How to create something that will go viral.

Earlier this week I wrote a blog about the lady in the Wookie mask. Why did that video become the most viral video ever posted? I promised to write a blog featuring the 6 takeaways from a book that teaches us why things go viral. (One and three is the answer which lead to four, the sellout of the masks) 

Contagious: Why Things Catch On is a book by Jonah Berger, who is a Professor at the Wharton School of Business. His book is an amazing study in why videos, commercials, phrases or anything else becomes popular. It is invaluable to those of us who are trying to market things to the public. Here are the six takeaways from the book.

First is social currency. By sharing the information that you have provided, will it make the sharer look good? People want to share information that makes them look smart, or funny, or interesting. So does your info hit any of those criteria? 

Second is triggers. Jonah tells an interesting story about Mars bars candy spiking during the Rover exploration. Mars was in the news for weeks and it reminded people of Mars candy bars, so they bought them. How can you get a trigger? Force a semi natural one. Kit Kat has done a 10 year radio campaign that is tremendously successful tying Kit Kat with coffee. Hershey had almost pulled the plug on the brand, after a powerful 20 year jingle campaign followed by a decade of declining sales. They gave the head of marketing a small budget to see if she could turn it around. She couldn't afford TV so she had local DJ's do endorsement style ads in the morning through the afternoon show referencing coffee breaks and Kit Kat bars. They made millions of dollars! 

Third is emotions. If a video makes you laugh you share it. But people also share things that make them feel nostalgic or shock or any other number of emotions! Make them feel something!

Fourth is public. If you see other people doing something you're more likely to do it. For example iPod was not the first mp3 player. But they were the first to come with white ear buds. Those ear buds made a statement that others wanted to be a part of.  Christian Louboutin was just another shoe designer till he introduced his signature red sole in 1992. The red sole was so distinctive, and seen on the most fashionable women that sales skyrocketed.

Fifth is practical value. Does this information help you? Can you save me money? Help me lose weight? Make me popular? If you have info like this people will share it.

Sixth is stories. Jonah explained that part of the human experience is sharing stories. We edit them down to the most interesting parts. For example we're all familiar with the Trojan horse story. But that was never documented at the time. Later versions included lots of details that aren't shared by people today. Can your message be told in a 60 second story? 

Those are the takeaways, but I highly recommend you take the time to read the entire book. After you do...or don't, if you want to create a viral ad campaign I'd love to help!