The other day I discovered a podcast that now has me addicted.
I got so into it that I’ve exhausted all the podcasts available to hear. Walking has never been easier and the dog is happy. Before I let you know more, it's more interesting how easily it captured my attention.
Attention is important because it's what we all vie for, especially if you’re a marketer or in business of any kind. In copywriting, attention is the first stage you strive to achieve in the writing process. Think of the classic formula AIDA – which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Copywriting is increasingly relevant today because we’re in a content hungry time. Copy is needed to fuel videos, speeches, websites, marketing collateral and any other content medium you can imagine. There are always words that sit behind any medium so how those words play a role in capturing attention is one worth understanding.
In their book Made to Stickthe authors Dan and Chip Heath address the concept of what commands our attention.
They said to hold attention, use curiosity gaps.
What does this mean?
According to research by Carnegie Mellon's George Loewenstein, curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know. The gap is the bridge between not knowing and knowing, a gap in information. Curiosity is said to be an emotion that drives us to look for an answer and won’t let up until we find it.
Up to a point, curiosity increases with uncertainty and small amounts of knowledge can stimulate curiosity and create an appetite for more knowledge. However too much uncertainty can cause you to lose interest.
So who can use curiosity gaps?
Teachers, trainers or any type of educator can use it.
“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.” - Anatole France
Creative types use it.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” - Walt Disney
Scientists need it.
"I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious." – Albert Einstein
But as a copywriter or marketer your skill is to know how to use this gap to your advantage without any disadvantage to your audience. The tension your audience experiences in wanting to know something is what keeps them engaged in what you're sharing or saying. The state of not knowing creates the intrigue.
Consider the Ziegarnik Effect.
The Zeigarnik Effect, named after a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, deals with open loops. It holds we tend to remember more about subjects that are unresolved. It’s why cliffhangers work in TV. You tune in next week because you ‘need’ to find out what happens next, because you need to close those loops.
What TV shows do you watch, or have watched, that start a story then pause at a climactic moment? These shows are brilliantly skilled at delaying the conclusion to keep you hooked. The result is you stay tuned. Attention secured.
In email marketing you begin telling a story but then you leave the next instalment of the story until your next email. That’s how the Zeigarnik Effect works.
How does curiosity work in content marketing?
As a device it works well in content like articles, video, presentations, in teaching – anytime you want to maintain the attention of the audience. Remember, that’s the role of curiosity, to hold attention. When knowledge is great enough then curiosity wanes.
The element of surprise is what keeps your reader engaged when they are digesting one of your pieces of content. You want your material to inspire new thoughts and help new ideas develop. It's these new ideas that set off a chain reaction for someone to seek out more answers. They are left with more questions and their interest in getting answers is curiosity in action. You introduce a topic and then say, wait a minute, I’ll tell you about that later, and then proceed to talk about something else. This is the technique that piques your audience’s interest. The trick is to leak out information a bit at a time without giving away the whole story in one go. Offer and release, that’s the way to do it.
US copywriter Joanna Weibe says it’s the role not knowing plays in why people read novels and why storytelling is so compelling. From a copywriting perspective she says “the trick is to not put all the pieces together for people right away, but build their interest.”
It’s a great technique to keep your audience on your sales page or to stay hooked watching a video you posted. It works brilliantly in headlines and is what draws your reader to click or read on. Just think about all those clickbait headings that accompany photos. You know they’re not worth clicking but there’s still an element of ‘what is that about’ that lures you in. And then you click.
How curious are you?
There is a website dedicated to the topic of curiosity - https://curiosity.com/It asks ‘What are you curious about?’ It’s an addictive website as it’s easy to jump from one topic to another. It encourages exploration. I only found it because I was curious about the topic of curiosity.
It pays to keep yourself open to wonder. View the world as if through a child’s eye to keep your curiosity stoked.
“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” - Leo Burnett
Tease but follow through.
Using curiosity in your content marketing by mastering the art of the tease. Provide the beginning of something you intend to share but not all the information. Create a type of tension, tell the start of something and then withhold a piece of information to invite your audience to stick around until the end. And always deliver that missing information otherwise you risk alienating your audience. Not following through isn’t conducive to building a relationship and contradicts what content marketing does.
We're wired for curiosity.
It's true our brains wired for curiosity and companies big, and small, take advantage of that.
Understanding the psychology of curiosity is how product designers design and why we have gamers, gamblers, and addicts of almost any kind. Oh, and podcasts. Clever ones like Heavyweight, the one I’m addicted to, knows how to stimulate curiosity and keep a listener engaged. Have a listen to see what I mean.