How to Get Others to Share Your Idea and Spur Buying

An anger-evoking true story that’s spreading today, “Exec loses job after allegedly slapping toddler on plane,” quickly moved Dan Schawbel to write on Facebook, “The headline should read ‘Exec gets deported from America after being a complete A@& on a plane.’” That response wouldn’t surprise Jonah Berger, author of Contagious, out March 5th, who discovered that “high arousal” negative emotions like anger or anxiety spur us to share messages with others.

So do high arousal positive emotions: awe, excitement, and amusement or humor.  Susan Boyle’s unexpected singing performance, for example, evoked awe and 100 million views within nine days — and gave me shivers again today when I viewed it to write this column. Years later, she inked a movie deal. Les Miserables’ movie producer, Cameron Mackintosh said her success reinforced his interest in making that movie.

Who knows what far-reaching effects your contagious message might have?  To embody the core message of Contagious, I’m sharing some more tips from it that you may want to try or pass along:

1.  Surprisingly Some Emotions Stifle Our Desire to Share

“A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier,” suggests Tom Stoppard, yet not all positive emotions that we feel actually motivate us to share ideas with others, Berger discovered. “Low arousal” positive emotions in response to a message, such as contentment, actually stop us from passing them along.

2. Tie Your Product to Familiar and Frequent Situations

What’s more valuable than clever slogans to spur sales? “Kit Kat and coffee” is a rather bland brand message. Yet sales skyrocketed. Why? Because the company tied its ad campaign to a frequent habit for many people: drinking coffee. Anyone who sees the spots with the companion message, “a break’s best friend,” may be triggered to think about eating a Kit Kat bar whenever they take a coffee break.

Conversely, GEICO’s attention-grabbing TV ads, suggesting that switching over to their auto insurance was so simple that even a caveman could do it, were not as successful.

As Contagious author, Jonah Berger points out, “We don’t see many cavemen in our daily lives. The advertisement is unlikely to come to mind often, making it less likely to be talked about,” writes Berger.

Hint:  Connect your message to a situation that your kind of customer frequently experiences so it triggers them to think of your brand whenever they are in that situation. As Berger notes, “a strong trigger can be much more effective than a catchy slogan.”  I wonder what contagious campaigns he’ll use to spur sales of his book. Over at my Forbes column, see more ways to  get others to share your idea or to buy your product.

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with Kare Anderson

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