Why consumer curiosity is a game-changer

When I were a lad and began my career in marketing at a well-known car company, life seemed so much simpler. Consumers knew their place and behaved how we expected them to. Our TV ads (or posters for cheaper car models) were viewed by consumers in their millions. They read our tactical press ad in the national press, picked up Yellow Pages to find their nearest dealer, and then nipped in for a test drive. Then they bought the car. We ran straightforward ads about the extra boot space of our shiny new model, reprinted Jeremy Clarkson’s reviews and everyone was happy – leaving plenty of time for long lunches and press launches in the south of France (although sadly I was far too junior to be allowed to attend these!).

Doesn’t feel quite so uncomplicated now, does it?  And I’m not just talking about the obvious game-changer of internet and social media, but more about consumer attitudes.  You see, one of the biggest game-changers is consumer curiosity.  This is what is driving today’s customers, and stopping them from behaving in the orderly fashion we grew to know and love in the 1980s.  But that’s not to say it’s a bad thing.  Far from it.  Curiosity is something that offers rewards to marketers and consumers alike.

Consumers have learned that curiosity has a monetary value and now, with gamification, can even be fun. Price comparison sites have changed the way we reappraise our insurance renewals and we can check out TripAdvisor to find out which room in a hotel we should or shouldn’t insist on. With the abundance of information available to us so we can check before we buy, we only need to commit to a brand when we are absolutely sure. So, unlike my days in automotive, consumers now only visit a showroom to buy, not research.

What else is driving curiosity?  The biggest thing (apart from the internet) which is transforming both consumer behaviour and marketing opportunities is data.  But before you switch off this is not as dull as it sounds.

In the UK in 2011 consumers created 1,800,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data – that’s 1.8 Zetabytes to those in the know. This will continue to grow as smartphones and tablets allow us to create more data when we’re out and about. Apparently, to store all this data you would need 58 billion iPads, which if piled up would reach the top of Mount Fuji three times over. Who knew?!

Fortunately the cost of storing and analysing all of this data has fallen dramatically. In 1992 it cost $1,000 for one Gigabyte of storage whereas now companies give two Gig USBs away for free as storage costs are negligible.

So add all these factors together and there is a perfect storm for real marketing innovation. Consumers have unlimited access to information, but what marketers have is the ability to monitor, measure, follow and observe exactly how and where curiosity is driving their behaviour. And not just through data we own – we can track them and influence them almost anywhere on their customer journey.

So, maybe this will throw out a new brand measure. It will no longer be important just to worry about your brand’s awareness, but the level at which it is stimulating consumer curiosity.  At WDMP we call this the Brand Curiosity Quotient.

Harking back to the land of shifting metal (automotive!), it’s good to see that some brands are already endorsing this. Mercedes’ two recent interactive TV ad campaigns,  Escape the Map and the Twitter-led #YOUDRIVE, create a far more involving experience to successfully target a younger more demanding audience. They both encouraged consumers to participate and influence the communication via digital platforms, as well as the usual sign up and win type participation, so creating multi-platform curiosity. Curiosity may kill the cat, but for cars it makes a killer app.

By DMA guest blogger Gavin Wheeler
CEO, WDMP

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Gavin Wheeler

About Gavin Wheeler

Before founding direct marketing agency WDMP in 2002, Gavin spent over 17 years’ client-side from Brand Manager to Marketing Director, including five years at Toyota and Lexus, followed by six years within telecoms at what is now Virgin Media, where he built direct as the lead sales channel and launched Broadband and Digital TV. WDMP’s clients include Tesco Bank, Monarch, The Carbon Trust, Cosmos Holidays, Freeview, BP, Philips and A Plan Insurance.