The principles of Contagious Content: Triggers

Why do some things catch on and what makes some content more contagious? Is it down to luck or is some content just more viral worthy? Hundreds of research hours have been dedicated to solving this mystery and the findings show that there are six key principles to making contagious content. I recently explained the first principle Social Currency, lets have a look at the second principle – Triggers. 

What are Triggers?

Triggers are things we use to remind people to talk about our brands and products, triggers prompt people to think about related things. For example the word “dog” reminds us of the word “cat”. People often talk about things that come to mind, the more people think about your brand or product the more likely they are to talk about it – word of mouth marketing, top of mind leads to tip of tongue.

Creating triggers for your brand or product that are triggered by common everyday things will increase the likelihood of people talking about you and increase the chances of your content becoming contagious.

Getting people talking

Without realising it we all talk about brands and products on a daily basis and often several times a day, whether we are recommending a restaurant to friends or waxing lyrical about a new product to family this kind of social talk happens effortlessly and we often don’t realising we are doing it.

The rise of social media has increased the number of these types of conversations, by following or liking a brand or posting a photo of your latest purchase on social media you are instantly giving that brand your seal of approval and therefore recommending them to your social audience.

Types of word of mouth

There are two types of word of mouth; immediate and ongoing. Immediate word of mouth takes place when you pass on information soon after you have learnt it, for example you see an advert for a sale at your favourite shop and you tell colleagues, friends and family about it later that day or in the coming days.

Ongoing word of mouth takes place in the weeks and months after, for example recommending a film you watched last week or a holiday you went on last year. Both types are invaluable to brands but certain types are more important for certain products.

Immediate word of mouth is critical to products that need instant success, i.e. new film releases, new food products, if the buzz isn’t there the cinemas will replace the film with another and supermarkets will stop stocking the product. Ongoing word of mouth is almost always important, if people are talking about products for weeks and months after launch it keeps the buzz and demand high.

What drives word of mouth

It is often believed that surprising or shocking content provokes word of mouth and why this may be the case with immediate word of mouth it is not always the case with ongoing word of mouth. Sights, sounds and smells can make products more top of mind and therefore tip of tongue. For example if you see a picture of a sunny beach you are likely to start thinking about holidays.

in 1997 the chocolate company Mars noticed an unexpected rise in sales of its Mars bar, they had not changed their marketing and hadn’t run any special promotions. At the same time NASA’s pathfinder mission to Mars was taking place and was receiving world wide media coverage.

Mars bar is named after the company founder, Franklin Mars and has no association with the planet, but the increased awareness of Mars the planet through media, reminded people of Mars the chocolate bar and lead to the increase in sales.

Applying Triggers

Rather than catchy, quirky messages consider whether the message will be triggered by everyday environments of the target audience. Kit Kat got this right with their ‘have a break, have a Kit Kat campaign, people take breaks daily in their working day, therefore they think about when there break will be and what they will eat on their break.

Creating links to prevalent triggers leads people to talk, choose and use, social currency starts the conversation but triggers continue the conversation.



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