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  • Yoram Solomon, PhD

Clickbait and Trust: DO NOT OPEN IMMEDIATELY!

Are you receiving letters that are marked "DO NOT BEND," "CHECK INSIDE," "NON-TRANSFERABLE," "FINAL NOTICE," "OPEN IMMEDIATELY!""Pay to the order of..." or any other terminology that makes you open them, just to find an advertisement that has nothing to do with the impression you got when you looked at it? I know I am.


What do you feel when you open them? Do you, like me, feel cheated? Tricked? Stupid? Do you consider the sender of that letter to be trustworthy?

You don't have to answer. I know what you feel. I feel stupid after I open such letter just to find that it's advertisement.


There is no doubt that printing such terminology on the envelope increases the probability of people opening the letter. However, there is another step before you get any business from it: the recipient must act on the "call to action" inside. Once you realize that you were tricked to open this letter, the probability of you acting on the content decreases.


Let's put ethics, trustworthiness, and integrity aside for a moment (but only for a moment...) It comes down to math. If the clickbait phrase on the envelope (or even an email or text message) increases the probability of opening the letter by 30%, and the probability of acting on its content decreases by 10% due to reduced trustworthiness, then overall you would still gain 20% more people acting on the content. And that's your goal!


However, what if the probability of opening the letter (or reading the email based on the content of the subject line) increases by 10% due to the clickbait, but the probability of acting on the content decreases by 30%? You would be better off not using the clickbait at all. In fact, you would be 20% worse if you do.


In come ethics, integrity, and trustworthiness. If what you are offering is a one-time, non-returnable deal, maybe trustworthiness is not important to you. However, if you are hoping to start a relationship with a new customer, just remember that, even if the customer did act on the clickbait, they don't feel they have shared values with you. They believe that you would do anything, as unethical as it might be, to win business. This would not be a relationship based on trust. It would be based on misrepresentation.


My research shows that trustworthy salespersons can sell the same thing for 44.3% higher price, simply due to being trustworthy. Isn't that better than gaining a few percentage points by tricking your potential customers?


There is only one type of clickbait that I would encourage you to use: the witty clickbait. The one that, after you open it, you feel tricked, but in a pleasant way. You don't feel stupid. Just like this one:

After you read a witty clickbait you smile. This one even increases the probability of you acting on the "call to action" in the content, because you feel that the author of this message has a sense of humor, is vulnerable, and therefore is more trustworthy. You get a double whammy--an increase in the probability that the letter is opened AND an increase in the probability that you would act on the content.


The only problem with this clickbait is that it requires you to be witty...


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©2020, Yoram Solomon

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