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Heath Brothers on Going Viral

May 18, 2009 by

05_11_2009_WordofMouth.pngTheir monthly column in Fast Company is always a great read, and this month is no exception when the Made to Stick brothers Dan Heath and Chip Heath give us a few tips for making messages viral.

Viral marketing has become a hip, low-cost way to reach a lot of people very quickly–with little effort. But as marketers … slash ad budgets, “viral” needs to mean more than “free” and “fueled by prayer.” Making an idea contagious isn’t a mysterious marketing art. It boils down to a couple of simple rules.

The rules, suggest the Heaths, are as easy as one, two three:

1. Make it emotional
The more intense someone’s response is to your message, the more likely people will be to talk about it. “Come to our potluck” has about as much emotion as a turtle on race day. Consider instead messages like “Mabel’s chili has been known to make grown men cry. Try it this Sunday.”


2. Include public service
If you want your message to go viral, give people something to say that feels like they’re providing a service to the person their passing it to. “Bible study this Thursday” has about as much urgency and goodwill as a popsicle stand during a Minnesota winter. Consider instead messages like “7 ways the Song of Songs will ignite passion and purpose in your marriage.”

3. Remember triggers
Triggers are environmental reminders that cause people to recall your message and nudge them to do something about it. Live Strong bracelets, pink ribbons and the old string around the finger are all triggers.

“Viral doesn’t have to be a crazy YouTube video,” say the Heaths. Here’s our [pastor] on nitrous! “Start thinking about emotion, public service, and triggers.” They warn that it won’t be easy and it may require you to rethink the way you do things altogether.

Post By:

Brad Abare


Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it. He and his wife Jamaica live in Los Angeles with their daughter, Miró.
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