When “WTF?” is exactly the response you want.

um... what?
On Saturday, my husband and I drove to a city about an hour north of us. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed getting out for a bit.

Then I noticed the billboard. Oh, billboards are everywhere, and I’m pretty good at ignoring them. But this one was really strange.

A generic graphic: a leaf in the center of water ripples. Directions: “Take next exit, 2 miles on right.” And a website domain name.

That was all. No company name, no indication as to what the billboard was advertising. Just those three elements.

At first glance… huh?

Who in the world would spend somewhere around $2000 a month for such an ineffectual advertisement with limited reach? Are passersby really likely to zip off the next exit and drive two miles out of their way to see what in the world this thing was talking about?

But… it creates a sense of mystery, doesn’t it? A sense of curiosity. Now I wanted to know what the billboard was about, what company or place or thing it was advertising. I was driving at the time or I might have whipped out my smartphone and looked up the URL to find out.

Later, I did look up the URL. Unfortunately, the site is built in Flash so it wouldn’t work on my iPhone anyway. Note to website designers: if your target audience is mobile, it might be a good idea to make sure the site will work on mobile devices, don’t you think?

Creating curiosity = good.

Take this same idea and apply it to your own marketing. Can you create a sense of mystery, infuse your readers with the itch to explore and discover?

Publix, a chain of supermarkets headquartered in Florida, frequently runs an ad with a coupon for a “Mystery 1ยข Item.” The coupon is good only on Sunday. The item costs only one penny and you only get one at that price, but it’s always something good, something that most people would find worth trying. They use it to promote house brand products and sometimes to clear out overstocks, but you never know what it’s going to be. A package of bathroom tissue? a 5-pound bag of flour? pasta or rice or a half-gallon of milk? Hey, we need a loaf of bread anyway — why don’t we run by there and see what the one cent mystery is this week?

In your next newsletter or sale event on your website, why not offer a mystery item for a low price, perhaps with a minimum purchase? Use it to clear out a slow seller or offer a sample of something that your customers will want to come back for once they’ve tried it.

Sometimes, “what??” is exactly the response you want.

Give it a try and see.