Exploiting the “WTF?!?” factor

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wtf_catWho could resist a purposely lame 1980’s style video game that features a purple unicorn and his Fabio lookalike master who are in search of floating cheese puffs while attending a birthday party thrown by puppies? Maybe lots of people, but a certain writer could not. In fact, the aforementioned writer  just spent a little too much time playing Cheeto’s Legend of the Cheetocorn.  The quirky and dumb video game is  little more an elaborate advertisement for Cheetos, yet it possesses a certain “what the hell” factor that makes you take a second look.

In fact, take a gander at the hot articles on Digg, for example. The majority of them have a certain wacky or unique appeal that begs readers to stop and click. Everything from stories about women with multiple body parts to the obligatory goofy animal articles are represented on these pages and highly clickable.  So does this mean to get our articles seen we have to put a cat in a bikini and teach it how to play the tuba?

Not necessarily. Wacky, quirky, interesting and weird can be used to our advantage in article marketing without turning vital information into a sideshow. Eye catching headlines like  “How to Speak Nanny” a  top  emailed story at the newyorktimes.com, pop because they promise information and maybe a humorous inside look at choosing a nanny. Some articles (like this goofy one about ketchup packet innovation) manage to pop up everywhere because of the curiosity factor and because people want to read what the buzz is about.  Finally, there are those truly wacked out stories that catch like wildfire that we might not want to emulate but that provide good lessons in ways to infuse our normal stories with words that will draw in readers.

The big thing we can take away from  all this talk of unicorns and ketchup packets is that articles and campaigns that tap into our collective sense of curiosity and wonder and “wtf” can mean the difference between zero readers and a truly buzz-worthy article.


  1. Charles says

    Legend of the Cheetocorn is a good statement about modern-day advertising; Hear Me Out:

    1) Someone was like ‘let’s make a ridiculously lame flash game as part of our advertisement. Kinda like those shock-the-monkey games, but more of a Nintendo, 8 bit feel.’

    2) This same bored programmer starts throwing together a crappy game with a crappy premise. It’s somewhat fun, but with no real appeal.

    and here’s the real advertisement genius:
    3) Some creative marketing director said ‘You know what? That’s a good idea. Let’s do it.’

    4) The crappy flash game got my attention, and got me to finish the stupid level, taking 20-30 seconds out of my day for no real reason, yet made me feel uncomfortably satisfied with my useless accomplishment.

    4.b)I now associate Cheetos with mythological creatures and slightly satisfying advertising. It is somewhat of a breath of fresh air when considering 99% of all other advertisements out there.

    so, in retrospect, there was some combination of staff and management that took a risk, and it paid off. I applaud the staff more than the management (as usual), but overall it deserves more than the dismissive ‘WTF’ response that is aforementioned in this blog.

    I think you’re underselling it as a knee-jerk reaction, or ‘wtf’ response.

    I do acknowledge your final paragraph which attempts to applaud said advertising efforts, however.

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