Whether we like it or not, we all make conscious choices to imitate other people. No, I don’t mean those king of imitations… and no, I don’t want to see your best Bill Clinton’s impersonation.
We imitate how others dress (movie stars)…how they talk (valley girls)…how they walk (the gangsta stagger).
Our kids imitate their favorite athletes on the basketball court or at the skate park. They’ll wear their collars high (80’s) or their pants low (00’s)… all because they saw some enough other people doing it that they felt comfortable taking the leap.
But you can’t imitate what you can’t observe. What if those public displays had never happened? What if no one had every left the comfort of their own bedroom wearing those ripped jeans or gelled up hair?
Do you think it would have caught on?
Jonah Berger, in his book “Contagious- Why Things Catch On”, highlights the power of Public. It’s the first “P” in his 6 STEPPS principles for why things catch on.
The more public something is, the more likely people will imitate it. That’s why with today’s internet moving at the speed of light, a trend that starts in Europe on Monday morning could reach Los Angeles Monday afternoon, and contrary to public perception, it could even be in Iowa my Tuesday morning (gasp!).
So if a product or Idea has been built to show, it’s been built to grow. And the more visible it is the faster that can happen. Making behavior more public enables social influence, and also creates an opportunity for Social Currency, driving quickened adoption.
So when possible, design products and initiatives that advertise themselves (like the RED campaign) or create some visible behavioral residue (like Livestong bracelets or the Susan G. Komen pink ribbons).
Do you want to move your message from Common to Contagious? Keep an eye on future posts in this series as we delve into Berger’s 6 STEPPS for why things catch on.