Ever use a great product or service that inexplicably fails to catch on and is soon discontinued…and you wonder what in the world went wrong?
Welcome to the world of “virality” – where that thing you thought was the best thing since sliced bread falls off the market with barely a whimper. And something that should never have existed sells 25 million copies and its founder retires to St. Thomas in 6 months.
So what does make something go “viral”?
Wharton Marketing Professor Jonah Berger has a book out about that called “Contagious”. Since I haven’t read the book yet – and probably won’t for a while – here are some excerpts from an interview with him on Knowledge@Wharton that might serve as a short-term substitute (if you’re going to find yourself in the same boat as me).
1. The science:
Knowledge@Wharton: In the book, you actually outline a framework of six principles for why things catch on, using the STEPPS acronym. Can you describe those for us and discuss how you developed them?
Berger: The books talks about the six key steps to drive people to talk and share. STEPPS is an acronym for:
- Social currency:, It’s all about people talking about things to make themselves look good, rather than bad
- Triggers, which is all about the idea of “top of mind, tip of tongue.” We talk about things that are on the top of our heads.
- Ease for emotion: When we care, we share. The more we care about a piece of information or the more we’re feeling physiologically aroused, the more likely we pass something on.
- Public: When we can see other people doing something, we’re more likely to imitate it.
- Practical value: Basically, it’s the idea of news you can use. We share information to help others, to make them better off.
- Stories, or how we share things that are often wrapped up in stories or narratives.
2. And, here’s an interesting example about everyone’s favorite amazing-product-and-brilliant-marketing company Apple:
Think about Apple’s headphones. It used to be that we all carried portable CD players. It was like carrying a pizza. You had to run like this, to make sure it didn’t skip. Then, they came out with these things called mp3 players. Really great technology, but they were super expensive. Is it worth adopting this new product? How do I know if it’s worth adopting this new product? If you looked around on the subway or the bus, you couldn’t tell [which products people were using] because everyone’s headphones were black. It was impossible to see what device someone was using, as opposed to another device.
But what Apple did really smartly is they used white headphones. Once you start seeing a number of people wearing white headphones, you say, “Wow. A lot of people are using this. It must be really good,” which encourages you to adopt that product as well. It’s just like if you’ve gone to a foreign city and you don’t know where to eat. How you decide? You look for a restaurant that’s full of people. It’s a totally offline example. But you assume if it’s full of people, it must be really good. Thinking about how to make the private public, particularly in an offline environment, is a great way to help your product catch on.
Find the full article here. When you get there, if you have 16 minutes, watch the video – or skip it and scroll down to the transcript.