Turning your customers into super sleuths

We all love a good mystery. NCIS, Elementary and Criminal Minds are some of the most popular television shows in the US. Agatha Christie is considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. And the longest running show ever – currently still running in the West End – is The Mousetrap, a mystery play based on a novel by none other than Agatha Christie. So why wouldn’t you use a bit of mystery in your marketing?


Mystery in marketing is not a new concept. We have seen it for years in Big Brother’s marketing strategy and it is often used to spark interest in a new product. Why is it effective? Because the advertisements leave us wanting more and as a result we start to try and remove this cognitive dissonance by doing some research on the mystery brand and discussing it with all our friends.

We start to become more observant when we are exposed to the promotional materials for this brand in order to solve the puzzle and we hypothesize and become obsessed with solving the mystery. Let’s face it, it is a marketer’s dream to have consumers this fixated on a brand (especially when they don’t even know what it is!).

My focus on mystery marketing arose the other day when I was at my local shopping centre (or mall for my American readers) and a new shop had just opened. There was absolutely no branding on the outside of the store only three sets of French doors either side of a Tahitian inspired entrance. The store was dimly lit and, from the outside, none of the merchandise was visible. Now, you would think this would bring an element of risk which would deter customers from going near the shop as they didn’t know what it was selling.

Quite the opposite actually. I, alike all the other passers-by trying to peer in the windows, were intrigued by this unknown factor and had to investigate by entering the store.

As it turned out it was a new branch of Hollister, part of the Abercrombie & Fitch family of brands. The one issue with this shop was that there were relatively few people inside. Why? Because they were all outside trying to peer in the windows and when they couldn’t work out what the shop was they were too terrified to go inside!

So how does this transfer to the theatre?

Risk is a big factor when it comes to engaging with the theatre. Especially when the consumer is unsure if they will enjoy the show and trying it out is accompanied by a rather hefty price tag. BUT, this risk can be overcome if the answers are available.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the answers need to be obvious, they just need to be available. If you can intrigue your customers with a mystery so that they actively discuss and search out information then you can start to build a connection. However, that information must be available after a bit of a search otherwise you will be left in the same position as Hollister – your customers will stand at the door (or sit on the ticket purchasing page) too afraid to take the gamble.

So what do you need to do?

Turn your consumer into Sherlock Holmes, but don’t make the mysteries as difficult to solve as they are on Elementary!

Have you ever encountered this style of mystery marketing before? How did you react? Leave me a comment below!