Force And Friction

Posted by

The more actions you force on the consumer, the more friction you cause.

There was talk a awhile back about forcing people to give up their email address to have access to content. I’ve seen this executed many ways. In one instance, you can’t see anything unless you offer up your email address. I’ve seen other instances, where you have access to partial content but full access when you give up your email address. There are still some Blogs that require you to register to leave a comment.

These types of tactics create friction.

In some instances, the friction is good. Traditional newspapers feel that by forcing readers to register to leave a comment – and this includes a level of verification – that they’re keeping out the riff raff and ensuring a higher level of quality in terms of discourse. Others might argue, that the work of registering probably turns off many people who may be able to add value to the conversation (personally, I can’t be bothered to take the time to register and be validated to leave a comment on a newspaper website or Blog). Brands like The Economist know the intrinsic and unique value of their content, so the layers of friction to become a paid subscriber to their online content works for them.

One of the most challenging marketing efforts is figuring out whether or not your friction is working for you.

Adam pointed me to a service that forces you to tweet about a video on YouTube before being allowed to watch it. Avinash Kaushik (author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) calls this "the selfish lover" (when you reach climax before your partner… and that’s all you care about doing). Common logic would tell you that forcing someone to tweet about a video before they get a chance to view it could create a level of resentment. Common logic will tell you that if the video is good, people will naturally and intuitively want to share it. The moment of truth will come in figuring out if this friction doesn’t cause resentment.

Remove the friction. 

Great products have the marketing built into it. This isn’t anything new. Seth Godin has talked about it forever. Tom Peters has talked about it forever. If you remove all friction, if you let people truly connect and dive deep into what you have to offer, people are both smart and kind. They buy from you, they will become loyal to your brand and they will talk about it. This is the compassionate lover (first you, then me). It seems a little disingenuous to try and force it out of the gates – especially if you don’t have a established brand or credible reputation in the market.

But then again… I could be wrong.


  1. Mitch, this is a major philosophical difference in marketing and I’m glad you brought it up. I agree but think that what I’d call the “manipulative parent” approach of forcing friction can work. But just like bad parenting, it’s the long term results that suffer.

  2. Forcing someone to Tweet about your content before viewing it can’t be a smart thing. It would certainly increase the chance I would bad-mouth it if it sucked.
    Putting up that first barrier or pay wall and meeting with some measure of success may lead providers on a path of regularily asking more and more from their recipients. In my business when faced with suppliers that insist on our going through new hoops to continue to buy from them my answer is always the same. “You can run your business any way you want and I will respect you, but don’t be disappointed or surprised when I do the same and buy elsewhere”

  3. Totally agree. Anytime I feel I am being manipulated into doing something on a website, resistance comes up for me and I usually click off the site. When we make it frictionless, the potential for resistance goes away.

  4. I agree, but this is a fine line. On the one hand, you have David Meerman Scott, who says there should be absolutely no friction…and it seems to be working pretty well for him. On the other hand, unless you make all the decisions, you’ll likely have a “higher-up” telling you that you can’t just give the information away, you need to get something…like an email address.
    The real danger, in my mind, is what you then do with the information you gather from the friction phase. Too many times, it turns into a vehicle for spam. Far too many marketers assume that since you gave them your email address to get that piece of content, you are effectively giving them permission to market to them.
    Usually not the case.
    I think we all need to be more overt about what is considered permission and realize that if we are going to require some sort of registration for content then the content better be superior to ANY other content available. Otherwise, let it roam free.

  5. Good point about the conflict inherent in friction. We find that many clients just don’t know if the friction is working for them! The idea of measuring it hasn’t occurred to them, but it’s a great way to fight back against management asking for more fields in the form.
    We also find that registering to make a purchase – a far more critical friction hit than registering for a comment – is still required on too many sites! We listed some ideas to reduce that friction in: Every Second Counts – Conversion Optimization and Usability

  6. I agree with this 99%.
    But how do you think this relates to downloading eBooks, whitepapers and watching webinars? Many of those forms of content are used to get people’s contact info.

  7. It’s very different. If it’s something that has tremendous value then the friction of signing up or providing information is usually not that intense for the consumer. Just look at loyalty programs for more on this: we give a ton of personal information just to save some money.

Comments are closed.