Click bait. SEO. Marketing to millennials. Communicating differential advantage to customers. There are lots of reasons why nuvo-geek web hacks make things into lists.
3 reasons you need to click this right now!
5 things you need to know about ... click this right now!
7 things to stop doing right now...click this to find out!
21 things that will change your life (#11 will totally blow your mind).
But for the best branding agencies, engaged in serious business such as branding a community hospital or branding a bank, click bait is almost useless, SEO for the sake of SEO does little to engage my target audience, and silly search tricks can actually stand in the way of serious strategic marketing objectives. Here are 3 (among many) reasons to stop with the lists of reasons already:
1. They dumb down the proposition. Think about something you care about, something you love. Golf. Piano. Brain surgery. Rocket science. When you think about mastery of your area of passion, is there any element of that mastery that can be boiled down to "3 easy steps?" Of course not. Important things are sometimes complex. Training consumers to ignore the complexity of complex things by only noticing things that are expressed in short lists, is teaching consumers to disregard what is truly great about ... a perfect curve ball on the outside corner with a full count...a well-placed topspin serve...a delicate and complex white sauce...community bank branding that says something other than "biggest," "newest," "fastest," "cheapest."
2. They talk to people you don't want to reach. Click bait doesn't exist to attract your audience to your message. It doesn't even claim to court just the right consumer set. Click bait is to brand positioning what prostitution is to true courtship. Would you want your daughter to go out with that brand? Would you ever consider cultivating a permanent, give-and-take relationship with it? I think not.
3. They're a trick. As such, they devalue your brand proposition. Even if you do capture the attention of truly qualified consumers with your "15 reasons my checking account beats their checking account," you start the relationship off with a trick. That said, what can the consumer really expect from your brand.
Now, lists are fun. No doubt. We've used them some, to make some simple points and to break through clutter. Once or twice, we've even used them as satire. And once in a while, a change of pace is good. But nobody ever got to the Superbowl by using the statue-of-liberty on every play. The blogisphere is fun. And you don't want to be the grumpy guy in the corner of the party, complaining that everyone is superficial, and nobody is interested in serious conversation. But you also don't want to be the flighty guy who is never interested in a serious conversation.