You Got a Problem, Asshole?

Here’s an incident I witnessed the other day. A guy in a truck was backing out of his driveway. A skateboarder zoomed behind him, narrowly avoiding a collision with the truck. The truck guy called out this immortal line:

‘You got a problem, asshole?’

Got my attention. We are certainly hardwired to pay attention when anybody nearby is being addressed as ‘asshole’ or the tone is aggressive. It also works like a charm online, in click-bait headlines and in email subject lines. When you get an email with the subject ‘Warning’ or ‘Do Not Open’ it will get a reaction out of you. You might even open or click. When men read ‘Top Ten Pick Up Lines that Always Work’ most will be fighting the click-urge.

Gentler invitations also work. On landing pages, when information is marked ‘Optional’ people usually provide it anyway. The small suggestive nudge leads to action, almost in the ‘I am going to defiantly provide this optional information’ sense.

These are behavioral buttons that headline writers, email crafters, copywriters and marketers enjoy pushing, because they almost always work. Headlines that start with a number get more clicks. Headlines with eight words in them get more clicks. Lists and countdowns get more clicks. Headlines that play on fear, implying ‘You’ll screw up unless you click!’ – you guessed it – those get more clicks, too.

Cheap tricks work beautifully.

Cheap tricks just don’t work over and over. I’m not above using ‘Really Big News’ as a subject line for an email newsletter. (I did, and it got one of my highest open rates.) But if I wrote that every week? It would stop working.

Repetition dulls the cheap trick.

First time clicks are hard to come by. Competition for them is brutal. Try every cheap trick you can think of, but just once or twice. After that, you’ll need to provide something of more value if you want a click from a returning visitor. Why do you care about your returning visitor? They’re likely to turn out to be your buyer, user or customer.