In this article, we’re diving into a strategy that’s as enticing and intriguing as a plot of a thriller novel. It’s the art of employing “mystery” in marketing. That’s right—that elusive veil that keeps you on the edge of your seat in a thriller movie or have you turning pages of a gripping novel until the wee hours. Not only does it work wonders in storytelling and entertainment, but it’s also a potent tool in marketing. So, buckle up as we explore this fascinating concept and unravel its power in captivating consumers and boosting sales.

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s lean on some empirical evidence – the kind that tickles your curiosity and makes even the biggest skeptics step back and say, “Hmm, interesting.”

A fascinating study published in the Journal of Business Research showed that incorporating an element of mystery in marketing strategy could, surprisingly, boost consumer engagement and sales. That’s right – mystery can increase your sales! I bet that got your attention quicker than a jack-in-the-box!

Remember the aura of suspense surrounding Apple’s product launches? Oh, the thrill, the secrecy, the guessing game, and the big reveal! Or the intriguing campaigns by companies like Groupon, Banana Republic, and American Airlines, using mystery to grab eyeballs and stir the pot of customer interest, driving their sales upward.

Not quite your ordinary walk in the marketing park, right? Let’s unravel this conundrum and understand why this counterintuitive approach could be the golden goose of marketing strategies. Buckle up, folks! This will be one thrilling rollercoaster ride down the labyrinth of mystery marketing.

This introduction sets the stage for our discourse on mystery marketing, bringing in a blend of humor, curiosity, and a hint of anticipation for what’s to come next. The key to a good mystery is to keep the audience engaged, curious, and eagerly anticipating the next twist or revelation. As we journey further, we’ll explore real-life case studies, the intriguing psychology behind mystery marketing, and how you could use this strategy to boost your sales.

So, let the mystery unfold. Stay tuned, and let’s unmask this marketing marvel together!

Real-world Examples of Mystery Marketing

Theory is fine and dandy, but let’s roll up our sleeves and see this mystery marketing strategy in action! It’s time to enter the arena of the corporate world, where the likes of Groupon, Banana Republic, and American Airlines have been deftly using mystery to pique customer interest and rev up their sales. Yes, these industry giants have been playing a real-life game of Cluedo and winning!

Take Groupon, for instance. Have you ever encountered their “Mystery Deals”? Customers buy a coupon without knowing exactly what they’re getting. The revelation comes post-purchase! It’s like buying a lottery ticket; only the odds of hitting the jackpot are significantly higher. This strategy creates excitement and encourages customers to interact with the product, increasing sales.

Next, let’s swing by the sophisticated corridors of Banana Republic. They occasionally host “Mystery Offers,” where the value of a discount coupon isn’t revealed until checkout. Picture this: You’ve got a handful of chic apparel and accessories, and you’re teetering on the brink of purchase. That’s when a potential 10% to 50% off is dangled in front of you. You’re curious, aren’t you? Most shoppers are, and that curiosity translates into sales. It’s as if the discount coupon whispers, “Go ahead, see what you’ve got!”

Lastly, let’s soar with American Airlines. They introduce “Mystery Breaks,” cloaking the destination until you’ve made the booking. It’s like an episode of “choose your own adventure,” except here, the adventure springs the choice on you! It dangles an irresistible bait for thrill-seekers and spontaneous travelers.

Each of these companies leverages the power of mystery differently, yet they all tap into our inherent human curiosity – the irresistible urge to uncover the unknown. They’re effectively stirring the proverbial pot of intrigue, making the customer journey more exciting while driving their sales upward.

Well, if these behemoths harness the power of mystery, maybe there’s a clue for us to pick up. Could we, too, tap into this primal allure of the unknown and charm our customers?

Unpacking the Mystery: How Does This Work?

Now that we’ve seen mystery marketing in the wild let’s circle back to our thrilling study from the Journal of Business Research to understand the nuts and bolts of this strategy. How does the mysterious allure really work in a marketing context, you ask? Well, let’s pop the hood and look, shall we?

The study’s researchers didn’t just theorize about mystery marketing; they tested it. They conducted two experiments that unfolded like the plot of a suspense thriller.

