When was the last time you did something spontaneous? The safeguard nature of the past year has left us living a life of calculated pre-planned experiences. Dining out on a whim? Reservations required. Last-minute weekend getaway? Better schedule that COVID test. As we look forward to life post-pandemic, I am sure that I’m not alone in saying I crave the return of spontaneity, happenstance, and delightful surprise in my everyday. But how far would you go to flex your curiosity?
Are you ready to welcome back the risky thrill of the unknown?
I recently heard about a “secret hotel” in upstate New York called The Dutchess, which shares nothing more than a “Contact Us” form on their website fueling mystery for the mind to ponder. No photos, no rates, no address – the ultimate unknown awaits. Similarly, cabin rental company Getaway plays on the curious consumer’s heartstrings by not revealing the location of their tiny homes nestled in the depths of the forest until after the guest books a reservation. Entertainment company, East Boston Oysters (EBO) is well known for throwing wildly over-the-top-themed dinner parties where locations are exclusively disclosed to attendees the day of the event in puzzle-like pieces to build up to your experience. On a product level, Uncommon James sells “mystery boxes” at a set price promising the undisclosed jewelry inside is worth more than the price of the box.
What makes these brands successful? Well for one thing they are leveraging curiosity as a marketing technique to lure in customers and set their brand apart. This technique, commonly referred to as a curiosity gap is based on “the information gap theory of curiosity” by academic George Lowenstein, and states curiosity occurs when people identify a gap between what they currently know and what they would like to know.
Curiosity gaps prompt people to take action. Customers will personally engage with a secret hotel by reaching out with questions. They will attend an event or purchase a mystery box to fulfill the thrill of being “in the know,” and will fuel their spontaneity tank by participating in the mystery. These actions and emotions foster a personal connection with the brand, and after the past year’s traumatic events, we certainly can’t help but think all of us are searching for some serendipitous thrills in life.
So, are you ready to surprise and delight your guests? As people begin to re-enter society, brands have a massive opportunity to reinvigorate their experience with wonder and intrigue to capture curiosity and fulfill our yearning desires for the unexpected. These risky-business-ready brands should still place emphasis on continuing safe, clean, and courteous service, but the key to standing out from the competition is marrying these protocols with unanticipated elements for the guests’ experience to exceed customer expectations while improving their overall brand experience.
Subsequently, what good is a secret if no one knows about it? Marketing these surprises effectively is pivotal to the brand’s continued success. Humans are inherently inquisitive beings, but if these tactics are played too close to the vest, there is little room for the guests’ curiosity. Challenge your brand to be thoughtfully bold by delicately balancing piquing a customer’s interest with leaving them wanting more.