Have you ever gone to bed after a movie or TV show finale that ended with a big question mark and a multitude of open ends? You attempt calming your mind and closing your eyes, but the spinning “what ifs” keep you restlessly playing out the alternative endings. As annoying as this is, it means one thing: The show, topic, book, or brand captured your attention. It sparked your curiosity.
We all use the word curiosity, but what is it really?
It’s more than just the magical fuel responsible for generating some of our world’s greatest breakthroughs, research, fads, and new inventions. At its heart, it’s an intense desire to know and learn that’s been hardwired into our brain, and it can serve as one of the most powerful catalysts for action.
As people, we LOVE finite answers, clean endings, and assuring proof. When we don’t have it, multitudes of theories and alternative explanations are developed to resolve the unanswered. In simple terms, we get curious, and we do the work to solve the problem. But our favorite place to be is in a place where everything is already clean. How can I be sure? Our entire lives are set-up for a clean ending, just think about it.
Example 1: School.
Success in school requires correct answers, multiple choice, tests that get an A, some kind of outline to strive for. At school, you know what’s expected of you, and you get a gold star at the end of the day when you meet the standards.
Example 2: Work.
The head honchos are always looking for the bottom line — the answer to the questions about margins, future revenue, marketing forecasts, and industry outlooks. When something is right, they want to know the formula for arriving at that end result. (Ditto for when things are wrong.) But what’s the one thing you know? It’s always about the bottom line: the formula is set, and it works.
Example 3: Life in general.
From the tiny details like to-do lists that get checked off at the end of the day to figuring out your “reason to be,” most people are looking for a reason to get up every morning and accomplish things. Statistically speaking, many of us have those reasons, because it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning without them.
School. Work. Life.
Those are BIG parts of our lives, and we’re looking for the answers. Most of the time, we get them, but what happens when we don’t? We’ll go to whatever length to get that deep sigh of relief that accompanies knowing.
Why? Because the chase for answers (despite our dislike for having unfinished business) makes our lives interesting. People live for what might happen, and as a marketer, I’m SO glad that’s the case. Why? Because it’s my job to find the balance between “answer the question” and “what if.” And it’s a fascinating ride.
One of the most lethal tools in the marketing toolbox is the ability to spark consumer curiosity. Masterfully crafted campaigns have been known to break the internet, generate endless memes, and create a sense of urgency that we all crave. The most unusual part? Their success often costs far less than traditional methods of promotion, and the payoff is much bigger, too.
Companies who successfully spark consumers curiosity through social media, influencers, and guerilla marketing tactics are strategically harnessing the power of people to spread their message. It’s one of the most inexpensive ways to market because once people are fed just enough information to spark their curiosity and grab hold of the unknown, they quickly flock to others and social media platforms to solve the mystery, often creating exponential buzz. Beyond being cost-effective, companies who have successfully sparked curiosity surrounding a new product or service launch have seen remarkable results in consumer excitement. Why is this good? Because it also has incredible influence on sales.
So, how do they do it? What companies have struck the consumer curiosity jackpot when it comes to promotion? Here’s a line up of our favorite success stories that will leave you curious for more:
1. Fyre Festival
If you’re into Instagram, in the marketing or PR fields, or a big fan of Netflix documentaries, there’s no way you haven’t heard of Fyre Festival, AKA the most iconic luxury music experience that never happened. While it was a total disaster, one thing is for certain: Billy McFarland and Ja Rule nailed the promotion. They sought out the world’s top ten supermodels and asked them to post a single orange box on their social accounts at the same time in exchange for festival perks and kickbacks. Sounds weird, but it turned out to be the stuff of marketing legend.
The combined audience of the models/influencers numbered in the millions, and it was one of the most brilliantly calculated and effective marketing methods on Instagram to date. In the end, a little orange square sparked millions in to buy tickets.
2. Youth to the People
Youth to the People is a great example of a company building engagement with curiosity. With minimal messaging, the skincare brand shared multiple posts with a peculiar design and next-to-nothing details to introduce their newest product. It was risky, but it paid off in a big way: They sold out on their first launch.
There’s no way to talk about curiosity-sparking marketing without talking about the master himself: Steve Jobs. Choosing not to just brand products with curiosity, but his entire company, Job’s idea of marketing has long made Apple the world leader. He didn’t advertise that Apple made great computers equipped with advanced technology. No. Instead his core brand message was completely different: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. With this promise to consumers, there was always excitement around an Apple launch, no matter what the product was. It kept the world on edge, and customers lining up to buy — and that’s as successful as we can imagine.
4. Cuttie Cut: Children’s Salon
This salon’s creativity is a perfect illustration of guerilla marketing, where street access and curiosity come together to win. By creating an experiential, interactive exhibit, this ad encouraged engagement from those passing by because the only way to “see” the rest of the photo was by taking a contact info strip. With each strip taken, the ad revealed a little bit more of the underlying photo — a kid with a good haircut — and people learned more about the salon. Yes, it’s a little silly, and also a little juvenile, but think of the audience: Kids (and their parents). In my mind, they totally delivered.
It’s no secret: Brand and product marketers have lots of options when choosing how to promote their new product or concept. That’s why the competition for getting in front of the right people is harder than ever — and why average marketing just isn’t going to cut if you want to make a real difference.
So if you find yourself regularly asking yourself how to stand out among the noise, here’s the answer: Spark curiosity. It’s powerful, instinctual, and speaks to our natural desire to know. All it takes is for you to look at your promotional content differently, and instead of going back to your standard bag of tricks, ask this very vital question: Does this make me beg for more? If the answer is no, start fresh, and keep going until you think, “OMG, I will die if I don’t see this.” Then you’ll know you’ve won.