Play this 'chicken game' with your audience 🥚
Please don't read this article.
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A little trick I use whenever I want to make my audience do something:
Tell people NOT to do something.
Yeah, it’s that simple.
Imagine telling your audience, “Don't click this link!” and they do the exact opposite. Sounds strange, right? Welcome to the chicken game of marketing — a powerful tactic where telling people not to do something makes them more likely to do it.
At Wiz, one of our best-performing paid ads on LinkedIn is this beauty:
I learned about this tactic from my friend Amir Barkol from Microsoft, who saw a 5x spike in event registration when he posted this little thing on Twitter:
💥 Why does this strategy work?
🥊 Reactance Theory: When people feel their freedom to choose is being restricted, they are more inclined to do the prohibited action. It’s a form of psychological rebellion.
🧐 Curiosity and FOMO: Telling someone not to do something naturally piques their curiosity and also creates a sense of missing out (FOMO): What’s so special or forbidden about this action that they shouldn’t do it?
🥇 Competition: People love a challenge — and they LOVE proving others wrong. By daring them not to do something, you’re actually challenging them to defy your expectations.
💞 Emotional Connection: It’s like a playful back-and-forth that makes your brand more relatable and human (and funny).
🥚 Breaks the Routine: There are a gazillion old-school marketing messages on the internet right now. The “don’t do this” framing stands out.
🍗 Putting the ‘chicken game’ to work
A few ways to apply this marketing idea:
“Don’t Click” Ads: Probably the easiest way to do it — just ask your audience not to do something, for no reason. But it only works when what you ask is very clear and easy to do. ‘Don’t click’ is great, but ‘Don’t integrate your 3rd party data sources with our API’ is not so good. It will never work if you overcomplicate it.
Dissonance Games (only apply if they fit your brand’s voice & tone):
“This free download is definitely NOT worth your time.”
“If you're happy with boring marketing, look away.”
“Warning: This blog post might actually make you smarter. Proceed with caution.”
“The ultimate guide to... nah, just kidding. It's pretty basic. But helpful.”
“Thinking of skipping this post? We wouldn't blame you. But you might miss a hilarious typo.”
Challenge Marketing: Challenge your audience to prove you wrong (and gain positive outcomes as a result). For example, if you’re in the fitness industry, challenge them NOT to get in shape with your program.
Exclusive Clubs / Memberships: By telling people they can’t be part of something, you make them want it more. Make your events invite-only; people will do anything to be on the inside.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but it works! Human psychology is a funny thing. Just make the reward worth the risk: Don’t disappoint your audience with a lame click-through. Also, limit how much you do it - overusing this tactic will dilute the impact.
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