Friday 08 November, 2013
One of the reasons Apple is such a big company is that it keeps so many secrets. It has a way of always keeping us guessing, and this makes it fascinating. Whenever a new product is launched, tech bloggers spend months speculating about it and this only leads to more exposure and presumably more sales.
Transparency and honesty are good when you’re an online marketer. They show that you’re real and this helps your customers relate to you. But as Apple and many other major brands show, sometimes it’s good not to give it all away. An air of mystery and the curiosity it arouses can help you sell.
Why Mystery Works
Mystery works because it draws people in. It makes you interesting. It’s like a good headline that says, ‘Discover my secrets to…’ Who wouldn’t want to discover secrets? Mystery intrigues you and leads you to say, ‘What the heck is this?’ It’s one of the key elements to a good story.
The Secret Sauce
When you keep people guessing, you keep them tuned in. It’s like the secret sauce that sets your product apart. People wonder what’s inside it and what makes it work. This leads to speculation, attempts at imitation and lots of exposure.
Curiosity Killed the Consumer (or at Least their Credit Card)
The key to making mystery work is curiosity. It’s not just about being obscure and it’s definitely not about being dishonest. It’s about stimulating the curiosity that’s an innate part of human nature.
Carnegie Melon University professor George Loewenstein came up with a theory called the information gape theory of curiosity. He stated that curiosity is aroused in the gap between what we know and what we want to know. The key is the latter part – your customers need to want to know the secret.
If you build up curiosity by appealing to what people want to know but you don’t quite give it away, this leads people to take action.
Examples of Mystery in Action
Start looking around at advertisements and you’ll see how they use mystery to stimulate your curiosity. A good example that’s often cited is Tetley’s tea bags, which for some reason are round while usual tea bags are square. This is not anything earth-shattering, but it makes you wonder why the darn bags are round and the company uses this mystery to its advantage.
An even better example is Budweiser Dry’s ‘Why ask why’ campaign. This really turns the mystery thing on its head because there is no possible answer. But after you’ve had several bottles of it, you may find yourself pondering.
Look for examples of mystery in advertising and ask yourself, ‘What makes them work?’ Then try to build some subtle mystery into your brand and its products, and see how customers react.