Have you ever seen one of those annoying ads on Facebook or other social media sites where the pitchman tries to sell you something with a creepy line that makes you uneasy? Well, that type of advertising is called a “creepy line” and it’s the bread and butter of digital marketers around the world.

What Is the Creepy Line?

The creepy line, also known as the “pitch” or the “elevator pitch”, is that one or two sentence long phrase that is used by marketers to hook you in with a promise of something great. Maybe you’ll get a discount if you buy a certain product or service. Or maybe you’ll get to experience some amazing feeling if you take a certain drug. The line is meant to be intriguing and a little bit scary – preferably, the latter.

Why Do They Use Creepy Lines?

When you are first exposed to a brand or product, you encounter a few sentences that might catch your attention. These are known as the “mini-version” of the brand. Mini-versions are used to introduce new products or services to get customers emotionally and mentally prepared to hear more. They are usually a very short and sweet synopsis of the product or service followed by a promise of something better (or worse).

When a marketer crafts a mini-version of a brand or product, they are trying to establish the emotional connection with the audience by creating a short snappy pitch that will stick in their heads.

Types of Creepy Lines

Depending on your viewpoint, you might feel that there are two types of creepy lines; those that are meant to trick you and get you to click, and those that exist solely to make you question your decisions. One of the first marketing consultants to define a “creepy line” was Neil Patel, founder of the popular Wistia marketing video platform. In an old 1994 article for Marketing Profs, Patel wrote, “There are two types of creepy lines. One is the kind that tricks you into acting before you think. The second kind makes you question your decisions. One will get you to click. The other will keep you coming back for more.”

While it is true that every company and brand has two sides – the helpful and the manipulative – the latter half of Patel’s definition seems to match up with today’s version of the creepy line.

How to Spot a Creepy Line

If you are exposed to a brand or product and they use a sneaky little pitch to get your attention, you might be dealing with a creepy line.

Here are some tips on how to identify one of these tricky phrases:

  • It should be relevant to your interests
  • It should be measurable
  • It should be memorable

Make sure that the mini-version of the brand is relevant to your interests. If you find that you are not interested in what they are selling, then chances are, the line is a ruse to get you to accept their offer. Think of a related product or service that you enjoy and find valuable.

For example, if you are interested in travel and they are promoting a package deal where you can travel to Italy this year, but you have decided that you don’t want to travel abroad, the deal might be a bit of a ruse. However, if you are genuinely interested in Italy and have never been there, their mini-pitch about the country might sound intriguing.

The Evolution of the Creepy Line

The evolution of the “creepy line” has taken place over the past few decades. Back in the day, the phrase “creepy line” referred to that old elevator pitch ads that were so creepy that they would give you goosebumps. These ads would show a group of people in an elevator with a tagline like “Your Body Is One Big Beautiful Temple” or “Picture This, Sign This, Say No Thanks, And Go Ahead And Buy This Product Because” and whatnot. These types of ads were very common place in the ‘70s and they are pretty much what the term “creepy line” originally stood for.

As time went by, the meaning of the term changed. Now, when marketers craft a mini-version of a brand or product, they are trying to find that magic formula that will make customers interested in the entire package, not just the one product or service that they are promoting. In other words, they are looking to create a sticky pitch that will compel you to click on the link to learn more. In some instances, these lines can be pretty scary – like the one about the drug – but in other instances, they can be humorous or enticing – like the pizza example below.

The Top 3 Reasons To Avoid A Creepy Line

While there are many benefits to having a creepy line in your marketing stack, you must proceed with caution. Here are the top three reasons why you should avoid using these types of pitches in your organization.

1. It Leads to Decision-Making Fatigue

When you are bombarded with marketing messages every day, you begin to wonder if any of it is actually relevant to your needs or interests. This can then lead to decision-making fatigue and what is known as “herd-mentality” – where the decisions that you make are based on the actions of those around you.

Even worse, when you do decide to engage with one of these pitches, you are more likely to end up on some kind of a web-based questionnaire where you are pushed to answer a ton of questions about yourself. Believe it or not, these sorts of surveys can be used to determine your “psychographics” – meaning the type of person that you are and what you’re interested in.

Using a creepy line in your marketing material can then lead to you being matched with a product that you might not necessarily want or need. To quote one of our past blog posts, “… if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all the new marketing materials that your brand has thrown at you in the last six months, rest assured that you are not alone. Having too much information can be a curse as much as a blessing. It’s up to you to figure out which pieces of information are most useful to you.”

2. Customer Satisfaction Is Important

In almost every industry, customers are seen as a valuable and necessary part of the operation. This is especially apparent in the online world, where customer satisfaction is directly correlated to a brand’s success. When a customer is unsatisfied with your service or product, they will usually take their business elsewhere. Unless, of course, you offer some type of satisfaction guarantee. Otherwise, you are risking losing a very valuable customer.

Even if you can’t help but notice how important your customers are, you might still be unsure of how to go about pleasing them. For example, if you are a pizza company and your customer base is mostly male, you might want to consider running an ad campaign with funny videos featuring attractive women.

3. It Can Be Scary

In today’s world, marketing and advertising technology has made it possible for marketers to be more creative with their methods. In general, these days, marketers will use any and all tactics to get their target audiences to notice them and their products.

Some tactics are more upfront and some are more subtle, but none the less, effective. One of the most effective methods is the use of fear. It is a well-established fact that people are more likely to buy a product or service if they feel that there is some danger associated with not using it or being unable to use it.

If you’ve ever seen the documentary, Blackfish, you’ll know exactly what we mean. In this movie, a group of fishermen capture orcas for the purposes of displaying them to tourists. The animals, who have been deprived of their prey, become restless and dangerous. This is a fairly common occurrence in SeaWorld parks across the world. Similar to how an animal raised in captivity will turn violent when set free, humans are capable of behaving badly when placed in dangerous situations. Some research has even shown that being afraid or worried can increase your blood pressure, making you more likely to have a heart attack.