How Nudge Theory Just Made You Click on This Headline (and Helped a Famous Economist Win the Nobel Prize)

It takes effort to move a mouse, point the arrow toward a headline, and click down on a button. As a writer, I know this is true–I search on Google and read headlines all day, and I write headlines like the one above that will hopefully make you interested.

The catch? We’re all inundated with many other headlines, so there has to be just enough information to make you slightly curious. And, you’re savvy enough to know when a headline is really just a ploy–a trick that’s only a level or two above an ant trap. On the web these days, headlines are all about a demonstration of perceived value. You won’t click unless it seems like there will be an obvious reward and the click will be worth your time.

It’s also a curiously apt example of how nudging works. It’s the power of suggestion, a hint of payback, and a promise of reward for your time all rolled into about 10-15 words. Of course, headlines are nothing new, and suggestions as a way to influence marketing and sales are also not new. What is relatively new, and why Richard Thaler just won the 2017 Nobel prize in economics for his work in this area, is that it has become quite a science.

A headline is a nudge in a pure form. It’s all about prompting people to action–is the promise of the article you’re about to read enough to cause people to act?

For anyone trying to generate content or write a blog, it’s incredibly important to understand the art of nudging. Create too much of a nudge (or too small of a nudge) and people won’t click. A headline has to find the right balance of suggestion versus giving it all away, and the principle applies to an ever greater degree because every headline can be measured so precisely. If you’re writing a headline, it’s worth the effort to think about how the nudge will cause a reaction (or not cause a reaction).

Let’s examine the headline above as an example.

First, you maybe didn’t know about nudge theory. It’s a new concept, so you were curious. It might lead you to discover there’s a book by that name (written by Thaler and a co-author). You might even decide to buy it on Amazon. That’s a big reward right there, because the economic principles of nudging can be invaluable for anyone responsible for product success.

Second, there’s a hint of a new angle. Thaler did just win the Nobel prize, and his accomplishments are worth noting in more ways than one. There’s an interesting correlation that might develop–it must be worth clicking if it was worth winning a Nobel prize. I have no idea if this will actually garner any attention, but I do know that nudging, the Nobel prize, and Thaler are all worth your attention. They might even change how you do marketing.

But it’s the combination of these ideas that I believe is so important, just as it’s a combination of several ideas that make an advertisement enticing, or a PR campaign, or a slideshow you plan to give to an investor. The balance of interest and carrot dangling, to the point where no one even knows there is a carrot involved, is incredibly interesting to me. It’s worthy of an entire book, actually. I’d buy it and read it to find out more–how do you strike the balance? What is the brain science involved that tips people off just the right amount? When is there just enough sugar and when is there too much?

If you know the answers to those questions, you might find some incredible success…with blogging and writing, sure. Or marketing. But also with any business endeavor.

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This Brilliant Video From a Famous Company's Lawyers Is a Hilarious Masterstroke in Persuasion

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

What is it about lawyers these days?

Have they suddenly realized that coming over all human actually works with, well, humans?

Last week, Netflix’s lawyers sent a quite brilliant cease-and-desist email that must have made even the recipients laugh.

Now along comes another bunch of lawyers with a gripe and a heart.

The lawyers at Velcro are a little miffed that people think they own Velcro shoes and, perish the very concept, Velcro wallets.

Who needs a wallet, never mind a Velcro wallet?

The problem is that the more people ascribe every Velcro-like thing as a Velcro-thing, Velcro’s brand name gets tarnished, even though it lost its patent 40 years ago.

The technically correct terminology for most of those “scratchy, hairy fastener” things is, well, anything but Velcro. Hook and Loop is the acceptable generic term, apparently.

Or, as one quasi-lawyers calls it here: “F***ing Hook and Loop.”

There are trademark laws being broken, insist the lawyers. You have to change your behavior. Please.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I learned all about this from a music video the company released today.

It purports to show a group of disgruntled Velcro lawyers singing of their pain and begging you to please cease and desist.

What would Velcro be if it lost its registered trademark, the famous “circled R”? It would be just another Velcro brand.

I know they feel strongly about this, as several times throughout this marvelous anthem they swear in a sing-song voice.

Still, this isn’t without its hiccups.

“We aren’t just doing this for us,” says a (possibly) real lawyer half way through the video. “We’re doing this for all the successful brands that got so popular that people started using their brand names the wrong way.”

Oh, poppycock, sir. You’re doing it for you. You’re doing it for the very reasons these fine lawyerish actors are singing about. And it’s good.

So do please stop getting defensive or I’ll give you and your brand the hook-and-loop.

I have no idea whether this idea will stick, but you have to admire the gusto with which Velcro has tried. I can only hope the song catches on.

Naturally, I now wait for all America’s lawyers to grow a sense of humor.

I look forward to them sending letters to people they are suing that read: “Look, we know you owe our clients money. But when we met you for the deposition, you seemed like such a funny person. So why don’t we just go and watch an NBA game together (our client’s paying) and forget all about it?”

Or perhaps: “Yes, you live in Colorado and you appear to have infringed our trademark. However, I see that your governor’s name is Hickenlooper. If you can get him to change it to Hookandlooper, we’ll let you off.”

A man can dream.

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