Curiosity actually killed the cat. But do you ever wonder how it did it? Well, The Copy Cartel will tell you if you keep reading to the end. Curiosity is one of the most useful elements to grab and hold attention. That’s because it works as a psychological lever marketers pull in our brains. It’s called the Curiosity Gap.
This happens when there’s a gap between what you know and what you want to know. And because we are naturally curious, storytellers and advertisers intentionally create that itch for knowledge we have to scratch but can’t reach…
Until they give us the scratcher that relieves our curiosity.
For example, just read this headline for this story…
“I stood by and allowed my wife to almost kill our son…”
Here’s new information that’s been presented to you. You now know this man watched his wife nearly kill their son. But now there’s a gap between the obvious information you want to know such as:
- Why the hell did his wife try to kill their son?
- Why the hell did he just stand there and watch?
- What freaking happened after?
Curiosity In Marketing
If you want to find out the answers to these questions, you’ll just have to keep reading this to the end.
The media has always aroused their audiences with curiosity. You see headlines flavored with actual salacious rumors and juicy gossip to sell products and services. And that’s fair as long as they properly bridge the curiosity gap.
But now there’s a spectrum of slimy marketers who pervert the art of curiosity in marketing just to produce useless and rage-inducing content.
There are marketers out there whose sole purpose is to abuse and spam curiosity at any cost. They just want to get more clicks and get more eyes on ads.
There’s no intent to add value to the customer’s time and add value overall.
There’s only the need to drive revenues and traffic by appealing to their natural sense of curiosity.
Buzzfeed has been accused of this sometimes.
So how do you stay on the right side of curiosity and not roll in advertising filth like the clickbait pigs?
Relieve Curiosity with Satisfaction
I watched a trailer for a horror flick called FREAKY. It involves a creepy serial killer in his 40s that kidnaps a high school student and performs some dark ritual on her. And then they end up switching bodies.
Now, this movie has an interesting plot that aroused my curiosity. How does a high school girl trapped in the body of a serial killer… convince her friends and family that someone else has taken control of her body?
I wanted to see this movie because it created that gap between the present information from the trailer and the rest of information I will gain from watching it.
Unfortunately, this trailer made a crucial marketing mistake… keep reading to find out what it did wrong.
Beware of Instant Satisfaction
It’s good to arouse curiosity but if you satisfy the curiosity instantly in your marketing, you will lose the sale.
The 3-minute trailer gave away so much exposition, revealed brutal death scenes, and the girl’s plan to resolve her situation.
So it answered my questions, gave me the shock value I was seeking, and satisfied my curiosity.
It was more of a summary than a trailer so my desire to watch this movie was gone. It still opened with $3.7 million in the box office though. So they’ll be fine.
But you should understand the curiosity gap only works when you delay satisfaction and relieve it at the right moment. Never reveal all of the information right away.
Because as soon curiosity is bridged, the prospect is moving on to the next thing.
So make sure your prospect is invested long enough after you present new information. Reward their curiosity with a big enough payoff for when you give them the rest of it.
The prospect will appreciate that you value their time and investment.
Never resort to clickbait.
The Thin Line Between Curiosity and Clickbait
Curiosity is only useful in sales and marketing if it brings satisfaction to the user. Clickbait on the other hand is any piece of content that induces yawns, disgust, and resentment after the curiosity gap has been used.
People resent having their time wasted when you tease them with the veil of useful curiosity
So it’s really important that you leave people in a better place or mood after they click through your content.
Please don’t create a useless 10-minute video just to tell me Zlatan Ibrahimovic was involved in a legal battle with Fifa… just because they didn’t pay him a cut for using his likeness.
The payoff from the curiosity gap wasn’t worth it after reading the headline, “you won’t believe the SHOCKING reason why Zlatan HATES EA’s Fifa game”
There’s nothing shocking or new about celebrities suing companies over image rights
There… I saved you a click to this boring story from Oh My Goal.
Users are becoming more aware of this cheap tactic and counter it with fact-checking and investigation.
Some annoyed readers will even click beforehand and go on to reveal the angle of the lame attempt in the comment section so other readers don’t have to waste their time.
If your headline uses curiosity, make sure you satisfy that itch with substantial content that matches your prospect’s expectation.
And because these marketers are abusing this mechanic, it’s a really hard line to walk.
But stay consistent and be careful.
These days it’s not curiosity that killed the cat. It’s clickbait.
Until then… stay blessed.
P.S. Oh, the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” was first used in a news headline in 1916 from the Washington Post. A cat named Blackie climbed up to a chimney but then broke its back when it fell to the first floor (I guess cats don’t always land on their feet.) And here’s the trailer for that movie I was talking about.
P.P.S. Here’s that story about the guy who almost allowed his wife to kill their wife…
P.P.P.S If you want to become a copywriter, see if you can write a sales letter like this one