YouTube sells subscriptions with just one word — here’s how you can emulate it

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I don’t really watch YouTube. Rather, I listen to it. You’ll find an overwhelming amount of podcasts, lectures, and music playlists in my recommendations — and yes, I keep my phone screen lit 24/7.

Naturally, the YouTube Premium ad came for me. It popped right when Joe Rogan asked Jordan Peterson a tricky question. Obviously, time expanded right then, and I couldn’t bear waiting. So I took my phone out of my pocket to skip the ad. Yet, instead of pressing the button, I froze. My observant eye caught a subtle marketing trick.

The message box didn’t say “skip ad,” it said “skip trial.”

The message I saw was in the small textbox on the bottom right side of the YouTube screen.

It’s not a random choice of words. YouTube marketers were leveraging a specific psychological trait which is loss aversion.

According to psychological studies, our minds are more sensitive to losses than to gains. It is especially the case for objects and possessions — say, a month of free trial, for example.

Roughly speaking, losses hurt about twice as much as gains make us feel good. If we wanted to measure the difference using an imaginary emotion-meter, it’d mean that finding $10 brings 100 positive emotional points while losing the same $10 strikes 200 negative emotional points.

YouTube subtly used loss aversion as a marketing tool. Marketers didn’t ask me if I preferred to skip the ad, but to skip the trial. The former translates into merely ignoring a commercial, while the latter meant that I was giving up on something.

When I saw the message box, I hesitated. “Does this mean that I’ll never get this offer again?” I thought. “Frankly, I hate being interrupted by ads — I should probably consider subscribing. Besides, my battery will thank me for it.”

All it took was one word to seduce my attention and make me consider subscribing

But what can the rest of us learn from this? We’re not YouTube. We don’t have the same resources nor the same reach. Nevertheless, we could still leverage loss aversion in our marketing.

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