In the first experiment, researchers proposed that the subjects receive one of three items for a small shipping fee of just $10. Now, this wasn’t just a vague promise. They presented a list of potential items the participants might receive—a board game, a handmade necklace, or the latest version of a piece of software. They also shared pictures of products previously sent to customers, like a low-quality camera, gloves, or a remote control car. The subjects were well-informed about their potential mystery gift.

In the second experiment, the researchers played a more coy game. Participants received less information about the mystery product they could receive. The only hint? The item would be worth at least $10 MSRP, the manufacturer suggested retail price, or they would refund the $10 shipping fee.

But here’s the thrilling climax: Both studies found that participants exhibited increased levels of curiosity after exposure to the mystery product, leading to a surge in purchase motivation. Like bees to honey, the mystery drew them in!

Intriguingly, the absence of information in the second experiment, where the participants did not receive the extra scoop about the mystery gift, did not significantly decrease the motivation to purchase. A dash of information about the mystery gift may give a slight edge, but not significantly more than leaving the gift completely shrouded in mystery.

These findings are our proverbial “a-ha” moment, demonstrating the beguiling power of mystery in marketing. So, the next question is: How can we apply this cloak-and-dagger strategy to our own businesses? 

Implications of the Study on Mystery Marketing

Now that we’ve pulled back the curtain on how mystery marketing works, let’s pause and reflect on the study’s implications. One might assume that the more information you provide about the mystery product, the higher the purchase motivation. But our research buddies at the Journal of Business Research have thrown a plot twist into that assumption!

Remember the second experiment we mentioned? The one where researchers told the participants practically zilch about the mystery product they might receive, aside from its minimum value. Well, despite the lack of information, the participants still wanted to make a purchase.

This reveals an intriguing facet of mystery marketing: while providing some information about the mystery gift can create anticipation and intrigue, withholding that information doesn’t significantly dampen the motivation to purchase. It’s like knowing there’s a surprise party but not knowing where or when—either way, you’re excited!

The key takeaway? The amount of information you provide about the mystery is insignificant in the motivation to purchase. Mystery, in its purest form—whether well-defined or ambiguous—can act as a potent trigger to spur customer engagement and sales.

So, whether you’re planning to reveal a sneak peek or wrap your product in a cloak of complete mystery, the result tilts favorably towards increasing curiosity and nudging the customer closer to purchase. It’s a counterintuitive revelation, but then again, the best marketing strategies often are, aren’t they?

Implementing Mystery in Your Marketing Strategy

Now that we’ve uncovered the science behind the mystery and seen it in action with industry heavyweights, it’s time to bring it home. You’re probably asking, “How can I spin this web of intrigue in my own business?” Well, put on your detective hat because we’re about to devise your very own mystery marketing strategy.

Implementing mystery into your marketing plan doesn’t require a magic wand; it just needs a touch of creativity. Remember, at its core, it’s all about tapping into the customer’s innate curiosity. You want to create a sense of anticipation that leads to a satisfying reveal—much like the last few chapters of a gripping thriller.

To bring it to life, let’s consider a specific example. Picture this: You run a small retail store specializing in beauty supplies. Now, how can you infuse a dash of mystery into this setup?

One way to go about it could be offering a mystery gift with every purchase above a certain amount—say, $20. This gift could be any product from your store—a bottle of premium hand cream, a colorful eyeshadow palette, or a set of luxurious bath bombs. The catch? The customer won’t know what the gift is until they’ve made the purchase.

Let’s add a bit more intrigue. Ensure you communicate that the mystery gift has a perceived manufacturer-suggested retail price (MSRP) of at least $20. This not only ensures that the gift feels substantial and exciting but also that it’s perceived as equal value to their spend.

Remember, the gift doesn’t have to cost you $20—it must merely have a perceived value of $20. For instance, you could use an item you buy in bulk at a discount. The goal is to make customers feel like they’re getting a fantastic deal, a little bonus surprise that makes their shopping experience even more rewarding.

