How can your company catch on? Part 2: Triggers & Emotion

How can your company catch on? Part 2: Triggers & Emotion

Tori Barrington

Written by: Tori Barrington | Snoball Editorial Team

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2024

Marketing Playbook: How can your company catch on? Part 2

Read about how social currency can help you level up your word of mouth marketing strategy or watch our full overview of the book Contagious by Jonah Berger.

Now that you're all caught up, let's dive into how your company can catch on by utilizing triggers and emotion.

Triggers label


Do people talk more about Cheerios or Disney World? Even though most of us find the amusement park much more exciting than the breakfast cereal, Berger proves that Cheerios is talked about more often.

Disney World is only at the forefront of people’s minds if they are planning a vacation, but people all over the world eat Cheerios every day for breakfast. Cheerios gets more word of mouth because it is associated with the morning time, a trigger that repeats itself daily.

Insight #1 label

Insight #1: Choose an Effective Trigger

There are three factors to an effective trigger: frequency, strength, and distance.

Link your product or service to something that is seen or discussed on a regular basis; that thing will remind people of your brand, and they’ll talk about you. As Berger wisely explains, “Triggers not only get people talking, they keep them talking. Top of mind means top of tongue.” To keep people talking, the trigger associated with your brand must be frequent.

Your trigger should be strongly associated with your brand. If the trigger is vague or reminds people of multiple other things, it might not be a strong enough fit for your brand. 

The trigger should also occur near where the desired behavior takes place. If you want to remind people to arm their security systems before leaving home, but the trigger reminds them at the grocery store, it won’t be effective.

phone next to a security system

Application Questions

Ask yourself these questions to brainstorm possible effective triggers for your brand:

  • What are potential things that could act as a trigger for my brand?
  • Is there an existing trigger I could make even stronger? Or do I need to start from scratch and create a trigger?
  • What comes up frequently in my customers’ conversations that could be linked with my brand?
  • Where do I want customers to take action? What things are in that location I could use as a trigger?
  • What are my competitors’ triggers? Can I use that to my advantage or should I avoid those triggers?

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Let Snoball automate your word of mouth marketing! Schedule a demo to see what Snoball can do for your business.

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Action Item Ideas

Brainstorm triggers

List potential triggers and narrow them down to ones that occur most frequently, are the strongest, and happen close to the desired action. Things that might be associated with your brand: a time of day, shape, color, animal, word, object, food, holiday, person, clothing, location, etc.

Identify pain points

Make a list of all pain points people experience when they are not using your product or service. What is in the vicinity when they are experiencing that particular pain point? Brainstorm ways you could use a trigger in that moment. This is a great way to capture attention if your product or service is a large one-time purchase and doesn’t recur often.

Start creating the link

Begin to create the link between your brand and the trigger. Make sure the trigger is present in as many advertising materials as possible, i.e. logo, social media accounts, videos, signage, website, customer service reps, etc.

Insight #2 label

Insight #2: Explore Your Brand’s Habitat

Berger teaches that just as plants and animals have habitats, “Products and ideas also have habitats, or sets of triggers that cause people to think about them.” The habitat for a product consists of all the naturally-occurring, already-existing triggers for that product.

Let’s take solar companies for example. The sun, summertime, roofs, neighborhoods, electricity bills, and clean energy are just a few of the triggers that naturally occur in the solar company habitat.

image of solar panels on a roof

Knowing the habitat for your product or service can help you know if there is a natural trigger you can capitalize on or if you need to create a link from scratch.

Application Questions

Answer these questions to start building your product’s or service’s habitat:

  • What are triggers that already cause people to think about my industry?
  • How could I insert my company into that existing environment?
  • Do one of these existing triggers happen more often?

Action Item Ideas

Find your brand’s habitat

Create a list and organize your product’s natural trigger habitat. Brainstorm ways you might grow that habitat with new links.

Research competitor triggers

Research other companies within your industry to see what triggers they use and how they fit into that habitat.

Emotion label


Think back to a time when you wrote an online review. What was the experience like? How were you feeling? I remember having an absolutely disastrous experience at a mechanic shop. My husband and I were fuming and wrote an angry review. 

