Emotion is a powerful thing.  Especially when it comes out in extremes.

If you grew up with a father who rarely showed emotion, there are probably specific events you remember where it surfaced in ways you’d never seen.  If I asked you how many times your saw your father cry, you could probably tell me the exact situation and context in great detail.

And if your parents were the mellow type, you could also probably pinpoint with accuracy the few times that they completely lost their cool with you and went on a tangent.

Anyone alive when Kennedy was shot remembers where they were.  Being a bit younger, my generation remembers exactly where they were when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.

Emotion has a funny way of searing memories into our brains, and these emotions also lead us to share those emotions, and events, with others.  Emotional content often goes viral… but not always for the reasons you would think. High arousal emotions—like excitement, anger, and awe —fire people up. This activation, in turn, drives them to share with others in an attempt to share the emotion.

Jonah Berger, in his book “Contagious- Why Things Catch On”, highlights the power of Emotion.  It’s the “E” in his 6 STEPPS principles for why things catch on.

So how can you utilize this in spreading that great idea or product you have to offer others? Focus on feelings rather than function, and stoke that fire further by using high arousal emotions.  This won’t always feel natural as we tend to focus on features or details instead of emotions when we talk about our ideas.

Stumped?  Check out how Google decided to market its search engine, a product with many competitors and seemingly little differentiation to internet users.

So instead of touting the features of your great new iPhone app, focus on how it can tap into some of those strong primal emotions we all have.  Show me how it will make me feel or what frustrating issues it will solve.

And if that doesn’t work, include pictures of puppies. 🙂


Do you want to move your message from Common to Contagious? Keep an eye on future posts in this series as we delve into Berger’s 6 STEPPS to help things become popular.

Are you looking for help in setting crafting a Contagious message now?  We can help with that.

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