The web is full of blogs creating link bait articles (list posts, etc) that do get a lot of backlinks and mentions on social media.
Unfortunately, most of these articles aren't Pulitzer material that really invoke deep thought about a subject.
Is it possible to better promote a blog that exclusively writes high quality pieces which aren't in a link bait format (top x ways to y, etc)?
Content marketing is about attracting attention ("look at this!"), delivering a message ("our company does X!"), and driving visitors toward a desired action ("enter your email" / "try us" / "spread the word").
Content meant to "invoke deep thought" is fundamentally bad for content marketing, for the simple reason that most people aren't looking to think deeply most of the time, particularly at the prompting of some brand they don't know. Content that isn't easily digestible is bad at attracting attention and worse at driving visitors toward a desired action. Your audience is busy -- they have things they need to do other than read your content and think deep thoughts.
What people want from most content is to be:
It's possible to do each of these things in a high-quality way or low-quality way. Titles and formats like "top x ways to y" have little to do with the actual quality of the content -- it's simply a format that works for attracting attention because it's highly understandable and tells a reader exactly what they're getting.
Yes, but you will need to monetize in a different way. Listicles depend on advertising revenue, and as such, require as many people as possible, and as such, cater to the lowest common denominator. If you create intelligent content, only intelligent people will read it, and there just aren't enough of those people to click your ads in order to pay your bills! Instead, you would have to go to a subscription model, or consider revenue content aggregators like https://Tyger.ac which pays the content owners (submitters actually) based on how popular the article is. It's like a systematized micro-payment platform.