Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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Curiosity is built into us.  From Wikipedia: Curiosity is an emotion related to natural inquisitive behaviour such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in human and many animal species.

As an emotion, curiosity impels us to do things beyond logic and beyond functional purpose.  Curiosity makes us humans explorers, discoverers.  I like Bing because of the exotic photos of interesting places I’ve never been to.  I mouse over the picture and click the links that appear just for the fun of it, not out of an intention to actually go there in the forseeable future.  I watched the Taco Bell commercial for Blackjack Taco not because I was working my way through the purchase funnel; I was simply curious but now my curiosity will lead me to go there and try one.

For marketers, curiosity offers possibilities for demand generation and engagement that shouldn’t be ignored especially in a digital age.  While I’m watching TV if I see something interesting, I can multitask and search to learn more.  Compare that to 15 years ago when an intriguing idea would force us to organize an expedition to the library, museum, or to the store to check it out and frankly the curiosity impulse would often dissipate before we could get there.

From shopper insights, we know that shoppers like to browse, to discover new things.  We’re curious to try that new gourmet coffee, to unscrew the lid off of a shampoo bottle and take a sniff. Arm & Hammer® Brilliant Sparkle toothpaste worked with “First Flavor” to provide free sampling taste strips in-store at Wegmans reportedly resulting in 66% sales lift while the shopper marketing event was going on. Many wander around a Trader Joe’s with almost no intention except to find something interesting.  We’re curious and we explore and there’s a marketing strategy in there somewhere.

Marketing research approaches often assume people are calculative in making their choices, but a strong case could be made that much or most new product adoption starts with curiosity.

Here are some ideas for marketers to make their brand the center of attention for curious-minded consumers.

Build curiosity into your offering.

  • Create a new product form that is interesting.  Air freshener products are great at this.  According to a senior marketer for Clairol in the 1970s, hair mousse was “the same stuff” delivered in a new, interesting product form.
  • Create a brand experience that requires exploration (Twitter is a perfect example; if you don’t commit to daily exploration you just won’t get what it’s about)
  • Create a playful way for people to continue to experience your brand.  For example, MTV’s The Hills has an active virtual environment.
  • Create a brand that never stops offering surprises.  The apps for the iPhone provide endless opportunities for discovery. Offer flavors and forms that are gone once they sell out.

Build curiosity into your brand communications

  • Use both traditional and digital advertising to make people curious about your brand and send them to a web-site or micro-site for more. For example, Frito-Lay created an Ogilvy award winning ad campaign for Cheetos that sent people into a fun digital place, “The Orange Underground”.
  • Use teaser advertising and games for a major launch to build intrigue, like Verizon is using for the new Android phones.
  • Get ahead of the curve on augmented reality and QR codes.  They will allow people to explore your brand in a retail setting like never before.

Building curiosity into retail activation

Curiosity equals exploration equals shopper excitement for a retailer.  They are constantly struggling to create excitement in center store so shoppers more fully navigate up and down the aisles.

  • Have demo and tasting stations.  People love to sample new foods.  It is a combination of curiosity with the strong attraction that people have to “free”.  In the same way, a retailer can also have demos of cleaning products.  This will attract shoppers to the store and also give them an additional source of manufacturer promotion funds.

Shift marketing thinking and get curious about curiosity

If you are trying to cultivate curiosity…to be interesting… you are taking exclusive focus off of the purchase funnel and finding new ways to be relevant to people in the context of their lives.

In a world of the long-tail of choices that are sometimes not very functionally different, using curiosity as a way of getting people to think about your brand makes sense.  In committing to curiosity, you are entertaining the notion that being interesting might be a new way of being better.

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