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Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do: How Photojojo Uses Rule-Breaking to Increase Engagement


I recently found a little detail on a website that is filled to the brim with awesomesauce. It balances personality, social science, and trackable engagement. And its success is due to it being the online equivalent to “Pull My Finger.” No, I am not taking about this. I’m talking about a brilliant little graphic on the Photojojo! Store page.

Click through to a product page on the Photojojo! Store and you will see great product photography, multiple images, a strong call to action, and an overall clean design. But you will also see a tiny little image of a joystick with a line that says “Do Not Pull.” Roll over it and the joystick turns to red and practically begs you to engage with it. I keep on hearing John Locke’s voice in LOST saying, “Just don’t tell me what I can’t do.”

 Human nature says of course you will pull it. How could you resist? Your mind quickly evaluates if there is any danger in doing what they tell you not to do. The simple joystick shape and illustrative style says, “play with me.” And when you do, an orange arm (styled like a Saul Bass poster) animates down from the top of the screen, grabs hold of the page and pulls it upwards revealing the product description below. And the best part? The copy it reveals is not some run-of-the-mill generic SEO manufacturer-supplied copy. It is a brilliant, filled-with-awesome-personality descriptor that continues the experience with all “i”s dotted and all “t”s crossed. Lines like, “Simply put, our sheepishness turned to sheer addiction (the good kind, not the itchy-skinned paranoid kind)…” Does this sort of tone work for everyone? Of course not. But it pays off a whimsical, playful experience established with the initial joystick hook.

Messages that play on breaking the rules have worked in direct marketing for decades! Direct mail headlines like, “What your current insurance company doesn’t want you to know” have stimulated more envelope opens. Email subject lines like, “Shhh! Don’t tell your boss” have increased open rates. They all deliver on rule-breaking with minimal implied risk.

Online retailers have taken this one step further. Big box retailers frequently say, “These prices are too good to show in public. Add to cart to see these prices.” This sends the customer further down the conversion funnel while planting a seed in their mind that the price they will see is too good to publicize. I would like to think that Photojojo felt their product description copy was so cleverly written and packed with convincing details that reading it would help increase conversions.

What I am hoping Photojojo is doing is tracking who pulls that lever. I am also hoping they are comparing sales between those who pull and those who don’t. And how many times does someone pull the lever on the same page? Does the animation change? Is it on a cycle regardless of pages or custom to specific products? Imagine having access to data that proves your customers like to break the rules or at the very least like to explore what they “can’t do.” This could be used in a powerful way to direct attention to under-utilized pages of the site, or highlighting information that may help convert a sale.

Even if these tracking vehicles aren’t in place, this “Do Not Pull” device is an exciting way to increase engagement. How can you use this device on your site?

For five ways to use reverse psychology to engage readers, check out our recent post, Don’t Read This: How to Optimize Reverse Psychology Copy