Turning inner space into outer space

July 6, 2014

Those fun quizzes are actually data miners for marketing

Marketers love to get consumers to fill out surveys, but it’s really tough to get us to do that. I filled one out recently, but only because an iPad mini was being offered as a prize.

So . . . what if instead of surveys, they were clever quizzes. Well, we’re all over that.

I see links to quizzes on Facebook (mostly from Buzzfeed) all the time. They usually start off with a comment from your friend about what the result was for them. “My decade with the ’60s!” “If I were a dog, I’d be a collie!” “I should be living in Holland!”

And if your friend took the quiz, then why not join in the fun and compare notes. “Turns out I’m a collie, too!”

Buzzfeed’s most popular quiz, What State Do You Actually Belong In?, has racked up more than 40 million views. It’s been shared almost four million times on Facebook. In that quiz, people willingly give their favourite fast food chain and their favourite TV show, among other things. Marketers would give their right arm for this kind of data.

Marketplace has an interview with Aram Sinnreich, a media professor at Rutgers University, who has this to say:

It is a tool for advertisers to understand us better masquerading as a tool for us to understand ourselves better. Instead of reluctantly agreeing to give marketers information about ourselves, we are emphatically proclaiming to marketers who we are and then demanding that our friends do the same.

Buzzfeed managing editorial director Summer Anne Burton is quoted as saying that the site is “looking at how to use the things we’ve learned for companies’ benefit.”

An HBO-sponsored quiz about Game of Throne, for example, received a million hits, and provided valuable consumer information such as preferred alcohol and greatest fears.

In an article at the New York Observer, though, a Buzzfeed spokesperson denies collecting or selling individual answers.

“We’re not in the business of selling data. We’re in the business of selling social advertising.”

They say the only data being collected is whether the quiz was completed and an aggregate of the final results.

Buzzfeed may not be selling individual answers now, but how long will it be before they give in to the temptation? I’m guessing not long.

Sinnreich says the popularity of quizzes will eventually fade, but they’ve established a premise that can be used in other ways.

“Expect more tools that make giving information about ourselves seem like a game.”

Credit: The graphic above is from the quiz, What State Do You Actually Belong In, from Buzzfeed.