Admit it, you’re as much of a sucker for click bait as I am. Despite our best intentions to the contrary, we invariably find ourselves clicking on still another irresistibly sensationalistic header. Which invariably leads to underwhelming or misleading content, and still another solemn pledge that we’ll never do that again. That is till the next tempting morsel crosses our screen.
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the draw of click bait. Enjoy some reasons why I revel in both emotions.
Why I love it: It follows in a grand tradition.
Hyperbolic titillation has been a promotional mainstay since the dawn of the carnival barker. Perhaps the true godfather of click-bait is the legendary impresario PT Barnum, who famously offered something for everyone. “The Elastic Skin Wonder”? “The Pig Faced Man”? Show me the way! Fortunately, we don’t have to fork over a few bucks to step behind to curtain, click a call-to-action and download an eBook. Just an email address and a few minutes of our lives we’ll never recover.
Why I hate it: It’s often deceptive.
Goodness is it often deceptive. “The five surefire ways to change your life” won’t change my life. “The18 worst things to do on a plane” would accurately be titled “The 18 things only a jackass would do on a plane.” Worse still is when a promised payoff is buried deep within mountain of fodder. Yes, there are times I feel rewarded for my click. But they certainly feel like rare exceptions.
Why I love it: It plays upon our noblest qualities.
Curiosity, beyond killing cats, drives us forward. It’s led out of the caves to the technologically rich life of we enjoy today. Will this rock take down that bear? Why does food last longer in the cold? How does light refract? Who dumped Kim Kardashian in junior high? We have to know. It’s in our DNA.
Why I hate it: It plays upon our crassest qualities.
Yes, we want to know stuff. But unless it’s of specific interest or particularly salacious, we like our info in bite-sized morsels. “The 10 best burger joints,” sure. “The complete history of the burger,” not so much. I’m as drawn to a good list as anyone (having contributed my fair share); and darn if I don’t occasionally feel bad about it.
Why I love it: It works.
Whatever else that can be said of click bait, it does indeed get us to click. Like a roadside flare it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and nothing more. We stop. We click. We read. Next sucker, please.
As Chief Old Lodge Skin states in the classic Western “Little Big Man,” “Say what you will about the white man, there’s no getting rid of them.” Click bait, for better or worse, will last as long as the cockroaches. Done right, it’s immersive marketing at its best. When the content satisfies the promise, I’m all on board. Done wrong…well…strictly speaking there is no wrong, just un-clicked. Which is to say, there’s always more. Which leads to a discussion of what makes remarkable content truly click-able. But that’s another day and another blog. Till then I’ll continue my bipolar relationship with click bait, my best of marketing frenemies.