The History of Quiz Marketing

Quizzes are having a moment. With changes to data laws and marketing toolkits, the quiz is showing its true value as a lead generator and a way to learn about customers sustainably. 

However, this is not the first time the humble quiz has made an appearance; it’s just the latest and greatest iteration of a trend that keeps coming around through the decades. Let’s look back on the phases of quiz marketing and where we’re at today. 

Phase 1: Magazine quizzes (1900?–1999)

While quizzes have been around since ancient times (literally), let’s begin with the magazine era. Magazines like Cosmopolitan printed quizzes on full-page spreads, asking questions like “How hip are you?” 

These quizzes had a similar effect to what comic strips did for newspapers. Kids and adults alike purchased magazines for the quiz content and then went on to read more in-depth articles. 

Quizzes were a sales tool for promoting magazines, and they’d often be called out on the covers.

quiz from magazine

Phase 2: Viral internet quizzes (1999–2007)

The second generation of quiz marketing was much like the first, but online. Companies like tickle.com would hire psychologists to write quizzes like “What color are you?” and host them online. 

Unsurprisingly, these quizzes went immediately viral and drove millions of visits to the sites that hosted them. It was a costly endeavor, though, because you needed both an expert quiz writer and a programmer to make the quizzes from scratch in those days. 

early online quiz
(From tickle.com—acquired by monster.com—circa 2007)

Phase 3: Social media quizzes (2007–2015)

The next time quizzes made a shift was with the introduction of social media. When social platforms came on the scene, people thought everything would change; in some ways, they were right. A whole generation of quiz-building software came online, and people could make and host quizzes directly on social media platforms. 

Back in the day, before all the privacy laws, Facebook would allow people to create and host quizzes directly on Facebook, and once again, the same types of quizzes that appeared in the magazines and online went viral. 

This minted a whole wave of quiz marketing that lived on social media. However, this wave came to an abrupt halt with the Cambridge Analytica meltdown and all of the restrictions that came out of that. 

quizzes on Facebook

Phase 4: Connected quizzes (2014–2020)

Quizzes went into somewhat of a dormant phase after the social media slowdown. For a while, they defaulted back to Phase 2. Quizzes still went viral online, but by then, they were somewhat played out. 

The next turning point came when email marketing programs and advertising platforms began opening up their APIs so marketers could connect a quiz to their email list and, once given consent, remarket to people who have taken the quiz.  

This inspired a renewed interest in creating quizzes, and big brands jumped on board to build out personalized experiences using quizzes, showing massive return on investment. 

Interact was the first mover on the market, launching in August of 2013 with an integration to Mailchimp and Aweber. Today, we have hundreds of integrations and continue to build more. 

Interact quiz opt-in form

Phase 5: Human/AI quizzes  (2020–Present)

The latest phase of quizzes is the connection of data from the previous four phases about which quizzes perform well, combined with the writing expertise of today’s foremost quiz experts. 

What that looks like 

In practice, the way data and human creativity collide is through the proliferation of quiz templates. These are written by the best writers in the world, so people get the benefits of human creativity cross-checked with the data Interact has compiled from more than 50,000,000 leads generated through our platform. 

Generational improvements 

The major change is in the time it takes to build and launch a quiz. Modern marketers want fast-launch quizzes, something they can have up and running in hours, not days or weeks. 

However, creating a quiz from a blank page can take about 90 days, considering all the resources that need to be gathered. But with a quiz template, people can launch a quiz on their site in four to six hours. 

Interact is leading the wave for a second time, having created more than 800 quiz templates so far, with hundreds more releasing each quarter. 

Architectural quiz in Interact

Conclusion: The quiz has value in each generation

It’s fascinating to see how quizzes have been utilized from the days of magazines to a cross-up between artificial intelligence and human creativity. In each phase, the quiz has inherent value because it pulls people in and makes them want to engage, and that value has adapted to the changing times. 

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