Mystery marketing is flexible and can be customized to suit various businesses and products. Whether selling books, offering cooking classes, or running a pet grooming service, there’s always a way to weave in a strand of mystery and make the customer experience more exciting.

If you try this strategy, I’d love to hear about your experiences and what worked (or didn’t) for you. Experiment, iterate, and most importantly, have fun with it! Remember, marketing is as much an art as a science; every artist loves a good splash of mystery.

The Universal Applicability of Mystery Marketing

One of the most fascinating aspects of mystery marketing is its adaptability. Like a chameleon, it seamlessly blends into the color and character of any business. Whether you run a quaint bed-and-breakfast in the countryside or a bustling tech startup in Silicon Valley, there’s room for a pinch of mystery in your marketing mix.

Consider the broad spectrum of businesses we’ve discussed – from multinational corporations like Banana Republic and American Airlines to hypothetical small-town beauty supply stores. Each can harness the tantalizing power of mystery to pique customer interest and spur sales.

However, this doesn’t mean you should blindly replicate what others are doing. The beauty of this strategy lies in its flexibility. The key is to mold and shape the mystery to fit your unique business context and customer expectations.

Perhaps you run an online bookstore. How about offering a mystery book bundle carefully curated by genre or author? Maybe you’re a fitness instructor offering online classes. Could you tease a mystery workout routine or guest trainer to your subscribers? If you’re in the food business, a secret menu item or a surprise ingredient could stir up excitement. The possibilities are boundless!

Remember, your imagination is your greatest asset here. Consider what makes your product or service unique, and brainstorm how you could incorporate an element of surprise or mystery that aligns with your brand’s personality.

You should view this strategy as a playground to experiment, invent, and, most importantly, have fun! While mystery marketing does have a proven track record, it’s not a rigid formula. It’s a creative challenge, an invitation to innovate and push the boundaries.

I hope our conversation has opened your eyes to the possibilities of mystery marketing. Why not give it a try and share your experiences? If you found this blog post valuable, please pass it along. Share it with your fellow entrepreneurs, friends interested in marketing, or even your Aunt Jane, who loves a good mystery novel! You never know who might find this strategy the missing piece in their marketing puzzle. Happy investigating.

In a previous post titled, “How to Write a Better Company Mission Statement,” I discussed elements that make for an effective mission statement. In this post, I explain what a vision statement is, the difference between a mission and vision statement, and how to write a mission and vision statement for your organization.

As a reminder, a mission statement is a brief yet memorable statement that communicates the organization’s reason for existing. Conversely, the vision statement is a declaration of the organization’s aspirations. In other words, the vision declares where the organization wants to be in the future. Thus, the difference between the mission and vision is that the mission statement is the here and now, declaring the organization’s purpose. The vision is what the organization aspires to become in the future.

Mission and vision statements make up three essential parts of a business strategy:

  1. Communicate the organization’s purpose to stakeholders.
  2. Serve as a target for strategy development.
  3. Work synergistically toward measuring strategic goals’ success or failure; vision serves as a high-level leader while the mission serves as specific tactical measures.

Mission and Vision Statements Strategy Art

Crafting an Effective Mission Statement

In this next section, I walk you through crafting a compelling mission and vision statement. Keep in mind that composing a mission and vision statement is a process that involves key stakeholders. It takes time to develop a compelling mission and vision. Four steps make up the method of developing, executing, and maintaining synchronicity with the mission, vision, and overall business strategy:

  1. The planning and process
  2. Content development of the mission and vision
  3. Communicating
  4. Monitoring and Control

Planning and Process

Planning the mission and vision statement requires that leadership includes all key stakeholders to create the mission and vision. Begin with your employees and let them drive the development of the mission and vision. Specifically, guide them in soliciting their input through the writing process. Additionally, request information from other key stakeholders that are impacted by your business. Key stakeholders could include, but are not limited to, community leaders, key vendors, or shareholders — if you are a publicly-traded company.

Furthermore, explain how each stakeholder group or individual is responsible for their contribution to the mission and vision. The key to the planning process is to get complete buy-in from all key stakeholders because they are responsible for seeing that the mission and vision are carried through.

