We’re being manipulated…. and we love it.

By November 20, 2013 June 12th, 2015 Insights

When I was 8 or 9, I found an ad on the back of the TV Guide that promised “Spooky dancing ghost! You won’t believe it’s not real!” I begged my mom to let me send in my $5.95 (+tax and shipping). I couldn’t wait for the mailman to deliver that box of magic to the door. What I finally got was a small white sheet of thin plastic on an elastic string. My innocence shattered, I was now a firm marketing skeptic.

Yet today I find myself falling for the same kind of tantalizing promises, “Watch The First 54 Seconds. That’s All I Ask. You’ll Be Hooked After That. I Swear.” Click.

Upworthy has taken the art of manipulative marketing speak (yes, it’s an art) to promote real content. And that’s the brilliance. Because there’s a decent reward for being sucked in — content that’s of value.

There’s a lot of talk lately about content marketing as if it’s a new thing. I’ve got a recipe box full of old magazine clippings calling for Campbell’s Soup®, Minute® rice, Bisquick®. and a host of other ®-rated ingredients. I’d argue that content marketing’s been around for a while. What’s unique now though are the many ways we have to create and deliver content (I just recently learned about Intel’s “brand journalism” strategy, I kid you not)… and the many opportunities we have to screw it up. Because empty content without relevance, meaning or merit is much like my plastic elastic ghost: extraordinarily disappointing and ultimately bad for business.

So back to Upworthy – I love the game they play, testing tabloid-worthy headlines to draw the most clicks. I know what they’re after but I’m more than happy to play. Because the payoff is just about always worth it.