Working Paper

Managing Consumer Motivation and Learning: Harnessing the Power of Curiosity for Effective Advertising Strategies

Satya Menon and Dilip Soman, 1998, 99-100

Advertisers of really new products face the difficult task of motivating consumers to learn about radically new—and unfamiliar—product benefits and attributes. Internet advertisers face a similar challenge: most web advertisements must motivate consumers to actively interact in order to acquire appropriate information.

This report brings the psychology of curiosity to bear on these two managerially important issues. Prior research suggests that consumers' motivation and ability to process new information may be greatly increased by generating curiosity and curiosity-based thinking. Here, authors Menon and Soman demonstrate that the power of curiosity can be harnessed in specific ways to design an effective advertising strategy that enhances information acquisition, learning, and evaluation of a new product.

Study and Findings

The study uses an Internet-simulated experiment with interactive advertisements for a really new product (digital camera). The dataset includes click-stream data, computer-recorded process-tracking variables, attitude and behavioral intention measures, and open-ended thought protocols. Among the findings:

  • Generating curiosity about a new product (by providing only partial information through advertising) increases consumer motivation to seek knowledge and leads to better learning of new product information. This effect is stronger when a product class cue (i.e., a hint about the product category) is provided in the ad.
  • Curiosity-based processing of advertising results in better product evaluations, and greater perceived novelty of the new product.
  • Curiosity results in more extensive and goal-directed elaboration by consumers.
  • Consumer learning is increased for those aspects of the really new product that are related to the benefit used to generate curiosity.
  • The temporal separation between curiosity generation and curiosity resolution is an important variable influencing the effectiveness of a curiosity strategy.

Managerial Implications

This report develops a framework by which really new product advertising can facilitate consumer learning and influence the categorization of the new product as a pioneer. This framework includes (1) the generation of curiosity about the new product, (2) the provision of cues to guide processing, (3) the optimal management of temporal separation between curiosity generation and resolution, (4) the provision of an interactive environment in which consumers can explore and collect the information they need to resolve curiosity.

Further, the dataset, which includes click-stream data as well as thought protocols, allows the authors to address an important ongoing debate in Internet advertising. Their results indicate that even when curiosity does not dramatically increase the quantity of search (e.g., number of data sources or web pages consulted), it substantially improves the quality of search (time spent and attention devoted to each data source). In other words, significant increases in advertising effectiveness accrue without proportionately large changes in the click-stream data. This finding challenges the sole use of click-streams as the best measure of advertising effectiveness on the World Wide Web.

Satya Menon is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago. Dilip Soman is Assistant Professor of Marketing, College of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder.

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