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I took another great course on Coursera. It was titled “Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content” and was offered by the University of Pennsylvania. When I first saw the title, I was imagining “cat videos” and considered ignoring it. I’m so glad I didn’t.

The professor, Jonah Berger, really dives in deep on what makes content engaging. He first starts with five key principles.

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional Stories

Simple: This is critical, based on what I’ve learned over the years. And it’s hard to convince my clients that even though their business and everything they offer is complex, it’s not necessarily wise to present it that way. It’s normally best to find the core message and just focus on that. Present only that, at least initially, and then get people to want to learn more.

Unexpected: So, you’ve been able to pare down your company to one core message. Great start. The most natural next step would be to present it that way. And that’s fine, but you’d probably be losing out on potential customers because there are probably a dozen of your competitors doing the same thing. It’s much better to present it in a really unexpected way.

Concrete: This one is also another important factor to consider. When it comes to describing what your company offers, it’s very tempting to use common business buzzwords like your company “creates synergy by combining A, B and C to create D”. A better way would be to show how D has drastically changed your customer’s lives. It presents the abstract message into something more concrete. It can be visualized.

Credible: Basically, this is about showing that you’re telling the truth about your company. And, the most common way to do this is to present various statistics that support your message. And that’s fine, but it’s also important that you present it in a fashion that really communicates it in a way that’s impactful to your audience.

Emotional Stories: This is about getting your audience to care about your message. The more we get them to care about what we’re saying, the more connected they are to the message. And the more we invoke emotions, the more likely they will be to remember what we said.

This course goes on from here. This was just the first week. But, there’s so much we can learn from this. It gives you a framework to follow to try to make your marketing messages more engaging and memorable.