Yesterday we reviewed the type of content that marketers and advertisers should avoid associating with – the garbage that’s strewn about on so-called “content farms.” Today we look at our next major type of content. This one is also garbage, but for now – and maybe forever – cannot be avoided.
Welcome to listicles. We were early in calling out the trend of dumbing down headlines by using phrases such as “The 3 Ways…” or “Five Reasons Why…” or “The 24 Things You Need…” ad nauseam, way back – wayyyyyyy back – in March of 2008.
Little did we know that the dumbing down would reach down into the main content. “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Miley Cyrus’s Tongue” was not where we saw this trend heading.
But it’s here. And it draws clicks and eyeballs by the millions – hence the oft-used derogatory reference to this type of content as “linkbait headline/article” – like a car crash on the other side of the highway. Consider it digital rubbernecking.
It’s so popular, in fact, that one of its smartest purveyors, BuzzFeed, now offers advertising programs to marketers in which it will create "sponsored" listicles from whole cloth, on the fly. From a BuzzFeed case study:
“Virgin Mobile and BuzzFeed created 190 pieces of original branded content that users responded to and loved to share. As a result, Virgin Mobile was able to…[garner] 9.7 million engagements with their content in 2012.”
Which is way more than the 6 million subscribers Virgin Mobile has at present. So we should expect to see a lot of subscriber growth for the wireless carrier by the end of this year, no?
Because the 9.7 million “engagements” taught the “engagees” nothing meaningful about the Virgin Mobile brand, and nothing at all about its products and services. Those are the “marketing fundamentals” we referred to in yesterday’s post – still requirements for making a sale or two.