Ha, got ya. In a nasty, clickbait’y way.
I don’t work ten hours a week. If so, that would sometimes be a daily quota. I have the relative luxury to select when I work and where from but that’s about it. But that brings me to the main topic of today which is – clickbaits and thought shortcuts.
I don’t know about you, but I always felt uncomfortable and never wanted to write such articles, even though I know that they perform and people click on them; Top 10 ways to x, This one thing increased our revenue x, and so on and so forth.
Mass media journalism has become shallower (all hope in pay-gated respected mediums). YouTube or even Bloomberg are competing with TikTok for younger generation, so they’re producing shorts – usually 1 min videos.
But what are we optimising for? Shortening attention span and ad views.
Tell me a story
We all love stories. We are shaped by them. This is how we get to know the outside world, legends, heroes who inspire us. We learn the norms and rules of living in society.
It’s no different here on the internet and social media. We do not want advertising, hard cold information about a boring product. We want to connect with the brand, feel how using its product will improve our lives and make us feel special. We buy with emotion and then reason to reassert ourselves that the choice we made is right.
And you may or may not be aware, but a lot of people, brands and marketers use the concept of “mono-myth” (the myth of all myths) created by researcher Joseph Campbell in the book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”.
Thanks to this method, they create scripts for films, advertisements or press conferences of the largest brands. Such story structure catches your attention and pushes you to take action.
The concept of the Hero’s Journey is always pretty much the same;
- Status quo (current situation, everyday life)
- Signal to change, call
- Companion character (guardian, guide)
- A breakthrough point
- Further complications and the fate of the Hero
- Transformation / Radical Change (Hero’s Internal Transformation)
- Completion and reward
What does it look like in reality and how to apply?
Do you remember The Spiderman, Lord of the Rings or The Matrix? Using exactly this scheme, the script directors created the stories that captivated attention of millions of people, but when you look closer and break down the script – you’ll notice the same Campbell-esque monomyth pattern.
Neo (Hero) lives in a dull, fake world (status quo) until one day a Mysterious Figure (Morpheus) appears and takes him on a journey (Breakthrough Point), during which the Hero gains friends in the form of the Trinity and the rest, fights enemies with them (Complications of the Hero’s Fate) in order to finally undergo a transformation (choose the Truth) and receive the Reward (live a more fulfilling life).
If you analyse any type of startup pitch or a website, you will glaringly see the same pattern – often an exaggerated problem (especially when it’s the fund raising time) to increase urgency for a call to action (buy, invest, try the demo etc.). You want to learn about the customer journey to see if you’re in his shoes. If people can’t relate, they will give it a pass.
Best rule of marketing if you want to create a great brand; talk about what you believe not what you do.David Bear
That’s why so many great speeches start with the story. Just look at TED talks examples. Activists, company founders… they all captivate our attention and emotions through telling their personal story.
When they trick you
The foundations of Campbell’s pattern are noble – you want to set a structure and help the reader get immersed in your story. Yet, many people and mass-media create manipulative headlines and hero-like stories with no ‘meat’. Those type of LinkedIn people who love entering <br> between the sentences a little bit too much. I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of such posts on your feed. People craving for attention. Haven’t you felt a little bit tricked after reading those posts to the end?
We fall victim to eating this news like candies, somehow thinking the next story will turn out to be more inspiring or educational.
One of my colleagues said that my articles don’t get all the love they deserve. Well, I don’t make it easy by titling my articles in an enigmatic way. Most of my content probably never reaches you. But when I need to decide; Do I want to be read, appreciated and ‘famous’ in the wider circles, or do I want to focus on unconventional, sometimes thought-provoking, uneasy-to-read content for the right ones? – I automatically go for the latter.
I want to be playful with my audience, I want to hide contextual and socio-cultural reference puzzles that, when they discover the connection, they feel as if they’ve earned a point like in some kind of Scavenger Hunt. They feel satisfied with themselves.
Sure, you can can consume predictable, maybe informative or educational or entertaining stories, but at some point, you want freshness, an unexpected turn, something that will make you pause and reflect. Like that La La Land love story ending with a girl marrying another guy instead of the love of her life.
Why did she do that?