Content Discussion

Begin developing the content for your mission and vision by describing how your business future will look in five to ten years. Be sure to specify the best possible business future for your organization. When writing, consider both financial and non-financial goals.

In their book, The Mission Primer: Four Steps to an Effective Mission Statement, authors Richard and David O’Hallaron indicate that the best mission statements give attention to six areas. These areas are:

  • What “want-satisfying” service or commodity do we produce and continuously work to improve?
  • How do we increase the wealth or quality of life or society?
  • How do we provide opportunities for the productive employment of people?
  • How are we creating a high-quality and meaningful work experience for employees?
  • How do we live up to the obligation to provide fair and just wages?
  • How do we fulfill the obligation to provide a fair and justified return on capital?

The key to writing mission statements, or any goal, is to use the present tense. Write as though your organization already accomplished what you are describing. When you write in the future tense, you establish a mindset that your organization is always trying to achieve the mission. Writing in the present tense shows an attitude and habit that your mission will be accomplished now and not at some future point. It is the job of the vision statement to project your organization’s desired future outcome.

Communication Discussion

Communicating the mission and vision process comes down to exceptional leadership. Leadership within the organization must commit to helping employees and stakeholders identify with the mission and vision, ensuring that all parties understand, follow, and communicate them internally and externally.

Internal communication includes communicating up and down the chain of command. That is, front-line employees and middle management must embrace a culture of communicating to leadership the issues that arise with production and service that does not fall within the scope of the mission and vision. Employees must also take ownership of implementing processes that promote the mission and vision, communicating potential incompatibilities with the process and mission to senior management and leadership.

Additionally, leadership, management, and employees are responsible for communicating the mission and vision across organizational divisions and key stakeholders outside of the organization, such as community leaders. Any breakdown in the process of effective communication is a potential for straying from the organization’s mission and vision, thus moving the organization away from its original purpose or reason why they are in business.

Monitoring Discussion

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of the monitoring process, allows leadership to monitor the mission and vision statement’s relevance. Mission KPIs allow for tracking the progress of the mission toward organizational goals. If goals do not align with the mission and vision, adjustments may need to be made to the mission and vision to stay on course in reaching corporate goals. Look at KPIs as a thermostat for regulating temperature. If the climate gets too hot, adjustments cool things down. The opposite is exact for things that cool down.

Mission and vision statements are only as good as the leadership’s commitment to implementing, monitoring, and engaging them. If a leader is not committed to involving the organization’s stakeholders in implementing and living the mission and vision, then creating them is pointless.

Mission Statement Examples

No discussion about mission statements is complete without a few good examples to illustrate the concept. Below are several mission statements from top organizations that follow their missions. We know they support their mission statements because their organizations are financially successful and great places to work. Thus they embrace an inclusive working culture amongst their employees.

Southwest Airlines

“Southwest is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”


“It’s our mission to keep human connection at the heart of commerce. That’s why we built a place where creativity lives and thrives because it’s powered by people. We help our community of sellers turn their ideas into successful businesses. Our platform connects them with millions of buyers looking for an alternative—something special with a human touch, for those moments in life that deserve imagination.”


“Our mission is: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions. To create value and make a difference.”

Kaiser Permanente

“Kaiser Permanente exists to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve.”


“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The Takeaway

Developing the mission and vision statement takes time, commitment, and inclusion by all critical stakeholders inside and outside the organization. The mission is your organization’s reason why they exist. I want to share a video on How to Write A Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck in my final thoughts. You will learn how most companies approach writing mission statements and how not to follow in their footsteps, but following a path toward writing a significant, meaningful mission statement.


What is a Company Mission Statement?

Organizations with a clear strategic focus have written mission and vision statements. A company mission statement communicates — most often in writing — the firm’s reason for existing; it defines your organization’s values and governing principles. The mission statement explains how the organization aims to serve its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, shareholders, and the community.

