Curiosity may kill the cat but it will breathe life into CX

RhianCuriosity is a natural instinct and the essence of life. It makes connections between the things we know and the things we want to understand. From education and information to entertainment and inspiration, we are all driven by a shared desire to make sense of our surroundings.

Yet all too often, it’s an attribute brands overlook. In launching a new study, The Power of Curiosity, we are on a mission to help brands understand why it matters.

Brand values should promote and reward curiosity as part of a wider value exchange, but this means reframing how we think about and view audience states. In today’s fragmented consumer market – the traditional approach to audience understanding no longer works.

The best way to overcome the limitations of legacy audience profiling is to reclassify these audiences into ‘curiosity cohorts’.

Since curiosity is timeless, this attitudinal study means we can present a new way to define audiences to appeal to consumers across generational sectors. However, brands will need to assess the role they want to play in their audiences’ lives in greater detail to be able to harness their curiosity. It’s not enough to simply sell a product to make an impact.

Curiosity matters because it explores the value exchange beyond the traditional act of capturing data through reward of action. Curiosity is a behaviour fed through reward, and we are looking for that curiosity to be satiated with something. That might be the feeling of achievement, learning something new, innovating, surviving, new experiences or new levels of empathy.

Facilitating this value exchange and satiating or feeding into curiosity will ensure brands build engagement and loyalty well into the future.

Curiosity is a fascinating behaviour that brands can dial up or down depending on other behaviour traits and moods. We’ve created a new framework to understand audiences through the lens of curiosity.

This includes a sliding scale of five consumer cohorts:

– Clarity Seekers prioritise intuitive interactions and simple, swift routes to satiating curiosity.

– Novelty Explorers seek the new and unexpected and tend to enjoy interactive discovery experiences and are often influenced by social media-led purchasing.

– Socio-Eco Empaths crave opportunities for connection with others, social activism and eco- positive impact.

– Exhilaration Hunters are hungry to experience the outer limits of their physicality, consciousness and emotional edges.

– Expressive Individuals want their uniqueness and passions to be recognised and are curious to seize opportunities for creative self-expression.

For example, when a consumer is curious to know the answer to something, they might Google it to satisfy the itch. But if that individual is curious to know how something would feel, the exploration of different emotional states would take their journey on another path.

The lack of satisfaction with what someone can access at their fingertips would drive them even further in this discovery. It could move them from being a clarity seeker to a novelty explorer or even an exhilaration hunter.
It’s this journey through curiosity that should excite a brand. The question brands need to answer is, “At what moment do I want to appeal to my customer in their curiosity journey and how do I do that?”

Let’s consider an example. The recent British Airways campaign celebrated over 500 unique reasons to fly. For a clarity seeker, this campaign taps into their desire to know more than 500 reasons to fly. However, for a socio-eco empath, this might cause them to question the need to promote so many reasons to fly when it’s such a big polluter.

Socio-eco empaths demand rationalisations and authenticity, so brands seeking to tap into their curiosity need to do so genuinely. Here, purpose washing (as we’re seeing with Brew Dog’s Qatar World Cup campaign) won’t resonate when actions don’t align with words. Socio-eco empaths will simply disengage, and their loyalty will be gone.

As the UK falls into a recession, the biggest inhibitor to curiosity will be fear. With a challenging economic outlook, increased cost of living, a struggling NHS and impending climate issues, limitations will be placed on brands and audiences.

As Dr Akintoye Akindele describes: “Fear locks us into indecision, it hampers our desire to try – curiosity, however, opens us up to surprise and possibility – curiosity is the playground of discovery.”

For brands, however, now is precisely the time to be more curious. This means leaning into fears, challenging constructs and finding new ways to speak to audiences as people.

Consider the role technology can play as a facilitator to curiosity, both in appealing to those who are seeking more (exhilaration hunters) but also for those who want to know more instantly (clarity seekers) through voice recognition, AI and AR. Brands can use technology to feed curious appetites quicker and in a frictionless manner.

We are also seeing a return to ‘small social’, which shows a desire to ring fence communities with more intimate settings and passion-led engagement. Here, consumers can explore their own curiosities with like-minded peers in a specialised space.

As a final glance at the opportunity before us, remember that people are defined by very human traits – not their age or what generation they were born into.

To achieve success in the coming months, brands should tap into curiosity and leverage a new framework by which to understand and engage consumers. Doing so will not only inspire genuine connection, but it will also motivate people to act and keep them coming back for more.

Rhian Harries is creative and strategy director at Sticky

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