For the past 4 weeks, we’ve had a kitten on our home page. A roly poly, fluffy kitten. It’s part of a test series that our visitors voted on for testing against a previous wacky image of a llamacorn.

We didn’t do it for cuteness sake. We wanted to test a theory that if we increase our number of clicks on a CTA (no matter how we did it) we would logically increase the number of converted downloads. Even if the click to conversion ratio was lower, the actual number of conversions would rise based on sheer volume. We hypothesized that it was a numbers game, and the greater attention we could draw to the CTA, the more success we would have. We decided to try to increase those clicks with an unexpected, eye-catching image. The internet loves cats, and so does the Webtrends digital marketing team. So why not give the people what they want and get some conversions at the same time?

While you can read about the specific results here, this test taught us a crystal clear lesson: We don’t need another hero. The kitten emerged the victorious winner of the thunderdome, but it didn’t accomplish our end goal. Conversions. Turns out you can take attention-grabbing too far.

What is the difference between a strategic image and a ploy for attention? In marketing, it’s easy to fall off the fine line and and come off as gimmicky. Gimmicks are the kiss of death in marketing. It’s a surefire way to quickly lose credibility with your audience. We all strive to create intriguing, authentic, and sometimes entertaining content to drive our leads. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and navigating boring corporate culture can be a drag. When we browse sites as customers, we are looking to be entertained, and to quickly find content we need. Basically, we want people to speak to us as real people and not bore us. So when we come to our day jobs as marketers, we should try and apply that same outlook to our content. Only, sometimes it’s hard to tell if a kitten is just a fun kitten, or whether it’s trying too hard while not delivering content expectations.

This test helped us find these two guidelines for creative content:

1. Make it fun but directly applicable. Maybe if we’d had a kitten-related tie-in on the white paper landing page we would have had more success. Or, maybe we could have created a fun image around the white paper topic of shopping cart abandonment.

2. Context is important. The kitten drew attention because it was unexpected for a home page. (It certainly drew some comments and raised eyebrows around the office.) But there was probably a way to create something equally eye-catching for the home page that isn’t such a non sequitur.

Every week we try new marketing tactics, measure them and share the results (good and bad) with you. It’s called Backstage Access. Take a look!