Then, what is in the environment around that time? For reusable grocery bags, what’s in the environment when people leave home, and how can we link those things together? I did a project with America Walks, trying to get more people to walk in the United States. It’s a big important cause.We realized that on every corner where there’s a traffic light, there’s often a Walk and a Don’t Walk sign. Why can’t we make the Walk sign a reminder for people to walk more? We see that often, but we don’t think about it. It’s a great potential trigger to remind people that they should be walking more frequently. So we thought a lot about how we could create that link. You may not have a lot of money to create that link. But thinking about who, when, what, and how, is a way to begin to think about effectively creating those links. Not every campaign is going to have the success of an Ice Bucket Challenge or a Red Cross Give Blood campaign, but if you approach your campaigns as each-one-reach- one, you are making great impact. When helping organizations set realistic targets, I focus on the nuts and bolts of getting each individual to talk to one more person,focusing on the why, the how these campaigns work, rather than creating a viral video. Viral videos are often flashes in the pan - they’re here today, gone tomorrow. Most organizations don’t want just a flash in the pan; they want to create enduring change. Thinking about the mechanisms of conversation is important, and measurement is important, too. It is much better to focus on realistic short-term goals that will play out over a longer time span, rather than shooting for the moon and assuming that everybody can do it. Sometimes it is hard for social causes, because people tend to believe the cause is so important that it shouldn’t need to be marketed: we’re curing diseases, we’re helping underprivileged individuals, we’re dealing with mental health. It’s a good cause, so we don’t need to market it. But it’s useful to think about the difference between broccoli and a cheeseburger. I often ask people which is tastier, broccoli or a cheeseburger? Everyone chooses the cheeseburger. But the government has spent huge amounts of money saying we need to eat more broccoli. Everyone knows eating more broccoli is the right thing to do, but they don’t always do it, because the cheeseburger’s tastier. It’s just the way we’re designed. The cheese is fantastic,
it’s got bacon on top, it’s salty, it’s delicious, it’s fatty, and our tongues and minds light up when we taste it. That analogy of some food being tastier than others can be put to ideas. Some messages, some ideas, are tastier than others, based on the way they’re billed - not based on the way they fit with our stomachs or our tongues, but the way they fit with people’s minds. The broccoli, the good message, might be right, but that doesn’t mean it will resonate with people. We have to understand how to make that message tastier, how to build and package and market it. Think about Brussels sprouts, for example. It used to be a gross food and no one wanted to eat them, but if you roast them with a little bit of onion, they’re delicious. Thinking about how we market and package that idea is very important. It’s not enough to say that Brussels sprouts and broccoli are good for you. We need to think about how to wrap it in a package that will There’s the phrase, monkey see, monkey do. People look to what others are doing to figure out what they should do. But it doesn’t have to be really influential people or famous people. People often look to their friends and colleagues just as much as they look to celebrities, and they’re much more likely to be influenced by their friends and colleagues. And sometimes testimonials feel a little fake. When you see a testimonial on a website, you think they got paid to say that, or you think that someone altered the quote to make it look a certain way. It’s much more effective to use this idea of public. Take Livestrong wristbands, for example. Your friends and people on the street didn’t have to tell you that they supported the Livestrong Foundation; you could see that they supported the Foundation from what they were wearing on their wrists. It’s the same with the Movember campaign that’s done a great job with raising money for men’s cancers. You didn’t have to guess who supported that campaign. They wore a mustache as a visible signal of what they were doing. With monkey see, monkey do, the see part is really important. If you can’t see what some- one’s doing, it’s really hard for that informa- tional influence to kick in. One challenge I give nonprofits is this: How can you make the private, the invisible, more visible? How can make it tasty for people. Informational Influence
you make the number of people who support your cause easier to see and, in so doing, make other people more likely to support it too? Building STEPPS into Your Design I advise groups to build the STEPPS into whatever they design. Find your peanut but- ter, find your trigger, make it more observ- able, and also relentlessly prioritize the mes- sage. Too many organizations say there are seven or eight things that are important and think that they need to tell people everything. Sometimes when you try to tell people ten things, they remember nothing, because you split their attention. Do one key simple idea, figure out a concrete way to illustrate it, and show people rather than telling them. How can you show people in a remarkable way so they see it, they really understand how im- portant the cause is and, in so doing, are more likely to become activated and support it? Think about how you can simplify the mes- sage and make it accessible. If we want to further the impact of social benefit organiza- tions, we need to use word of mouth to turn supporters into advocates.Think of your sup- porters not just as individuals, but as a chan- nel to communicate your message. Just as you can communicate your message, you need to use your supporters as a larger channel to communicate that message. If you can turn them into advocates, it’s a much cheaper and more effective way of filling your coffers. It is important for leaders to remember to show, rather than tell, and to simplify the message. If it’s so complicated that it’s hard
to tell one person, how likely is it that that supporter will remember it and be able to tell another person? If it’s simple, and you show it rather than tell it, it’ll be easier for them to be able to remember it and easy for them to tell others.
Jonah Berger, marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is author of the bestseller Contagious: Why Things Catch On . He has spent over 15 years studying how social influence works and how it drives products and ideas to catch on. He has published dozens of articles in top tier academic journals, consulted for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, and popular outlets such as The New York Times and Harvard Business Review often cover his work. JBerger@wharton.upenn.edu