What Do Sherlock Holmes and Consumers Have in Common?

We all love a good mystery! (courtesy of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows)

Answer? They love to be teased and challenged. Preferably every step of the way until the bounty is unearthed.

Sadly, however, most marketing efforts today hasn't matched the rise in consumer sophistication and expectation. Our aggregated abilities to captivate and charm a potential customer hasn't caught up with the explosive growth in always-on social tools and communication networks.

For sure, the world is more "viral" and connected than ever before. With Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, lifestreaming platforms (Posterous and Path), and WhatsApp invading our pockets and handbags, everybody's perpetually plugged into the digital web. It has never been easier to trigger a tsunami of interest without having to invest an arm and a leg in mainstream advertisements.

Unfortunately, ubiquity doesn't correlate with uniqueness. Its far easier to spread and share than to create. Its far easier to copy and paste than to build from scratch. Its also far easier to go with the flow than to swim against the rapids.

Why do Harry Potter, Marvel movies/comics, Apple's newest gadget, and eat-anything-the-chef-prepares-for-you Japanese restaurants (called omakase menus) attract raving fans?

The answer? They leave you guessing where the story/meal will go next, leaving behind mere breadcrumbs for you to lap up.

While there are occasional clues and spoilers now and then, one never gets the full picture. The best players in this game choreograph every plot line like a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie novel.

In an age of abundance and overflowing inboxes - literal or metaphorical - scarcity and mystery is highly prized. Too many have hopped onto the all-you-can-eat/shop/play buffet trains. Too many are going for the lowest-price-in-town deals, where cutting each other's throats is the only way to survive.

Unless you have the deep pockets of Walmart, Challenger Superstore or Food Junction, quit thinking that abundance is attraction. Rather, the new mantra is that scarcity - and sometimes secrecy - is sacred.

Perhaps the next time you consider launching a new product, sparking a new marketing campaign or creating a new Facebook page, think about how you can enchant and engage your customers step by step. One chapter, one feature, one benefit, and one morsel at a time.

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