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Newsletter #911: The “Make It a Mystery” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Mystery can be a great topic for word of mouth. People want to figure out the unknown, talk it over with their friends, debate it, and be surprised. Some ways you can create intrigue around your company:

1. Keep some things obviously secret
2. Let some people in on it
3. Ask them to figure it out
4. Check it out: Flux Machine

1. Keep some things obviously secret

Mystery sparks conversations — but sometimes you have to make the mystery part obvious. The juiciest secrets are the ones that everyone knows are secrets. If they didn’t call McDonald’s mayonnaise concoction “secret sauce” no one would have noticed. But, once it’s labeled a secret, the game is on to figure it out — creating a lot of word of mouth. There are tons of blogs and videos with recipes for DIY secret sauce. When’s the last time people talked about any other kinds of mayonnaise?

The lesson: What’s your “secret sauce?” Do people know what a big secret it is? Have you told them?

2. Let some people in on it

Exclusivity is a great motivator for spreading the word. One of the most effective ways you can start buzz is with these four words: “Don’t tell anyone, but ______.” It seems counter-intuitive, but it works. Grey Poupon, for example, creates mystery around their Facebook page by only allowing a discerning few to like them on the social networking site. They claim applicants must “uphold the pillars of good taste,” which includes the books you read, movies you watch, and even proper grammar usage. Those who “cut the mustard” feel like they’re a part of something more distinguished, giving them something to talk about.

The lesson: How can you create a sense of privileged access?

Learn more: TIME

3. Ask them to figure it out

Got a good mystery? Challenge your customers to solve it. For instance, Disney theme parks have “hidden Mickeys” built into structures, carved into landscapes, and other tricky places. is dedicated to finding as many instances of a hidden Mickey as possible. The website’s creator even wrote a book on it and made an app to help you find them too.

The lesson: The thrill of the hunt encourages people to recruit others into helping them find it — it also gets them excited about your stuff.

Learn more: ABC News

4. Check it out: Flux Machine

Old photos can be mysterious — and even creepy. Kevin Weir capitalizes on this with his creative gifs.

Check it out: Flux Machine

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