I give you a box, I tell you that the thing inside is a mystery. But I already know what you think is inside...
The idea is that there is a mystery box. Not knowing what is inside represents infinite possibility.
Solving The Mystery Of Mysteries
A mystery is a catalyst for imagination. In fact, mystery is more important than imagination - because it’s what sparks imagination in the first place.
It’s one of the things that makes advertising tick - piquing the interest of the public is one thing, but capturing their imagination is another.
You need to know what makes people tick, and how you can get them to be swept up in something.
Kind of like Pepsi did in the 90s with their infamous Harrier Jet commercial…
If you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet” and if you watch it you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
It’s how clickbait articles are able to incite us to give them that dreaded click. They share an impactful statement followed by a curiosity-inducing mystery and then prompt us to continue reading the article to get the answer to our burning question.
Clickbait shoves the puzzle in our faces and yells “THERE’S A PIECE MISSING AND I HAVE IT!”
And it’s divisive - it works on a percentage of people and completely turns off another.
That’s how mystery boxes and the curiosity gap have come to evolve in the public sphere.
Marketing is about building connections with people and at the same time making them feel like they can’t live without your product or venture, something that is ultimately an emotional approach. But it also has a lot of nuances, and people don’t respond well to in-your-face aggressive ads anymore (unless they’re under ten years old).
So how do you open the curiosity gap without being on the nose?
There is a mystery in terms of imagination - of withholding information.
The shark in Jaws is more of a lurking presence than a jump-scare monster.
In Alien - you never see the alien, only how Ripley and the people around her desperately try to survive.
In Signs, you never see the aliens full on, only in reflections and you feel terror based on the terror the characters feel on screen.
They manage to keep our curiosity the whole time without showing us the monster.
The Two Types Of Curiosity
In his book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, Ian Leslie calls this diversive curiosity: “the restless desire for the new and the next.”
But there is a second type of curiosity too - a type that is defined by a desperate need to uncover what comes next. And it is piqued by mystery.
It’s the curiosity that keeps you reading even though it’s 2 AM just because you can’t go to sleep without knowing what happens next.
It’s the same curiosity that makes us love/hate horror movies and that fuels us to watch them all the way to the end.
And this mystery is even better if we can unravel it bit by bit.
That’s why hinting can be so effective in marketing.
We love connecting the dots.
We need to bridge gaps.
You open up the curiosity gap by appealing to people’s quest for real knowledge, and their hunger for wisdom, and inspiration.
How To Leverage The Curiosity Gap For Your Business
They say a good story arouses curiosity. But some arouse more curiosity than others. Telling a strong, well-structured story is like creating a series of curiosity gaps and helping your audience to fill in the gaps.
Effective storytelling is a powerful skill for marketers and business leaders. It helps them pitch investors, attract partners, garner users, and much more. And storytelling starts with a title and a strong, short introduction.
Think about your elevator pitch for your business. Do you jump straight in and ramble on about features, or do you ask a question about a pain point first?
That question leads to a curiosity gap, which leads to an opening through which you can win a project or a new client - even if the interaction lasts minutes.
And think about how people love the unexpected. To truly pique your curiosity, be sure that you keep them suspended in a state of curiosity for a short period for the curiosity gap to have a real impact.
Your leads and customers want to fill the information gap, but not right off the bat.
As a marketer or business manager, your job is to delay that process for as long as you can without losing their interest. You need to give them enough to keep them engaged but not too much to drive them off too early.
It’s a delicate balancing act.
The 927% Lift in Curiosity Gap Case Study
Here’s an example of how the curiosity gap can bring results in real life.
In 2014, Copyhackers made a simple test with a pricing page design. The service offered four payment plan options, with Gold being the most expensive.
The first version of the page included the price list for the first three plans and only hinted at the added benefits of the Gold plan without mentioning its price (it was 5x times more expensive than the Silver one).
The second version listed all four payment plans, including the benefits and pricing.
The client saw a 927% boost in clicks on the first version compared to the second. Yes, a click does not mean a conversion, but it’s a necessary starting point.
By omitting some of the details (e.g. the price) and offering limited, but valuable information about the Gold plan, people were curious to learn more about it, and they bridged that gap by clicking on the CTA button.
Pretty neat huh?
So maybe it’s not as in-your-face as a promised Harrier Jet, but it can be a life-changing approach to business if you aren’t using it already.
You’re the solution to the curiosity gap - you just need to dangle the carrot, give just a glimpse of something good, and let people follow the dots back to you.
Just remember, that when you are offering answers to a curiosity gap your goal is earning the trust of your audience because you are giving them what they want to know. If you don’t understand the nuance of the mystery in your own offering, you are bound to lose them, as well as the chance of converting them.