What makes some ads more shareable than others?
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
A new study from Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger and Daniel McDuff of Microsoft Research finds that positive emotions result in more sharing, but so do feelings of disgust.
The study evaluated the emotional triggers that make people want to share advertising content. Thousands of participants in five countries were asked to watch a random set of commercials on their home computers while their webcams recorded their facial expressions.
“Self-reports are often inaccurate,” Prof. Berger shared with Knowledge@Wharton. “People don’t always have a good sense of what they are feeling, and even if they give you an answer, it’s not always correct. Further, people sometimes bias their responses based on what they think you want to hear.”
The study, not unsurprisingly, found that people share things that make them feel good and avoid sharing things that make them feel bad. Some negative emotions, however, like sadness or confusion, decreased sharing, while others, like disgust, increased it.
“Consistent with other research we’ve conducted, this highlights that rather than just being about feeling good or bad, sharing is also about the physiological arousal associated with different emotions. Emotions that fire us up to take action, like anger and anxiety (and in this case, disgust) boost sharing, while emotions that power us down (like sadness), decrease sharing,” Prof. Berger said.
For marketers, one implication is that making people feel good isn’t enough to make them share. He said, “You have to fire them up. Make them feel excited, inspired, or surprised.”
Prof. Berger added, “Second, you don’t have to shy away from negative emotions. Because they fire people up, anger, anxiety or even disgust can be leveraged to encourage word of mouth.”
The paper further found some of the emotions that boost sharing don’t necessarily lead to increased sales. Prof. Berger stated, “An ad that shows something gross might boost sharing, but it might reduce the chance people buy the product.”
- What Makes Some Ads More Shareable Than Others? – Knowledge@Wharton
- Why Do Some Advertisements Get Shared More than Others? – Journal of Advertising Research
- What Makes Online Content Viral? – Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s the mystery behind why some ads are shared broadly across social media platforms and others aren’t? What advice would you have for retailers or brands seeking to create ads that go viral?