The BuzzFeed quiz template has become nearly ubiquitous. It has created quizzes for nearly every subject under the sun, creating 7.8 quizzes per day on average since the formula was perfected. Naturally, BuzzFeed has turned brands on to the trend — a dozen or so have been created on behalf of companies to date — and is offering them alongside the more traditional sponsored list content. If BuzzFeed put the listicle on the map, the quiz might just replace it.
And, high-minded haters aside, these quizzes work like magic in attracting visitors — and getting them to share their results. Even Ellen Degeneres weighed in, noting on her show, “It’s a serious addiction that’s sweeping the nation.” Now, BuzzFeed is attempting to get brands hooked as well.
Late last week, BuzzFeed managing editorial director Summer Anne Burton and Ryan Hynes, a creative brand strategist, walked through what makes BuzzFeed quizzes. Here are the keys (all quotes taken from the BuzzfeedU webcast):
Hone in on the reader
“Targeting specific niches, fandoms and identities is very important,” said Burton, whose area of expertise is editorial (not sponsored). “People love it when you’re speaking directly to them.” Much of the experimentation happening around quizzes starts in the editorial department before migrating to the sponsored side.
Brands working with BuzzFeed should already be aware of the reader-first approach taken by the publication, so if your brand prefers to take a messaging-first approach, BuzzFeed may not be the right place for it to spend ad dollars. “That authenticity makes our content stand out,” said Burton.
Quiz copy is written in the tone of a fan who is geeking out with other fans. A sponsored post for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” tapped into fan culture by asking “How would you die in ‘Game of Thrones?” a nod to the menagerie of gory life-endings that have made the show popular. Where a listicle might rattle off “10 Reasons You Know You Were Killed by a ‘Game of Thrones’ Character,” quizzes open up the post’s inclusivity by leaving the outcome open-ended.
Since nostalgia is woven into Buzzfeed’s fabric, tying in strong visuals is a must, said Burton. One of the first successful quizzes, in December 2013, was about the TV show Friends. It used actual typefaces used on the show, as well as its color palettes. According to Jen Lewis, the staff writer and illustrator who perfected the quiz look and feel, “The images help to spice things up and give each quiz its own personality. Even color coding question and answer sections can go a long way.”
However, brands should take heed when borrowing Copyrighted material despite BuzzFeed’s knack for bending the rules – it’s gotten them in hot water in the past.
Quizzes work well on mobile, said Burton, because they’re easy to navigate and “that allows people to disappear into one of those fun quiz holes … taking many quizzes in a row on their mobile devices.” Developers optimized the mobile and desktop quiz experience to reinforce such behavior. And it’s paid off — a quiz called “What State Do You Actually Belong In?” netted a massive 40.5 million views, according to the site. It’s little wonder that the quizzes have quickly overtaken other forms of content as the most popular format.
According to Burton, users like quizzes so much that in some cases they’re taking them more than once. For example, 37 percent of those who read “Which of these is your favorite restaurant chain” completed the quiz twice. For “What city should you actually live in?” 28 percent of users came back for a second time.
One thing worth noting is that BuzzFeed is capturing some user data for these quizzes and is “exploring best practices for its use” on the sponsored side. Still, the quizzes are in no way scientific, and so to glean user data from them, is to mine spurious information. This isn’t news to the company, but according to Hynes, the info “offers great insight into who our users are.”
One piece of data that will perk up brands’ ears: 96 percent of users complete sponsored quizzes. Apparently, knowing things like “Which Expendable Are You” — tied to the third installment of the action series, which comes out in August — is information moviegoers can’t live without. (Note: you’re one of the expendable ones.)
Think quizzes are a fad? BuzzFeed doesn’t. Check out this graph showing engagement with quizzes since the formula was optimized. This is for editorial, not sponsored content. But it’s certainly enough to suggest quizzes are anything but expendable to brands.
Image via Shutterstock