Select Page

Chapter 1: Social Currency

“Give people a way to look good while promoting their products and ideas along the way”

Restaurant Called “Eat Me” In NYC
-An old with a rotary phone in a telephone booth is in the back corner of the resturant.
-If pick up the rotary phone, someone will answer with “Do you have reservations?”
-If you push the back wall, this phone booth turns into a secret door to a bar called “Please Don’t tell”
-Reservations open at 3:00pm and are filled by 3:30pm on first come first serve basis
-The most powerful marketing is personal recommendation.
-Why is this restaurant so successful?
-If something is supposed to be a secret, people might be more willing to talk about it. The reason? Social Currency. People share things that make them look good to others.

Interesting Study: They found that sharing personal opinions activated the same brain circuits that respond to rewards like food and money. So talking about what you did this weekend may feel just as good as taking a delicious bite of chocolate cake.

Inner Remark-ability:
-Talking about remarkable things provides social currency
-Ex: Snapple facts – Did you know that frowning burns more calories then smiling?
If we tell someone a cool Snapple fact. Its makes us more engaging
If we tell someone about the telephone booth the test into a bar, it makes us seem more cool.
Key: The key to finding this inner remarkability is to think about what makes something interesting, surprising, or novel. Can the product do something no one would have thought possible?

Game Mechanics:
-Collecting Air Miles is a fun game.
-Good game mechanics keep people engaged, motivated, and always wanting more.
-Game Mechanics helps develop social currency because doing well makes us look good.
-Just like many animals, people care about hierarchy.
-So, make the game so others can see where you are in the hierarchy – think of the Olympics!
-Use contests and Give awards – this gives people the opportunity to everyone about how great they are.

-Scarcity and exclusivity makes something seem more desirable.

Insider Knowledge:
-Give away “flash deals”
-Quick limited time offers (24-48h at most)
-Offer Access by invitation only: You must be invited by an existing member.
-“Smart Shoppers Loyalty Club”: Sign up to get reduced shipping fees and access to private shopping
-Leverage the urgency factor: (available for only one day) Ex: Post deals at 11:00am teaching customers at if they don’t act fast they’ll be gone by 11:03 (Ru La La example).
-If people get something the rest of the population doesn’t have, they feel special, unique, high status.

This does 2 things:
1. Makes them like product more
2. Makes them share the product more because they have insider knowledge (Social Currency)

Restaurant called “Eat Me” in NYC
-Right before you leave the restaurant the waitress hands you a card that says “Please Don’t Tell” and includes a phone number.

Chapter 2: Triggers

“Rather than just going for a catchy message, consider the context. Think about whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environments of the target audience”.

Buzzagent: A brand that uses its database of 800,000 Bzzagents. They understand that people already use word of mouth and utilize this natural human behaviour.

-When people share information, they are sharing something about themselves.

The Difference Between Immediate And Ongoing Word Of Mouth

Immediate word of mouth: This occurs when you pass on the details of an experience, or share new information you’ve acquired, soon after it occurs.
Ongoing word of mouth: in contrast covers the conversations you have in the weeks and months that follow. The movies you saw last month or a vacation you took last year.
-Certain types are more beneficial for certain products/ideas.

-Interesting products received more immediate word of mouth than boring products. Interesting products do not sustain a high level of word of mouth activity over time.

How Triggers Affect Behaviour: Top Of Mind Tip Of Tongue
-Sights, smells and sounds trigger related thoughts and ideas, making them more top of mind.
-Accessible ideas and thoughts lead to actions.

Mars Bar Example:
-Franklin Mars (Founder of Mars Bars)
-In 1977 the company experienced an unexpected increase in sales Increased sales
-The company was surprised because they hadn’t done anything different
-What happened? NASA had happened. Particularly the Pathfinder mission.
-The Pathfinder mission landed on it’s alien landscape called Mars and was broadcasted on all news outlets.

Jennifer Hendrick Example:
-grocery store study
-When french music was playing people bought more french wine.
-When German music was playing more customers bought German wine.

Fruits and Vegetable Example:
Students were paid $20.00 to track what they eat every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
-halfway through the two weeks, students were asked to participate in a non related study. They were asked to examine slogans for public-health related slogan targeting college students.
-They were shown the slogan more than twenty times in different colours and fonts to be sure they remembered.
Slogan 1: “Live a healthy way, eat five fruits and veggies a day”
Slogan 2: “Each and every dining-hall tray needs five fruits and veggies a day” .
-When the students read slogan 2 they said they did not care for it by calling it “corny”.
-When it came to the actual behaviour, the results were striking! Students that were shown “Slogan 2″ eat 25% more fruits and vegetables as a result.

