Contagious: Feel the Emotion

emotionsWhat was the most recent video you watched and shared? What was the last article you read and passed along?

Most importantly, what did either of these make you feel?

Jonah Berger’s third ingredient to a contagious message in “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” is emotion. His journey to this finding included six months and thousands of New York Times’ articles, analyzing why some stories were more shared than others. While “interesting” and “useful” were at first thought to be the reasons, it soon came down to something with a bit more feeling.

Do you remember when Susan Boyle made her first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent? In the span of nine days it accumulated over 100 million views, and Berger reported that video of her as being one of the most viral videos ever. When you watch Boyle step out onto the stage and face ridicule for her looks and mannerisms, you can only describe it as a sense of awe when she starts to sing. “It’s not only moving, it’s awe-inspiring. And that emotion drove people to pass it on,” wrote Berger.

In fact, Berger found that when it comes to sharing, we as humans tend to share that which invokes physiological arousal. Several emotions, from awe to anxiety to excitement can do this. Think about it. The last time your team won the game, you probably pumped your fists in the air. The last time you were anxious, you probably wrung your hands. That was physiological arousal. While emotions like sadness and contentment are considered low arousal emotions (as Berger describes it, these tend to “power down” the individual), anger and awe are considered high.

Overtime, Berger continuously found that when articles and stories linked to a high arousal emotion, their rate of sharing increased. Why is this so? First, this allows us to emotionally share with people: “Emotion sharing is thus a bit like social glue, maintaining and strengthening relationships. Even if we’re not in the same place, the fact that we both feel the same way bonds us together,” writes Berger.

Second, emotions motivate people to action. If you’re angry about how a store or company treated you, that experience will probably be shared with others. That is why Berger insists messages should focus on feelings versus features or facts.

What does this have to do with your Box? Easy: Tell stories that evoke emotion and get people talking about your Box. Tell stories of your members that inspire awe and excitement, whether it be someone improving their quality of life or finding family in the membership when they have no family elsewhere.

Emotion can make your message contagious. Find it and show people the emotional connection they can make with your Box.

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at