Contagious: Why Do Things Catch On?

By Marta Majewska (@princess_misia)

How can we make our campaign, product, idea more infectious? Why does one video go viral while the other gets less than 500 views? It is a never ending question, one that every marketer, agency and brand has asked themselves more than once. As there is no clear answer, we like to think that it’s luck. But according to Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at Wharton Business School and author of the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, it’s not luck. It’s science.

At his SXSW session, Berger might not have entirely solved the mystery but he has definitely shared some really good insights based on the 10-year research he conducted on why a product, a video, or an idea becomes more infectious.


It is common thinking that to generate word-of-mouth you need a handful individuals which are exceptionally ‘connected’.  Even though influencers might help you with creating awareness around your product or campaign, they are usually not very effective in making things go viral. Contagious content spreads regardless of who is doing the talking, therefore think of not focusing too much on the messenger but rather on the message.


Ever wondered why Rebecca Black went (and still is) so annoyingly viral? Because every Friday, people still search YouTube for her video. Friday, in this case, is what Berger calls a mental trigger, stimuli that reminds people of products and ideas, prompt people to think about related things. Designing products and campaigns that are frequently triggered by the environment is key.


Have you ever saw something you really liked but decided not to share it after all? Do you remember why you didn’t do it? Most probably because you thought it would reflect badly on you or make you seem dull, dumb, boring? Word-of-mouth has become a tool for us, to make a good impression, just like the car we drive and the clothes we choose to wear. Sharing has become a social currency so next time you are developing a campaign, think about how you can give people a way to make themselves look entertaining, clever and hip while promoting your products along the way.

If still in doubt, get a mean Panda to help you create word-of-mouth for your brand. It sure is contagious.



My “check-in” beats your “like” anytime

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

For brands, creating engagement in any way is key… that’s why they are in social media in the first place. In recent months, a telltale signal to determine that engagement at a glance is the number of “likes” a brand collects all through the brands online ecosphere. Fueled by mostly Facebook, the hunt for likes is powering an important part of the Social Media roll out, and, between us: that is a bad thing.

A number of “likes” does not show you in any way the quality or quantity of engagement with your target audience in any way… for that more intelligent sets of data should be explored that give more relevant information on quality, sentiment, loyalty and behavior.

And a “like” is just a wrong metric. Clicking on it is often a gratuit gesture… for most consumers it means nothing more than a thoughtless “click”.  There is no bar, no effort, no real thinking, and thus way too often no real intention or engagement.

Personally, I have more respect for the location based check in. A check in, is like a “like”, but only better. Checking in means that people are linking their real life location and behavior (shopping, eating, going to a concert,…) with their offline social media ecosphere. They went through an experience that reverberates in the social spider web. Location based social check-ins are more and more combined with the ability to rate the experience, adding a tremendous potential added value for the brand. Having people checking in from stores, airports, planes, restaurants and events and giving a positive social rating turns every active “checker” into an active brand advocate.

People will trust the review of someone who actively ate at a restaurant way more than one from someone who just punched the “like” button on a website.

Check-ins new style will beat up likes big time ;-)


Ronald Reagan fathered Foursquare

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

There, did that get your attention? I thought it might… :-) Tim O’Reilly caused quite a stir @ #SxSW when he proclaimed that Ronald Reagan was the mental father of Foursquare.

But he has a point. Let’s go back into history: while the Beatles were working on their White Album, the U.S. Navy and Air Force slotted together a system that would enable navigation on a plethora of applications. A set of incompatible systems was developed, until the US Department of Defense decided in 1973 to unify the existing systems. With atomic clocks carried on geostationary satellites (predicted by Arthur C. Clark) , the Navstar Global Positioning System became a huge success. In the beginning, military use had priority, and accurate positioning was not possible for civilian systems.

The disaster with Korean Flight 007 in 1983, a mortal tragedy that could have been prevented with more accurate location awareness, made President Ronald Reagan decide that accurate GPS signals would be available worldwide and at no charge. Reagan’s directive angered quite a lot of military decision makers, but stood at the cradle of the location driven social media that is so popular today.

