Activism, Changeology, Creativity, Strategic planning


One of my favorite books last year was, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger. As the title indicates the book is about how things; ideas, products, social movements, etc, spread.

One of the key points of the book is that offline is much stronger than online. Furthermore, if you want your ideas or products to be transmitted it would be wise to apply six principles summed up in the acronym, STEPPS.

  • Social Currency – Does talking about your product make people look good or feel like insiders? Find ways of making your product remarkable. Break the pattern of what people expect! For instance, if what you are trying to sell is pretty darn cool, encourage people to keep it a secret, while at the same time making it easy to share the secret. Social currency gets people talking.
  • Triggers – What naturally occurring cues make people think of your product? Can you link your product to something that is well known or occurs regularly in people’s everyday lives? For instance, most people drink coffee. If you are able to link the idea of your product to the sight, smell or taste of coffee, you will have a greater chance of people remembering it. Triggers help people continue to talk about your product.
  • Emotion – Building an emotional connection can be a powerful way of connecting with an audience and encouraging people to take action and talk more about your product. But are all emotions equally effective? Intuitively we know that positive emotions can move us to action, but is this true? Not exactly. Positive emotions such as excitement or awe are certainly likely to elicit a reaction, but other positive emotions such as contentment or calmness lead to inactivity. We need another axis; level of arousal. If you really want your product to be talked about you need to stimulate high arousal emotions; both positive and negative and avoid low arousal emotions; both positive and negative. In the table below you will want to focus on activating the red emotions rather than the blue More on this here ( )
High Arousal Low Arousal
Positive Awe






Negative Anger







  • Public – Does your product or idea advertise itself? Is it easily visible in the public sphere? If not, can you create behavioral residue that sticks? Cool reusable shopping bags or a nifty yellow (and very visible) wristband that says Live Strong on it are good examples of this.
  • Practical Value – Like social currency, does your product or idea help people help others? In other words can it help people to fell useful? Does it perform a very useful function? Or is your product such a deal that people just have to tell someone about it? If so, how do you frame it, as a percentage or a monetary discount? The former is better for low priced objects. The latter for higher priced items. Can you create your product so that it provides useful information? Explain why your product is useful and others will spread the word.
  • Stories – Can you embed your product or idea in broad narrative that people want to share? Create a story or link your product to a powerful and high arousal narrative that helps people engage. But, make sure that the story is relevant to the product. Humor is a great vehicle for transmitting ideas.

Hope you and your “product get contagious ;-).


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