Join Jonah Berger for an in-depth discussion in this video Making people look good, part of Jonah Berger on Viral Marketing.
So imagine you're in New York City, looking for a place to eat. It's late one Saturday afternoon, your stomach's rumbling a little bit, you're hungry. When you see a big hot dog shaped sign, out in front of a restaurant, with the words eat me written on it, in what look like mustard. You say to yourself, I haven't had a hot dog in a while, I'll check this place out. So you walk down a flight of stairs into a restaurant called Crif Dogs. Now if you like hotdogs, you'll be in heaven. Crif Dogs has every hot dog you can imagine. From a good morning hot dog with bacon, eggs, and cheese, a little rough on the stomach but interesting nonetheless.
Another hot dog with green onions and pineapple. Or traditional New York-style water dog, with just ketchup and mustard. So you're sitting there, you're munching on your hot dog, when you notice something unusual in the corner of the room. Almost looks like a phone booth, like one of those things that Clark Kent might change into to, to become Superman. So just for kicks, finish up your hot dog, and walk inside. Sort of tight in that phone booth, not a lot of room. But you'll notice a rotary dial phone on the wall, one of those things you probably haven't seen in a really long time.
Almost an endangered species at this point. One of the ones you have to stick your finger into and go in a circle. But just for fun, put your finger in the number two, go around in a circle, and hold the phone up to your ear. It'll go ring, ring. And then someone will pick up the other line, and they'll ask you whether you have a reservation. Reservation? I'm in a phone booth inside of a hot dog restaurant. What could I possibly have a reservation for? But if you're lucky and you happen to have a reservation, or you happen to have space, the back of that phone booth will open. And you'll be led into a secret bar, called Please Don't Tell.
Now, Please Don't Tell has violated a number of traditional laws of marketing. There's no sign on the street, no sign inside the restaurant. They've done everything they can to make themselves difficult to find. Yet every day they're full. At 3 p.m the phone lines open up. By 3:30, all the seats are gone. So what did they do right? How did they become so successful? Well, Please Don't Tell did something interesting. They made themselves a secret. And let me tell you a little secret about secrets. Think about the last time someone told you something, and they told you not to tell anyone else.
What's the first thing you then did with that information? Well, if you're like most people, you probably told somebody else. Because having access to information that not everyone else knows, makes you look smart, and in the know. It gives you what I'll call social currency. Just like the car we drive, and the clothes we wear, the things we say, affect how other people see us. So one way to get people to talk about or share your stuff, is to make them look good in the process. So let's spend a couple minutes now, talking about social currency. And to do that, I want to play a quick game.
I have a friend, his name is Todd, and I want to see how much you can guess about Todd based on just one thing I'm going to tell you about him. Todd has a mohawk. So, if you had to guess, how old do you think Todd is? Think about it for a second. Now I'm not a mind reader, but I'm going to guess you said something between maybe 15 and 25. Okay, where does Todd shop? Think about it for a second. Again, I'm not a mind reader, but I'm going to bet you said something like Hot Topic or Pacific Sun, or one of those hip, cool, sort of teenage stores.
What type of music does Todd listen to? Well, you mighta said punk, or something else a, along those lines. And the point here is that I can guess what you're thinking, because most people made the same inferences about Todd because choices communicate information. The car we drive, the clothes we wear, the hairstyles we have, and even the things we say affect how other people see us. Someone talks a lot about hot new restaurants, someone'll assume they're a foodie. They talk a lot about new technology, people will assume they know a lot about that.
So again, one way to get people talking about your stuff, or to share your stuff, is to make them look good in the process. because the better you can make them look, the more they'll want to share that information to get that desired self-image. Give them social currency, and they'll be more likely to share.
- Word-of-mouth marketing
- Harnessing the power of social media
- What makes content go viral
- Why people share some stories more than others
- Telling stories that carry your message