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Embrace the thrill of the unknown...

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

When was the last time you did something spontaneous?

When was the last time you did something spontaneous? The safeguard nature of the pandemic had us living a life of pre-planned experiences. Dining out on a whim? Reservations required. Last-minute weekend getaway? Better pass that test. As we embrace life post-pandemic, I'm sure that I’m not alone in saying I crave the return of spontaneity, happenstance, and delightful surprise in my everyday.

Are you ready to welcome back the thrill of the unknown?

In 2019 I heard about a “secret hotel” in upstate New York called The Dutchess, which shares nothing more than a “Contact Us” form on their website fueling mystery for all to ponder. No photos, no address – the ultimate unknown awaits. Similarly, cabin rental company Getaway plays on the curious consumer’s heartstrings by not revealing the location of their tiny homes nestled in the depths of the forest until after the guest books a reservation. Entertainment company, East Boston Oysters (EBO) is well known for throwing wildly over-the-top-themed dinner parties where locations are exclusively disclosed to attendees the day of the event in puzzle-like pieces to build up to your experience. On a product level, Uncommon James sells “mystery boxes” at a set price promising the undisclosed jewelry inside is worth more than the price of the box.

What makes these brands successful? Well for one thing they are leveraging curiosity as a marketing technique to lure in customers and set their brand apart. This curiosity gap technique, based on “the information gap theory of curiosity” by academic George Lowenstein, occurs when people identify a gap between what they currently know and what they want to know.

How far would you go to flex your curiosity?

Curiosity gaps prompt people to take action. Customers will engage with a secret hotel by reaching out with questions. People will attend an event or purchase a mystery box to fulfill the thrill of being “in the know,” and fuel their spontaneity tank by participating in the mystery. These actions and emotions foster a personal connection with the brand, and we can’t help but think all of us are searching for more serendipitous thrills in life.

So, are you ready to surprise and delight your guests? In our post-pandemic world, brands have a massive opportunity to reinvigorate their experience with wonder and intrigue to capture curiosity and fulfill our yearning desires for the unexpected. Brands should still place emphasis on continuing safe and courteous service, but the key to standing out from the competition is adding unanticipated elements for the guests’ experience to exceed customer expectations while improving their overall brand experience.

Subsequently, what good is a secret if no one knows about it? Marketing these surprises effectively is pivotal to the brand’s continued success. Humans are inherently inquisitive beings, but if these tactics are played too close to the vest, there is little room for the guests’ curiosity.

Challenge your brand to be thoughtfully bold by delicately balancing piquing a customer’s interest with leaving them wanting more.

Opportunity awaits… are you curious for more?




Catherine Keywan, IIDA, RDI

Catherine Keywan, IIDA, RDI is an Associate at Bergmeyer, an award-winning Design Collaborative based in Boston, Los Angeles, and Columbus. As a certified Interior Designer, Catherine is a member of Bergmeyer’s design team creating memorable and highly branded design experiences. Collaborating with legacy and growing brands, on permanent and temporary environments, Catherine leads projects from concept through construction with a perspective that blends brand identity with customer needs and best practices of retail design to create brand-authentic retail experiences.

In addition to her work within Bergmeyer, Catherine serves the design community by volunteering with the New England Chapter of the Retail Design Institute. After years of planning events and serving as Chapter Secretary, Catherine was elected to Chapter President in 2021 guiding vision and strategy.


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