Rebecca Black Example:
-Her “Friday” song was played significantly more times on Friday than any other day of the week.

Growing The Habitat: Kit Kat Example
-Kit Kat was experiencing a decline in sales.
-Colleen Chorak did research and found that when people consume Kit Kat’s for the most part, they are either consuming a hot beverage or are taking a break.
-She had an idea, Kit Kat Coffee and created a campaign “A breaks best friend”.
-Since then the brand has gone from $300 Million and has grown to $500 Million.
-The Coffee trigger worked!

What Makes An Effective Trigger:
-Frequency, however, this also must be balanced with the strength of the trigger link. The things a given trigger is associated with, the weaker any given association.
-Pick triggers that happen near where the desired behaviour is taking place
-Don’t make a trigger that is already associated with many things. Ex: Peanut butter and Jelly
-The more something is triggered, the more it will be top of mind and more successful it will become.

Chapter 3: Emotion

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead” – Albert Einstein

-People share things for two main reasons; it personally interests them or they have found it useful
-When we care, we share.
-Based on a study: 25% of interesting articles were more likely to be shared and useful articles were 30% more likely to be shared.

The Power Of Awe:
-“Awe is that sense of wonder and amazement that occurs when someone is inspired by great knowledge, beauty, sublimity, or might. It’s the experience of confronting something greater then yourself. Awe expands one’s frame of reference and drives self-transcendence. It encompasses admiration and inspiration and can be evoked by everything from great works of art to music to religious transformations, from breathtaking natural landscapes to human feats of daring discovery”.
-You are amazed, you are humbled, you feel elevated. This is awe.
Awe example:
-Susan Boyle
-40 year old British woman on Britain’s Got Talent
-She looked more like a lunch lady then a vocalist
-Her performance was so amazing that it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up
-In 9 days this accumulated over 100 million views.

Does Any Emotion Boost Sharing?
-Sharing emotions help us connect. Emotion sharing is a little like social glue, maintaining and strengthening relationships. Regardless of your physical location, sharing a video of “awe” over the internet creates and strengthens the bonds.

-Sad articles are 16% less likely to make it most emailed list.
-Awe is relatively pleasant and sadness is unpleasant.
-People mostly want to share good news because it reflects positively on them
-People often share things base on how it makes them appear to others. It makes them reflect positively on the other person doing the sharing.

Focus On Feelings
“Three Whys” to find the emotional core of an idea:
-Write down the reason why you think people are doing something.
-Then ask: “Why is this important?” and after each answer repeat it three times.
-Select emotions that trigger arousal

Exercise Makes People Share:
-If arousal boots sharing, the same should work from a physical standpoint.
-Running on the spot doesn’t evoke emotion. However, it is physiologically arousing.
-It gets your heart rate up, increases blood pressure, ect.
-In the study conducted on page123, 75% of the people shared an article (more than twice) compared to the students who were in the “relaxed” group.
-Thus any sort of arousal, whether from emotional of physical sources, and even arousal due to the situation itself can boost transmission.

-This also applies to regular conversations. Ever sat beside someone who feels like sharing things that seem to be extremely personal?
-Or find yourself in a conversation where you share a little too much?


-If a situation is making your physiologically aroused, we may end up sharing more than we planned. Be careful the next time you talking with someone after you got right off the treadmill, or experience some turbulence on a plane ride. You have been aroused by these experiences and may share information you didn’t intend too.

-“Emotion drives people to act. They make us laugh, shout, and cry, and they make us talk, share, and buy. So rather than quoting statistics or providing information, we need to focus on feelings”.

“Whether it’s a digital product, like Google, or a physical product, like sneakers, you should make something that will move people. People don’t want to feel like they’re being told something-They want to be entertained, they want to be moved” -Anthony Cafaro (The designer who helped develop the “Parisian Love” video at Google)

Chapter 4: Public

“We need to make the private public. If something is built to show, it’s built to grow”

If something is built to show it’s built to grow:
-A great example is the Apple white headphones. Every company created headphones in black except for apple. Why is this? Social proof.
-This is why bartenders and baristas fill their tip jar before their shift starts
-This is why people assume that there longer line, the better the food must be.

Movember Example:
-Sunday afternoon in 2003 a group of friends from Melbourne, Australia, where sitting around sitting drinking beers.
-They asked the question “What ever happened to the moustache?”
-The word spread to their friends and resulted with around 30 guys growing their moustache for 30 days.
-They had so much fun, they decided to do it again each year.
-They then decided to put a cause behind their efforts.
-So the founded the Movember Foundation “Changing the face of men’s health.”
-That year, 450 guys raised $54,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
-It grew from there to an international initiative that has since raised $174 million worldwide.
-Why were they successful? They figured out how to make the private public.

