ interest in your content, your product, or your service offering.
Another important factor is consistency. Because there is so much content on offer, in so many formats, good digital marketing is all about consistency. Consistency refers to your design, the layout of your pages, but also the steps you take to publish content and the road by which you are leading your potential client to a sales decision.
Just because you have built a loyal following through well-designed videos doesn’t mean that next time you can just spam your audience with a “buy my stuff”‘ CTA. People get used to their content sources, like them or not, and often start disliking them when you change the format or the goal of a campaign.
Focus on the Relationship
Finally, curiosity marketing works when it builds relationships, not just between the brand and the customer, but also between customers and other stakeholders. Using forums and Facebook groups, for example, doesn’t directly translate into sales, but creates relationships, because we are all curious about how other people do it, how other people use a product, or how celebrities discover (or get paid to discover) new products. Hence the mind-boggling success of Instagram.
Relationships can go many ways and include elements like your own employees, user-generated content, and most of all customer feedback. And only in the context of these authentic relationships should you deploy curiosity marketing.
Don’t venture into curiosity marketing without first building the foundation of a meaningful relationship to your customers. GenX, like no other generation in history, bombarded by information and constantly on the move, demands this authenticity.