Stepps (Triggers)

2. Triggers

"...Triggers are the foundation of word-of-mouth and contagiousness..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

Triggers are stimuli that encourage people to think about related things, ie remind people to talk about products, services and ideas.

"...every day, the average American engages in more than 16 word-of-mouth episodes, separate conversations where they say something positive or negative about an organisation, brand, product, or service..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

"...stimuli in the surrounding environment can also determine which thoughts and ideas are top of your mind......Sights, smells and sounds can trigger related thoughts and ideas..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

If a particular thought, etc is at the top of your mind, it is more accessible and thus more likely to lead to action.

Most of our conversations can be classified as small talk or social chitchat used to fill conversational space, ie

"...we don't want to sit there silently, so we talk about something. Anything......Whatever is top of mind is a good place to start......accessible..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

Triggers helps explain why some topics, products, etc get talked about more than others, ie people are thinking about them more frequently. Every day activities that make products more 'top of the mind' and as a result get more talked about

" of the mind means tip of tongue..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

A strong trigger is usually more effective than a catchy slogan or messages that are clever and convincing.

"...The more the desired behaviour happens after a delay, the more important being triggered becomes..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

The reasons why some triggers are better stimuli are

- frequency (the more frequent the stimuli, the more effective)

- word association (words used are important, eg beer brand (Michelob) had the slogan 'holidays are made for Michelob' which was changed to 'weekends are made for Michelob' and was a more effective stimuli: as weekends are more frequent than holidays. This slogan fitted both frequency and work association)

- strength ("...the more things a given cue is associated with, the weaker any given association..."
Jonah Berger, 2013)

For example, the colour red is associated with many things like roses, love, Coca-Cola, fast cars, etc. Therefore red is not a strong stimulus as it has too many distracting association.

Also, the more unusual, original and fresher the links are, the better

- context (need to think about environments, ie location, geography, etc that people a message or idea is trying to trigger. Some examples

     i) image of Florida is palm trees, image of Arizona is desert, etc;

    ii) using reusable grocery bags is a good stimulus for buying healthy food

- timing (the stimulus has to come at the appropriate time, ie it is too late for the stimulus to come to use reusable grocery bags once you are in store; it needs to come as you are leaving home with a shopping list)

- accessibility (easy to get hold of, ie convenient)

Some examples of effective triggers

- NASA Mars mission resulted in an upsurge in sales of confectionery Mars bars, ie

"...the media attention the planet received acted as a trigger for reminding people of the candy and increased sales..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

- in a supermarket, playing different countries' music resulted in that country's wine sales increasing, ie playing German music resulted in more customers buying German wine

- encouraging students to eat healthy food, ie 'live a healthy way, eat 5 fruits and veggies a day', by displaying healthy food on a food tray display that people use when normally eating in a student cafeteria; the food tray was used successfully as a trigger to change behaviours, ie more fruit and veggies were subsequently selected by the students

- the voting venue can trigger certain behaviours (it is

"...usually assumed that voting is based on rational and stable preferences: people possess core beliefs and weigh costs and benefits when deciding how to vote..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

However, the type of building where voting occurs can influence voting; with different locations containing different triggers, eg churches are filled with religious imagery, schools are filled with learning paraphernalia (lockers, tests, chalk boards, etc), etc. For example, voting at a school showed stronger support for the school funding initiatives, ie

"...The fact they were in a school where they voted triggered more school friendly-behaviour.....Polling location has a dramatic impact on voting behaviour..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

- book sales (usually it is thought that negative reviews decrease books sales. However, negative reviews of books, by relatively unknown or new authors, can increase book sales (by 45%)

"...even a bad review or negative word of mouth can increase sales if it informs or reminds people that the product or idea exists..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

An example is Shake Weight

"...a vibrating dumbbell that was widely ridiculed by the media and consumers, went on to do $50 million sales..."
Jonah Berger, 2013

Importance of natural triggers like

- German music is a national trigger for German wines

- linking dining room trays and a message to eat healthy food

Competitors can be used as triggers like transforming a weakness into a strength, ie making a competitor's message act as a trigger for your own. An example is the famous anti-smoking campaign that 'spoofed' Marlboro's iconic ads by showing a picture of a cowboy explaining how he has emphysema; therefore, seeing a Malboro ad triggered the anti-smoking message.

In summary

"...The more something is triggered, the more it will be top of mind, and the more successful it will become......Triggers and cues lead people to talk, choose, and use. Social currency gets people talking, but triggers keep them talking..."
Jonah Berger, 2013


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