The military not only got us the backboned, dynamic rerouting internet (and an internet of things by that), but also stood at the very beginning of Google places, Gowalla and Foursqaure. Not to mention Augmented Reality, that made it directly from the cockpit of the Apache fighting helicopter into the smartphones. Presidents and generals at the roots of social media, a slightly disturbing thought….;-)


Engaging in Babel: Lost in translation

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

For governments, brands and companies, the ability to interact with target audiences on- and offline has become crucial. Increasingly sophisticated consumer engagement is leading to greater understanding, respect, loyalty and comprehension. And as more and more conversations and social interactions move online, we see more companies and brands doing a magnificent job of engaging loyal followers with digital and mobile technologies. However, many of the same organizations that enjoy tremendous success in America often struggle in Europe. Here’s why.

On a continent like North America, online engagement is relatively efficient and cost effective. A substantial amount of consumers can be reached, from coast to coast, in a single country (the U.S.), and in a single language (English). Adding just one country (Canada) and two languages (Spanish and French), provides access to most of the entire continent.

For metrics tools, conversation starters and community managers, three languages to engage and measure allows for profitable opportunities to scale online influence programs. In Europe, though, it becomes much more complicated—with 750 million people scattered over 44 different autonomic countries, each with its own set of laws, socio-cultural habits and ethno-historic sensitivities. From the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains, and from the North Pole to Gibraltar, roughly 70 different languages are spoken. To read and write in all of them, you need to be fluent in five distinct alphabets (Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, Armenian and Georgian).

This makes online influencing and community engagement fairly complicated. Economies of scale and reusing existing material becomes virtually impossible. Messages and message delivery vehicles need to be adapted to the local language and cultural needs.  Messages not only need to be translated, they need to be rewritten.

Even in smaller countries like Belgium and Switzerland, communication needs to be done in three different languages, which has severe implications on timelines and budgets. Compounding the challenges, big international metrics tools are often unable to filter out all of the semantic sensitivities of these 70 European languages, or simply do not have enough volume to give accurate analysis—enhancing the importance of local tools, and demanding a higher human involvement throughout the process.

Effective community engagement in Europe requires small, dedicated and integrated teams that can take an organization’s concept and strategy and tailor it for the local country. These teams must work hands-on with the tools that are most relevant for each European region, which are often quite different from the big global players. For instance, it’s impossible to reach the Dutch through Facebook, because they’re on Hives. And Poland has at least four different equivalents of Twitter.

To build global communication strategies, it is important to involve people who have in-depth knowledge of their region from the very beginning. All too often, compelling strategies and tactics conceived far from the actual countries where they will be implemented prove to be impossible to execute.

To successfully bridge Europe’s multicultural, multilingual diversity, it is far more effective to build communications strategies up from local insights and understanding. As many organizations continue to discover, in Europe, an overarching, top-down approach to consumer engagement often gets lost in translation.

(this post is part of Porter Novelli’ s “intelligence” series. Find the complete series here)


Location starts getting real value

originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

#SxSW in Austin still needs to officially kick off, but one thing is for sure: it is still about location, location, location. In the night and early hours before the event, you see location based tags and check-ins popping up like warm popcorn all over the city.

Foursquare, Gowalla and Google Places are arm wrestling for love and attention, and mayorships, points and badges are being distributed to the convention goers like ice cubes on a warm day.

But I spot a mayor difference. It goes way beyond the boyish gimmicks now. Location starts to add value. The big three added a ton of Social Functionality to their offering: the fact that people now can rate places, add tips, and hint at things to do, hyper jumped location based sharing into a realm that makes social marketing interesting. We found a great Austin Barbeque Place to eat, based solely on tips of Foursquare and Gowalla. We were tricked to the coolest bars in town with the same applications.

Startup “Heat Tracker” (find it for free in the app store) shows where the most action takes place in a reasonable circle around you. “Heating up” proves to be a great indicator for finding cool places to hang out with likeminded people.

Social location linked with the endless possibilities of “rating” places opens a great added value: peer screening. Nothing better to guide your culinary escapades in an unknown town than tips of people who tried it before.

Checking in is not just for geeks anymore, it helps determining the places to be, the hot spots and the trendy locations. The time a selected group of journalists and critics, and specialized publications as Michelin Guides and tutti quanti could determine where in town you wanted to be seen is over.

The reputation is made by the countless people around you. And THAT is a good thing ;-) .