6 Surprising Reasons Why Top Brands Use Clickbait Marketing Tactics, #5 Will Shock You!
A man fishing for clickbait


It’s difficult for marketing and branding experts to place clickbait and brand messaging in the same category. Many consider them polar opposites placing them on different ends of the spectrum. This may be a little (or a lot) controversial, but brand messaging and clickbait can be leveraged toward common good and should not be considered enemies, but rather frenemies. While clickbait and brand messaging employ different strategies, they share the same goal of driving traffic to their content or website.

What Is Clickbait

Whether you realise it or not, if you spend time online (which you obviously do) you’ve come across a plethora of juicy clickbait headlines. Many find clickbait annoying because it commonly uses bait-and-switch techniques by manipulating and misrepresenting headlines to entice users to click on an article, image or video link, which is usually inaccurate and questionable. Just like presidential candidates and politicians, clickbait headlines usually over-promise and under-deliver.

G7 leaders

The reason why clickbait headlines are so effective is because they appeal to human emotions and curiosity, prompting the reader to click the link to view the actual content. Clickbait, oftentimes, is not about quality content. It’s a numbers game to get as much traffic as possible because websites hosting these clickbait links earn advertising revenue for every click.

Where did clickbait come from?

The history of clickbait goes all the way back to the newspaper circulation war between New York World and New York Journal in the mid 1890’s.  Both publications were sensationalising their news to attract more readers and increase their circulation. At that time, these headlines were called Yellow Journalism in the US or Tabloid Journalism in the UK. This type of journalism usually included the following print tactics:

  1. Huge imagery
  2. Fake interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and false learning from so-called experts
  3. Using full-colour comic strips to emphasise Sunday supplements
  4. Sympathy for the “underdog” fighting against the system

If we fast forward to today, almost 150 years later not much has changed. Clickbait is still prevalent, but it has transitioned from print to digital format.

Although clickbait tactics are not respectable and frowned upon by marketing and branding professionals, you have to admit that these low-brow tactics are kind of effective because:

  1. Clickbait continues to exist and is a common practice
  2. People are fascinated by and continue to click on trashy headlines
  3. Advertisers are continuing to earn revenue

Dishonest or not, it doesn’t seem like clickbait is going anywhere any time soon, rather, it will probably continue to evolve. So instead of focusing so much on the negative, let’s extend the olive branch, put our animosities aside, and try to understand why clickbait is so effective. By doing so, we can leverage its positive elements to help organisations create impactful messaging and communication.

Why are clickbait marketing tactics so effective?

Whether we love it or hate it, one thing is clear, clickbait works, otherwise there wouldn’t be so much of it.  While it does have a bad reputation for using misleading content, what clickbait headlines do well is tap into genuine human emotion by leveraging the curiosity gap, which is a psychological feeling of wanting to know more.

How organisations can leverage clickbait in their communications

Before writing a single word, it’s extremely important that the organisation clearly understand their brand and customer categories. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s shockingly surprising how many employees think that a brand is simply a logo, motto, tagline or a cohesive design look and feel. It is so much more than that! A brand is a feeling and an emotional connection that customers have about a business or a product. And what clickbait does so well is tap into genuine human emotion with the help of curiosity gap, prompting the audience to want to know more.

This is the magic that every organisation wants to achieve with their brand communication. And it can be accomplished by ethically leveraging clickbait tactics to carefully and strategically structure message headlines that resonate with their audience on an emotional level, making them want to know more by clicking the link of newsletter, blog, social media post, etc.

But why does clickbait work so well?

Let’s break down our headline and take a look at its components.

6 Surprising Reasons Why Top Brands Use Clickbait Marketing Tactics, #5 Will Shock You!”

6” – that’s a nice digestible list I can read on my coffee break without straining my already overworked brain.
Surprising Reasons” – Why are they surprising? I need to know right now! This is an example of creating a curiosity gap.

Top Brands” – If top brands are using this technique, then it must be good. Note that unethical posts won’t back this up with anything.

“#5 Will Shock You!” Another curiosity gap strategy, but this time it adds extra emotion to hook you.

The entire headline is totally over the top and appeals to an audience with a sense of smart humour, just like you, probably.

Even the Guardian employs clickbait techniques.

This newspaper article writer is onto the clickbait game and uses an emotional headline that presents a reader with a problem. “Energy companies are bleeding British families dry”. The second part, “Here’s how to fix it”, creates a curiosity gap and offers a solution. Clearly, Mr Jones is an expert who’s going to save the day and single handedly fix Britain’s energy crisis. Click here to find out how!

IdeaBloom’s Messaging Workshop Can Help

So how do we create brand messages that connect on an emotional level and offer value? We’re so glad you asked because the answer is super easy! With IdeaBloom’s Messaging Workshop. This course was created to help organisations formulate brand messaging that resonates with the desired audience by communicating true benefits of a product or a service. It sounds intimidating and complicated, but we promise to make this workshop fun, easy and efficient. In just a few hours you will have a clear understanding of how to communicate your brand’s values to different customer groups.

How Does The Brand Messaging Workshop Work?

Before getting started, it’s extremely important that the organisation clearly understands their different customer categories. If you are struggling with this, talk to us about our User Personas workshop, but for now we’ll assume you are a rockstar and know exactly who you are targeting. Understanding different user personas is extremely important because this helps us identify:

  1. Their problems and frustrations
  2. How they can use your product/service features to solve them 

We then identify pain-points and appropriate solutions for every customer group. By gathering this information we can create a brand communication outline using a story structure and focusing on the following elements:

  • The problem
  • Solution to the problem
  • Explain how the solutions works
  • Show the benefits

The above bullet points serve as a brand messaging skeleton around which click-baity headlines and  communication will be built. Organisations can create different brand communication addressing problems of different user personas while leveraging the curiosity gap strategy.

Some Advice About Using ClickBait In Brand Communication

Clickbait has a bad rep, and while marketing specialists are warming up to the idea of using it, it’s important to use it honestly and ethically. Providing misleading information can ruin a brand. Here are a few tips on how to use clickbait in brand communication. As promised here are the 6 surprising reasons why top brands use clickbait marketing tactics, no. 5 will shock you.

  1. Use the curiosity gap honestly, without sensationalism or false claims.
  2. Provide the promised information by ensuring the title and content align.
  3. To convert new customers, be transparent and honest about your claims. Consumers buy from brands they trust.
  4. Numbers in headlines represent actionable steps readers can use to achieve their goals. Numbered lists make content more scannable and digestible. 
  5. Compare different clickbait headlines to determine which performs better, you can literally play them off against each other. Shocking, right?
  6. Focus on quality content over clicks. A clever headline can attract more customers, but the quality of the content will make them engage further.

So now we have reached the end of this click-baity blog post. We sincerely hope you didn’t feel lied to or misled in any way. We try to be as honest and transparent (and obviously a bit sarcastic) as possible in our content by delivering what we promised.

If your organisation needs help with creating brand messaging that connects with your audience, we’d love to be a part of that journey. Contact us to book your messaging or online branding communication workshop. If you need something a little more unique, we can create a customised workshop just for you.

Written by: Juliya Obukhovskaya