Organizations with a communicated mission and value statements that align with their strategy, goals, and objectives outperform companies that do not have them. Not all organizations have a mission statement. Some have simple mission statements; that is, they are not written for all to see. Even with a casual mission statement, these organizations still follow and behave in a manner consistent with their purpose, providing a competitive edge over organizations without mission and value statements.

The Four key points of a mission statement include:

  1. They describe the organization’s purpose or reason why they exist.
  2. Focuses on the present.
  3. Part of and critical to the strategic and marketing plan.
  4. Corporate decisions must be in harmony with the mission statement.

Why Should A Company Have A Mission Statement?

Companies that have a formal written mission statement achieve at minimum three primary purposes:

  1. Inform stakeholders of the reason for the company’s existence.
  2. Dispute resolution for the company’s future direction.
  3. To serve as inspiration for employees and management within the company.

Informing Stakeholders

megaphone sketch artThe written mission statement provides transparency to a firm’s stakeholders, customers, investors, employees, and business partners about their goals and objectives and the reason the company exists and what it is trying to achieve. If all stakeholders understand why a company exists and their specific goals, they can work together to help the organization meet its mission.

Dispute Resolution

Imagine a firm without a mission; all sorts of issues may arise that could lead the company in a direction that it did not want to venture toward. As an example, take a look at Google’s mission statement:

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

In 2012, Google purchased the mobile phone handset giant Motorola but later sold it in 2014 to Lenovo. The acquisition did not necessarily fit Google’s mission but served a strategic purpose, with the notion they would sell the company, which they did in 2014. 

Let’s assume that a manager within Google wanted to continue pursuing the handset market. Google executives could say that the products do not fit with their core mission and focus on what’s close to their purpose, thus avoiding any potential dispute with internal teams, shareholders, and customers.

Employee Inspiration

Good corporate missions provide employees with a purpose to feel good about what they are doing for their organization and the world. Most employees like to think that they are part of something more significant, something that positively impacts the planet. A good mission statement provides this type of motivation and inspiration for employees and managers of the organization. As an example, Twitter’s mission statement is short, simple, and inspirational:

“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

Characteristics That Make for a Good Mission Statement

Not all mission statements are reasonable statements. They do not inspire, nor do they focus on the customer or some social value. Four characteristics that make for a good mission statement are:

  1. Unique and emphasize the creation of a customer or social value.
  2. Stay focused on solving customer needs or problems.
  3. Employees know, understand, and practice the mission statement.
  4. Inspiring, brief, and memorable.

Customer or Social Value and Unique

Effective missions are unique to the business and emphasize the creation of some customer or social value. Examples include improving the lives of people’s health or improving the quality of their lives. Mission statements should stay clear of communicating “being the best” at something or just making money. Focus on the positive impacts the business makes.

lightbulb sketchSolving Customer Needs or Problems

Weak mission statements often fail to address customer needs or problems. They become myopic and focus on their product or service, resulting in product-focused rather than people-focused missions. A compelling mission focuses on “selling” the problem they solve and not the product they sell. Organizations that fail to address or focus on customer needs and challenges may become obsolete as new technologies and trends emerge.

Effective Missions are Lived and Practiced

A mission is only useful if it is lived and practiced by the company. Regardless of employee size, a good test in determining if the mission statement is meaningful is if regular employees can explain the company mission statement and use it to guide their daily work and decisions. A great way to incorporate the mission statement and get employees to learn it is to have it posted throughout the organization and provide employees with a mission statement card that they can carry around as a reminder of their overall mission and goals.

Inspiring, Brief, and Memorable

Good mission statements should be brief, inspiring, and memorable. Being succinct allows employees and managers to remember and use them all the time quickly. Some examples of inspiring, unforgettable, and brief mission statements include:


“Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”


To build the Web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.

Whole Foods:

Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people – customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general – and the planet.


To enable economic growth through infrastructure and energy development, and to provide solutions that support communities and protect the planet.

The Takeaway

Without a communicated mission statement, a business does not have a clear goal or objective. Mission statements are like road maps for a journey; without a plan, you may have a tough time reaching your destination, if at all. Planning and preparing ensure that you have a clear path to your final destination. The mission statement is a firm’s roadmap.