metadesign how to make brands contagious

Social contagion, or the idea that information, ideas, and behaviors can spread through networks of people, is a powerful phenomenon. In terms of brands, what are the key characteristics that make products and services go viral and spread contagiously? Why do certain things catch on, while others die?

We all know things that are contagious: The common cold. Yawning. Laughter. New studies have even revealed that obesity is contagious (if your close friend is obese, there is a 171% chance you’ll follow suit). In the Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell explains that behavior can be transmitted from one person to another as easily as the flu or the measles can. Social mimicry is a result of our evolutionary heritage – it’s innate in our humanness.

Environment, it seems, is stronger than willpower.

metadesign how to create a contagious brand

If you think advertising is the answer to making brands contagious, think again. In the same year Evian’s “Roller Babies” was named the most viral video ad of all time, it lost market share and sales dropped 25%.

So what makes brands contagious in a way that leads to loyal customers? What drives people to talk about and share some things over others? The following are a few insights to help turn your idea, product, service, or brand contagious:

Be remarkable.
It’s obvious, but has to be said. Consumers have to connect with you on some level in order for brand adherence to take place. Remarkability is what motivates someone to act. A recent study on consumer engagement found that 70% of the brands could disappear entirely without anyone caring. Being remarkable creates lasting, contagious brands.

Think small.
Smaller communities have greater influence on a topic than larger ones. The smaller the community, the greater the influence. Target social media figures that shape your customers’ opinions on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t forget about LinkedIn forums and Quora. These figures don’t need to have massive followers – think quality. Not quantity.

Aim to trigger.
Think about news events and stories that are top of mind, and then brainstorm ways your brand, idea or product can attach itself. For example, in Jonah Berger’s book Contagious, he explains Mars bar sales spiked when in 1997 when NASA’s Pathfinder mission explored the red planet.

Use habits.
Let habits work in your favor. Connect your messaging to things people do everyday – drink coffee, ride the bus, etc. They are much more likely to think associate your brand or idea when they can make it relatable with a life they lead.

I hope these tips helped expand your consciousness around the idea of social influence and contagion. Do you have other ideas you can share on how to make brands contagious?


Molly Davis is a Communication Strategist at MetaDesign San Francisco.

About Molly Davis Lind

Just be.

4 Responses

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