A smart, handsome man by the name of Andrew once told me about the curiosity gap. No, I wasn’t looking in a mirror, and I can promise you the adjectives of smart and handsome are rarely used when describing me. This Andrew was named Andrew Davis. He’s a marketing keynote speaker and best-selling author. Plus, he may have the most energy of any person I’ve ever seen at a conference. He once threw water into an Orlando crowd because he was so excited.
And yes, I walked away from the splash zone that day with an appreciation for one thing in particular: curiosity. But maybe even more important than that curiosity is understanding of how, as a marketer, it’s important to capitalize on the curiosity gap that naturally exists with the people we talk to every day.
So what’s the curiosity gap? Hear it from Andrew Davis himself!
So now you know the theory. A gap of curiosity occurs and humans, by nature, want to fill it. Every amazing story you’ve ever been told features some level of curiosity gap. Your love story. Your first time on a boat. The awkward person clipping their toenails on an airplane. Every story involves a buildup, some tension and then the payoff.
But, as Andrew Davis mentions in the video, it’s easy to misuse and abuse the curiosity gap. Whatever tension you’re building must pay off.
With all that in mind, let’s analyze the El Camino trailer and see how Netflix applied the curiosity gap!
First, if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, I would say … what are you waiting for? It’s arguably the best television series of all time and is still on Netflix awaiting your binge. But in the meantime, there are going to be some spoiler alerts ahead.
Let’s dive in. For those wondering, the title El Camino refers to the Chevrolet El Camino Jesse is seen driving away from the white supremacists’ headquarters after being rescued by Walter at the end of the Breaking Bad finale, “Felina.”
The trailer opens with a slow pan toward a doorway. One of the most important ways to start building tension and curiosity is to set the scene but not overtly. Show the audience but don’t tell them. Did you notice the pictures of Hank and Gomez on the wall next to the door? Two deceased characters from the show that cause your heart to flutter with sadness, but we know at the very least we’re in some sort of police station likely headed toward an interrogation room.
Another way to build tension? Take your time. Too often, marketers want to rush to give everything away. Take this deal, buy this thing, look at us we’re just more noise. You can’t do anything until you’ve actually received your audience’s attention. How does the trailer do it? We don’t see a visible face until 20 seconds in! That’s a lot of time wondering, waiting, thinking.
Simplicity, an often overlooked method for growing curiosity. Once we’re inside the interrogation room, we’re looking at basically two shots of Skinny Pete—farther away and one up tight. It’s almost like the director is saying, don’t worry about where we are but focus on what our character is saying. The benefit of simplicity? It’s easy for your audience to follow. Remember, their mind could be running 1,000 miles per hour and you need to cut through.
What’s that in the background? Yes, music infused with dread and anticipation. Music always does well in building tension. How lame would it be on Jeopardy if they didn’t have that music playing during the final round? So if you can add music, do it!
Remember, though, whatever curiosity gap you’re building has to pay off. For this trailer, there’s no doubt that the tension was there. You can almost cut it with a knife. How will it pay off? We’ll find out on October 11.
Andrew vividly remembers not being able to breathe for two minutes during particularly dramatic scene of Breaking Bad. He described it as, “quite literally breathtaking.”