Contagious: Going Public

Making your message public.White headphones are signature to Apple. When you see someone with white ear buds in, you would probably assume they are listening to an iPhone or iPod.

And that is just what Apple wanted. Upon release of the first iPod, Apple’s competitors at the time had been focused on black headphones. So, Apple decided to change it up, but for more than one reason: “By advertising themselves, the headphones made it easy to see how many other people were switching away from the traditional Walkman and adopting the iPod,” writes Jonah Berger in “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.”

That leads us to Berger’s fourth letter in his STEPPS acronym: P for public.

People imitate those around them, plain and simple. By observing others’ choices, people make informed choices of their own. Take for example Berger’s story of the Halal Chicken and Gyro food cart in New York City. New York magazine ranked it as one of the top 20 food carts in the city, and lines for it can stretch all the way down the block.

“But the same owners operate an almost identical food cart call Hala Guys right across the street,” writes Berger. “Same food, same packaging, basically an identical product. But there is no line. In fact, Hala Guys has never developed the same devout following as its sibling. Why? Social proof. People assume that the longer the line, the better the food must be.”

Interesting, isn’t it? Monkey see, monkey do is substantiated it seems.

So, what does that mean for you and your business? Well, “the more public a product or service is, the more it triggers people to take action.” If people can’t see your product, message or idea, they are less likely to talk about it and pass it on. Take for example the Movember Foundation. Men’s cancer had always been around; however, it’s more of a private topic. But, by growing mustaches to raise money for men’s cancer research, the foundation turned what is considered private into public. People can see mustaches, and thus the message is observable. If one of your friends starts growing a mustache in November, you’ll probably ask why. The thing is, “if people can’t see what others are doing, they can’t imitate them.” So, you need to make sure your product/message is observable and public.

One way you can do this is to follow Apple: design your product/message to advertise itself. In a way, CrossFit has already done this. Few leave a Box without wanting to talk about the WOD and the pain they just went through. So, provide people with a way to not only make your message/product public, but also lasting. This might be some sort of swag that your members would wear on a daily basis or put on their car.

Or, it could mean growing your Facebook following: “By simply clicking the Like button, people not only show their affinity with a product, idea or organization, they also help spread the word that something is good or worth paying attention.”

Whatever it is, get it out there and make it public.

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