By Nick Bain, Senior Strategist at Sticky
What do Madonna, Theresa May and my aunt all have in common?
According to some marketing models, quite a lot. They’re all in their mid 60s, have expressed a love of long country walks, and are known for their brave style choices. At least in my family. So surely they’d all react well to the same content and approach?
Traditional demographic segmentation lumps together consumers into age brackets. This has in the past served brands well – to an extent. But in an era when personalised communication is key, grouping people together by age isn’t the right way to understand the behaviour and needs of the individual.
A 20-year-old and a 40 year old might be a generation apart, but they can both be new, first-time mums with similar brand needs, for example. Equally, someone in their forties may need a different spin on pension investments to another person just a few years older.
To squeeze whole generations into the same bucket is therefore a pointless exercise. That’s why it’s better to focus on the one thing drives us all, as consumers and marketers alike: curiosity.
We all have an innate sense of exploration and innovation. It’s the desire to find new solutions to old and emerging problems.
Curiosity manifests itself in different ways depending on the individual. When brands can understand what makes someone’s curious mind tick, driving attitudes and behaviours, they can more successfully target that individual with products and services that will engage and excite them – rather than simply trying to tell them what they might like.
Curiosity is the link between brands and consumers that can change their behaviour, persuading them to try a new product or service. That, in turn, builds loyalty and makes marketing budgets stretch further.
But as a unifying trait, curiosity means so much more than metrics.
Curious to discover a new way to classify consumers as a driver to improve marketing strategy, our research led us to… curiosity. We found six key reasons why it should matter to brands:
- Boost achievement / satisfaction – In lockdowns more people became curious about routes to self-improvement; 66% of UK consumers wanted to ‘achieve something’ – and smart brands provided products and content to help them explore their options (source: Lottoland).
- Drive innovation – Just as curiosity has inspired innovation throughout history, it’s essential to future breakthroughs. 92% of employees globally say curious people bring new ideas to their organisation and also view the trait as a catalyst for job satisfaction (source: Harvard Business Review).
- Secure survival – As the world evolves at pace, with Industry 4.0 well under way, humans need the ability to learn and adapt; brands can help them access curiosity to drive this (source: Forbes).
- Support wellbeing – Remaining curious as an adult has been shown to improve memory and even lead to a longer life; positivity needed more then ever in this stressful era (source: Sakaki).
- Expand empathy – Curiosity and interest are key components of understanding other people and building empathy: 87% of US business travelers say their corporate trips have made situations more relatable (source: Hyatt).
- Build engagement / loyalty – Brands that accompany consumers’ curiosity as they explore new knowledge and experiences win loyalty. Globally, 55% of consumers say brands must also be educators to win trust (source: Edelman).
So far, so stimulating. But who are these curious consumers?
The five curious consumer cohorts for brands to target
Our classification of curious consumers goes further than a blanket, ‘age-appropriate’ approach to market, lasering in on cohorts, each with a different approach to curiosity. There are five distinct groups for brands to consider:
- Clarity Seekers – These people prioritise intuitive interactions and simple, swift routes to satiating their curiosity. To win their attention, brands must focus on filling information gaps, dialing down unwanted detail and removing complexity in the customer discovery journey.
- Novelty Explorers – They seek new, unexpected ways to have fun and pique their curiosity, and purchases are often influenced by social media. Interactive discovery experiences are vital to engage them.
- Socio-Eco Empaths – Consumers in this cohort crave opportunities for connection with other people, often involving social activism and eco-positive impact. Brand values, and a sense of community and collective action, matter to them.
- Exhilaration Hunters – This cohort is hungry to experience the outer limits of their own physicality, emotions and consciousness. Risk-taking, adrenaline and self-optimisation catalyse their curiosity.
- Expressive Individualists – They want brands to recognise and fuel their uniqueness and passions. They are curious to seize the chance for creative self-expression, drawing inspiration from like-minded peers.
Knowing these cohorts, and the individuals they comprise, means brands can tell better stories rather than taking a leap of faith in the dark.
Conversely, understanding the nature of someone’s curiosity – how they like to seek and explore products and services in a particular sector – can help brands target them with communications that show empathy, build emotion, and encourage trial and purchase.
For instance, an eco-friendly hotel will need to know how to tailor comms to Clarity Seekers by including fast facts that back up their sustainability claims; but Socio-Eco Empaths will demand more detail in the form of human stories behind the travel experience on offer.
By applying the curiosity lens, marketers can understand what drives consumer behaviour, and use the insights to bring brand stories to life. This will make people investigate and invest, leaving them more engaged and more fulfilled.
It is a curated journey that understands how we seek answers and why we remain brand loyal whether we are a pop legend, former PM or just someone that enjoys getting out in the fresh air with our dogs.