Arousal, Word of Mouth Marketing and WOMM-U

Yup. Kind of blurry iphone photo. But that’s Geno.

Quick — before you read this post, drop and give me 50 push ups. Nope. I’m not kidding. I’m doing an experiment. Do your push ups, (I’ll wait.) Then keep reading!

Ok. Done? Good.

I’m getting excited about going to WOMM-U in May.

Are you going?

For one thing, Chicago in the Spring is magic. Another reason I am excited is somewhat self-promoting but the honest truth.

Geno and John Moore(part of our extended tribe and Brand Autopsy Founder) are teaming up again to teach a class on Monday (5/7) afternoon. This go around, they’re taking some high profile super smart research and boiling it down to bite-size nuggets of marketing know-how. We’ve been doing a lot of learning and talking around here as they prep. It’s been good for all of us.

We’re all in marketing grad school.

One of the interesting studies they’ve dissected is from Jonah Berger. It hits on WHY people share stories and ideas.

Berger sites arousal as a key trigger for sharing.

From the Association For Psychological Science:

“In a prior paper, we found that emotion plays a big role in which New York Times articles make the most emailed list. But interestingly, we found that while articles evoking more positive emotions were generally more viral, some negative emotions like anxiety and anger actually increased transmission while others like sadness decreased it. In trying to understand why, it seemed like arousal might be a key factor,” says Berger, the Joseph G. Campbell Jr. Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania.

In the study, Berger suggests that feeling fearful, angry, or amused drives people to share news and information. These types of emotions are characterized by high arousal and action, as opposed to emotions like sadness or contentment, which are characterized by low arousal or inaction. “If something makes you angry as opposed to sad, for example, you’re more likely to share it with your family and friends because you’re fired up,” continues Berger.

Hmmmm. Lots of good insight in this for those of us in the conversation business.

Here’s how they went about verifying this concept:

Two different experiments were conducted to test Berger’s theory that arousal promotes information sharing. In one experiment, which focused on specific emotions, 93 students completed what they were told were two unrelated studies. In the first study, students in different experimental groups watched video clips that made them either anxious or amused (high arousal emotions) or sad or content (low arousal emotions). In the second study, they were shown an emotionally neutral article and video and asked how willing they would be to share it with friends and family members. The results demonstrated that students who felt high arousal emotions were much more inclined to share with others.

The second experiment dealt with arousal more generally. 40 students were asked to complete what they assumed were two unrelated studies. First, they either sat still or jogged in place for about a minute – a task proven to increase arousal. Then they were asked to read a neutral online news article and told they could e-mail it to anyone they wanted. The findings showed that students who jogged in place and were aroused were more likely to e-mail the article to their friends and family, as opposed to the students that just sat still.

So back to my experiment. Were you more likely to share this post if you got your heart rate going before you read it?


There’s a lot of smart research going around. What do you find most interesting and why?

Like this post?

Why not share with a friend?