Advertising Itself: Sharing Hotmail With The World:
-Design Ideas that advertise themselves.

Hotmail Example:
– Hotmail was the first web-based email services.
-They grew by installing advertisements into each email that was sent.
-At the end of each email, Hotmail put: “Get Your Private, Free E-mail from Hotmail at
-In a little over a year hotmail signed up more than 8.5 million subscribers.

Apple Example:
-The default setting on an iPhone when using the email reads “Sent from my iPhone”.

“Livestrong” Nike Yellow Bracelets Example:
-85 million bracelets were sold worldwide. Why? Social Proof

Other Examples:
-Lululemon the created reusable bags that people don’t throw away after bringing their products home.
-Victoria Secret bags
-Tiffany Blue bags

-“Monkey see, monkey do”
-“If people can’t see what other are doing, they can’t imitate them. So to get our products and ideas to become popular we need to make the publicly observable”.

Chapter 5: Practical Value

“People like to pass along practical, useful information.”

-People like to pass on practice information that is useful.
-People don’t just value this kind of information, they share it.
-“Our friends see we know and care about them, we buy food for being helpful, and the sharing cements our friendship”.
-This reflects positively on the sharer, providing a bit of Social Currency. At the core it is about helping others.

Saving A Couple Bucks:
-When putting things on sale, it automatically makes it more in demand in a person’s mind. However, if the sale ads are over used, then it loses it’s attraction in the consumer’s mind.
-The larger the gap between an original price and the sale price the better the deal looks.
for example.

Weber BBQ Example:
Scenario 1: At one store the BBQ if priced at $350 and is marked down to $250
Scenario 2: At another store the same BBQ is listed at $255 and it marked down to $240.
-People were more inclined in a study to get the deal in scenario 1. What gives?
-Setting a higher reference point made the first deal seem better even though the price was higher overall.

Diminishing sensitivity:
-The idea that the same change has a smaller impact the farther it is from the reference point.
-Lets say you win $10 in the lottery and you found out that you made a mistake and you actually won $20! How do you feel?

-Now let’s say you won $1,010, and you later found out you actually won $1,020. How do you feel?
-You probably wouldn’t be as excited as the first example.

The Rule of 100:

-“If the product is price is less than the $100, the rule of 100 says that the percentage discount will seem larger”.
-“If the product’s price is more than $100, the opposite is true. Numerical discounts will seem larger”.

How to make practical value more visible:
-Put a sign at the checkout that shows other people in the line how much the person checking out saved.
-Or maybe ring a bell every time someone saved more than twenty-five dollars.

Chapter 6: Stories

“Many people forget one important detail. They focus so much on getting people to talk that they ignore the part that really matters: what people are talking about.”

Stories As Vessels:
-When you hear people tell a good story you hang onto every word.
-Stories can act as vessels, carriers that transmit information to others.
Ex: The Trojan Horse story that has been passed on for thousands of years. The Greeks built a giant wooden horse and gave it the Trojans. They found it outside of their home and dragged it in claiming victory. Later that night the Greeks came out of this wooden horse taking over troy and killing everyone in the enclosed home.
Moral of the story: “Never trust your enemies, even when they seem friendly.”

Evian Famous “Roller Babies” Video Example:
-The clip had roller skating babies in diapers doing very entertaining tricks. They are synchronized, jumping over each other and hopping over fences. It’s a funny and remarkable video.
-It attained 50 million views, and the Guinness World Records declared it as the most viewed online advertisement.
-Although all this attention may seem great. That same year Evian lost market share and it’s sales dropped almost 25 percent.
-The problem: Roller skating babies are cute, but they have nothing to do with Evian.

-“Vitality is most valuable when the brand or product benefit is integral to the story. When it’s woven so deeply into the narrative that people can’t tell the story without mentioning it”.

Will It Blend? Youtube video Example:
-The brand finds how much the blender can take by blending things like iPhone and Marbles.
-This indirectly pimps the product by showing how great it is.
-“If you want to craft a contagious content, try to build your own Trojan Horse. But make sure you think about valuable vitality. Make sure the information you want people to remember and transmit is critical to the narrative”.
-“Make sure your desired information is so embedded into the plot that people can’t tell the story without it”.

The Author: Jonah Berger, 2013. Contagious Why Things Catch On. USA: Simon & Schuster