Are You a Novelty Seeker?

Elke Farnworth
August 7, 2020

You know the feeling: the certain satisfying motion of peeling off the protective film from your new device. This piece of technology is is yours now, and you alone have the privilege of witnessing it in its purest form—Tabula Rasa, a blank state, existing only a short moment after you remove the protective film.

Brain: Here, have some dopamine!

In another instance, have you ever received a parcel for someone else knowing very well it's a violation when you remove the packaging? It feels flat-out wrong to remove it because it cheapens the experience. Product novelty is the lure of 'new' to consumers. Researchers call this behaviour 'novelty seeking' or a sexier alternative, 'neophilia'. In fact, everyone one of us has some form of this craving but some more than others.

Our brains have evolved to be rewarded by novelty, a tendency exploited by product designers, like Apple, and advertisers like us. This preference was preserved in our genetic heritage because it gave us a survival advantage.  Without our desire for new horizons, we wouldn't have explored new things or been able to invent solutions to the problems posed by continually changing circumstances. Novelty seekers will find it easier to adapt to the ever-changing world we live in; a trait evident in the first three adaptors of new products, especially the innovators. By nature, they are the risk-takers and are excited by the possibilities of modern ideas and new ways of doing things.

However, no two people are the same and while there are novelty seekers, there are also the risk-averse customers, the late majority or laggards. These people do everything they can to avoid taking a risk or trying something new. They're sceptical about product adoption and will stick-to or persist with what they know.

So how do brands go about this medley of excitement for newness tempered by the love of a comforting and predictable routine? This clash of perception and reality poses a brain twister for the modern marketer: when should we focus on an innovative product's novelty, and when do we peddle it's improved familiarity? Brands create value through product change, but they capture the value best by minimising behaviour change, this is identified in the following:


Most of the time, the NEW products we all get excited about are those that entailed minimal changes or adjustment in behaviour: for example, toothpaste with improved whitener or toilet paper now with extra soft ripples. Some consumers won't think twice about this purchase decision, the acceptance of such a product is high, but overall benefits for both the consumer and the brand are limited.


Brands that develop products that involve a limited change in their product offer few benefits but require a massive change in the consumer's behaviour. Let's take Google Glasses, for example, released in 2013 as a wearable computer featuring a head-mounted display in the form of glasses with the internet, camera, maps, calendar and other apps by voice command. Google released these goggles with the assumption that “technology should work for you -- to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don't." If this is the first time you've heard of these, it's probably because less than two years later they were discontinued.


Most new products offer leaps, creating exceptional value. However, they also require significant behaviour change. The Food and Drug Administration approved Invisalign in 1998; the clear aligner system gives the software and technology needed to move crooked and misaligned teeth in stages using nothing more than a series of customised aligners. Although primarily used for mild to moderate issues, this product took a huge leap for consumers to transition; however, twenty-two years on, anyone who is after the Colgate smile trusts their smile in this innovative product.


Some innovations offer great benefits but require minimal behaviour change. These products stand the best chance of both short term and long-term success. There's a reason why Apple is one of three of the most successful brands in the world with smash hits on tap. To put this into perspective, I was an early adaptor of the original AirPods; they delivered a wireless headphone experience, a charging case, 5 hours of listening time, just ask Siri, she'll skip a song or pause it. And then came the Airpod Pros. As a self-proclaimed novelty seeker myself, I couldn't resist the "magic like I've never heard" quote by Apple. They promised to deliver an immersive sound, all day comfort, transparency mode, noise cancellation silencing the world around me. Not only this, it sensed and controlled music between different applications, phone calls and music. So, out with the old, in with the new.


All too often, consumers fail to buy products that brands expect them to adopt. The reason may lie less in the value of the actual product itself and more in the minds of the people. Unless of course, you have a revolutionary product that's going to change the game, you can't just eliminate your competitors off the island. Your only option is to position yourself, tap into your insight, win the public over, strategise, choose your timing wisely and lastly book a consultation with Brendan Ford.