Why Mystery Can Be a Powerful Copywriting Tool

If you were presented with a choice between a coupon that offered you 50% off your purchase and a mystery coupon that offered you either 50% or 30% off, which would you choose?

Assuming you’ll go with the safer choice? Think again. The answer might surprise you.

Findings from a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research suggest that most customers prefer the mystery of uncertainty. The study, featured in the December 2018 issue of Psychology Today, highlights how much people love the feeling of discovering the unknown.

Researchers gave study participants a coupon each time they purchased a Band-Aid. One group of participants was given a 10-cent coupon for every purchase. Other participants received a 5-cent or 10-cent coupon.

Participants purchased more Band-Aids when the reward they received was a surprise than they did when they knew which coupon they were getting in advance. Humans have a natural tendency to be curious and feel rewarded when that curiosity is satisfied.

Many websites offer visitors some type of reward for providing personal information (usually an email address). Given the findings of this study, copywriters may benefit from framing that reward as a surprise rather than revealing the gift beforehand (i.e., “Get a free gift when you subscribe today” versus “Get our free guide to relationships when you subscribe today.”).

The mystery and surprise may be enough to entice visitors to become subscribers.