By Katherine Fera
In today’s pop culture canon, the character who most embodies curiosity is the sleuth Sherlock Holmes. It seems there’s been a Sherlock revival of late, including a series of films and the US show Elementary. Yet the Holmes who dominates discussion in most homes comes from the homeland of the character himself, in the form of the brilliant BBC drama Sherlock. The show has been a tour de force, showing no sign of slowing as it wraps up its third series with an order in place for the fourth. It’s made Benedict Cumberbatch a household name, spawned an upcoming convention, and captured the imaginations and curiosities of many.
Series creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gastsis appear to have developed a formula that draws in the curiosities of the world and the people of the UK in particular. Many are fascinated by the way the series takes on a well-known character but delivers a new spin on his stories to rekindle intrigue and mystery. Findings from UM’s Power of Curiosity study suggest UK marketers ought to take cue from the consulting detective and find ways to update and refresh the well-worn in order to stimulate the UK’s collective curiosity and forge a powerful connection.
The Power of Curiosity study proved conclusively the benefits of curiosity as a way for brands and people to connect. When a person encounters a brand that naturally stimulates their curiosity, they are 118% more likely to interact with that brand online and 58% more likely to end up buying that brand. For brands seeking to generate interest from today’s UK consumer, step one ought to be a strategy to excite the powerful latent curiosity that runs through the UK. People in the UK have a lot of natural curiosity The Power of Curiosity study found that 72% of the UK considers themselves to be curious people.*. They are 8% more likely than the rest of the world to believe that curiosity is something that is natural rather than learned. And they welcome curiosity from everyone: UK consumers are 20% more apt to disagree with the statement “it’s inappropriate for an adult to always be asking questions.”
There may be a lot of curiosity to go around in the UK today, but that alone will not lead to effective marketing. Although people in the UK say they become intensely curious an average of 4 times per day – 1 more time per day than Northern European peers The Netherlands and Germany – they are among the least likely to act upon that curious impulse by following up with research, additional thinking, or questions.** Brands need to provoke consumers to overcome their inertia in order to turn curiosity into what one younger lady in the UK described as “the beginning of wonder or inspiration.”
What this means for brands
To excite UK consumers to follow-up on the trail of clues being left by their curious wonderings, brands must continually refresh a story Britons think they already know by heart. When asked to list brands that they felt demonstrated curiosity, British people tended to list brands that either rewrote the world as we know it, such as tech brands Microsoft, Apple, and Google, or brands that changed the narrative of a category. Also among the “most curious brands” as named by Britons were Virgin, who changed what it means to fly into a club-like experience, and Dyson, who changed a vacuum into a piece of art and design.
This may be a high standard, but it is by no means unattainable. Any good brand has the potential to live up to the standard of Virgin and Dyson, who showed us a new spin on products and services we have been familiar with for a long time. Ultimately this is all that Britons are looking for. Indeed, one woman in the UK defined curiosity in our study as “knowing a product or idea which is already being used, and yet finding out something new.”
While you’re in the process of provoking curiosity by providing a refreshed look at a category or product, your brand should also consider building a media mix that maximizes curiosity. In the UK that would include the Internet (#1 source for both “making me curious” and “satisfying my curiosity”) Television (#2) and the UK’s famed newspapers, which prove 13% more effective as a curiosity medium in the UK than average.
Finally, consider adding new styles of media as a way to refresh the story you are sharing with UK consumers. You may want to crossover your TV campaign with online TV, a medium on which the UK spends an extra hour per week when compared to their European peers. Your digital campaign should ideally experiment with social sharing platforms like Instagram or Pinterest, another hot spot for UK consumers. When developing your content, examine the narrative being spun and the platform being used with the same ferocity with which Sherlock analyzes clues. That this will lead to increased consumer engagement and sales is surely elementary.
*In UM’s Power of Curiosity study, curiosity was defined as: “Someone who reacts to interesting or unfamiliar situations or information, in order to understand and move forward.” We landed on this definition after doing extensive third-party research and fielding multiple definitions with a focus group.
In addition, 72% is probably a bit of an understatement given the characteristic British modesty where 18% would say they are “unsure” if they are a curious person.
**This lower likelihood to act upon curiosity in the UK might stem from the fact that Consumers in the UK have a very high bar for curiosity. UK consumers are 4% more likely than average and a 35% more likely than the rest of Northern Europe to say curiosity is harder to come by today.