Now think back to the last time you ate out. Did you leave a review? Probably not. I bet the food was tasty and the service was just fine. But you didn’t feel the need to tell anyone about it. Why?

Insight #1 label

Insight #1: Evoke High-Arousal Emotions

After analyzing and studying many most-emailed lists, Berger found that not all emotions drive people to action. It’s when people were in a high-arousal state and experiencing feelings like excitement, amusement, anger, or anxiety, that they chose to share the email. Feeling happy or satisfied did not incite people to action.

As a company, you can take advantage of this knowledge, both in how you make your customers feel and when you choose to ask them to act. Berger encourages, “Find people when they are already fired up.” Surprise your customers, treat them like royalty, and then while they’re feeling excited, ask them for a review.

image of woman laughing

Application Questions

Ask yourself these questions to explore the emotions customers feel throughout their journey with your company:

  • How does my product or service make people feel? What could I do to increase that feeling and push it to a high-arousal state? From happy to exciting?
  • What problem does my product or service solve? What does someone feel when they’re in the middle of that problem?
  • How can I use that problematic feeling to encourage them to take action? How and where can I change my messaging to evoke that emotion?
  • Where in the process are customers the most excited?

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Action Item Ideas

Identify states of excitement

Go through your customer journey and point out when the customer would be in the highest state of excitement. Set it up, through your CRM or training personnel, so that those moments of excitement trigger a request for a review or a referral.

Improve customer satisfaction

Sit down with your team and brainstorm ways you can take your customers from feeling satisfied with your product or service to feeling excited about how it has improved their life.

Insight #2 label

Insight #2: Share Emotional Testimonials

When sharing reviews to strengthen your reputation, share the ones that evoke emotions. I know that it’s tempting to share the reviews that highlight the quality of your products. “The solar panels are great quality and were installed quickly” might make your company look good, but it doesn’t make the reader feel anything. A review about how those same solar panels saved a family a lot of money, allowing them to go on a dream vacation, is much more heartfelt. 

Application Questions

Answer these questions to find customer reviews that are worth sharing:

  • What customers have shared stories that could be turned into video testimonials?
  • Which written reviews that tell a story could I share on social media?
  • How could I ask customers for a review that would encourage them to share their emotions?
  • What emotions do I want people to feel about my product or service and which reviews currently show that?

image of a video call

Action Item Ideas

Encourage emotional reviews

Find places where you are soliciting reviews. Look at the questions that are asked. If possible, update the questions to encourage more honest, story-telling responses.

Collect video testimonials 

Video testimonials capture emotion better than written reviews. Choose one or two positive reviews each month to turn into video testimonials, if the reviewers are willing. Write a list of questions that will encourage people to share their feelings about your product or service.

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Insight #3: Find the Emotional Core

Berger shares an exercise that he learned from the book Made to Stick. Authors Chip and Dan Heath encourage readers to find the emotional core of why someone is purchasing your product or service and then use it to relate better to customers.

The exercise goes like this: “Write down why you think people are doing something. Then ask 'Why is this important?' three times. Each time you do this, note your answer, and you'll notice that you drill down further and further toward uncovering not only the core of an idea, but the emotion behind it.”

For example, when you initially ask why someone might invest in pest control services, you might say it’s because bugs are gross. But as you continue to ask why, you realize the emotional core is safety. Parents want their children to feel safe, secure, and at peace in their home.

Action Item Ideas

Perform the exercise

Go through the exercise above by asking yourself why someone is purchasing your product or service and then asking why that is important three times. Identify the emotional core.

an image of a person writing in a notebook

Relate to customers' emotions

Go through your messaging on your website, sales pitch, flyers, videos, etc. Where you can, adjust the messaging to incorporate the emotional core and better relate to your customers.

A final note about this step: People will write a review or share a referral when they're feeling a high-arousal emotion — awe and excitement OR anger and anxiety. This is why treating your customers right is so crucial! If they're angry, they'll write a review. If they're excited or amazed, they'll also write a review. Make sure your customers feel the emotions that lead to the reaction you want.

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