MAXX Coverage: Why Certain Concepts Catch On, And Others Don’t

A reposted Article from CU Today

TACOMA, Wash.–Why do certain concepts and ideas catch on, while others never do? And what lessons can be drawn from that that apply to credit unions?

Comparing broccoli and cheeseburgers, and noting the latter just taste better because of how the human mouth works, Dr. Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, asked credit unions, “How tasty is the way we communicate? How tasty is the way we communicate with members? Just as certain foods are tastier, certain ideas and certain messages are tastier because of a better fit with people’s minds.”

Speaking to the Northwest Credit Union Association’s MAXX Conference, Berger addressed another mouth-related concept he said is critical to credit unions: word of mouth.

“Word of mouth is much more impactful than traditional advertising,” he said, adding that “traditional advertising” is defined as any piece of company-generated communication, anything that comes from the credit union rather than a peer.

Trust Vs. No Trust

But why is word of mouth so much more effective?

“We don’t trust ads—when it’s someone else’s ad,” Berger said, pointing to the contradiction that “When it’s our own ad, we just assume people trust it, as if people put on a different hat with our advertising. Companies always say they have great service, great rates, great products. Because of that, the customer doesn’t know whether they can trust us or not. But if a colleague or friend says it, we are much more likely to trust.”
There is a more subtle component of word of mouth’s effectiveness, according to Berger, and that is its “targeted” aspect.

“What if we could find someone who knows (the target) better than we do? That’s what word of mouth is all about,” Berger said. “Word of mouth is about turning your customers and members into the most effective sales force you can have.”

The Wrong Path

Where many companies start heading down the wrong path, according to Berger, is in believing word of mouth means social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. According to Berger, just 7%-10% of word of mouth comes via online, and he questioned why companies invest so much money in social media channels.

“Social media isn’t the largest or only channel through which word of mouth flows. Most word of mouth is face to face,” he said. “More important than the technology is the psychology.”

To address the psychological aspects of word of mouth, Berger uses the acronym STEPP, for Social currency, Triggers, Emotion , Public and Practical value. Those are the components needed for success, he said.

“This is the psychology of why we share information,” he told the meeting. “The key here is how to get people who already like you to talk. It’s about understanding why people naturally talk. It’s not because they were paid, it’s because they want to.  What we drive and what we wear is a signal of who we are. What we share is a signal of who we are. We share the good things that happen to us.”

Telling Secrets

People naturally like to share secrets, according to Berger, who challenged credit unions to identify those “secrets” that members will share. Similarly, “status” is something people like to share, even if they do so subtly, he explained.

“Status is only good if other people know you have it,” he said. “But if you give people status, they’ll share it, and you get to come along for the ride. People love being early. If we can give people information that makes them feel special, they will invite others to come along for the ride.”

What to Look For

Berger said credit unions must look for their own “inner remarkability,” that which makes the CU surprising, novel or interesting.

“How do you get people to talk about rates or even credit unions?” he asked. “If you’re thing is not exciting, realize that everything has inner remarkability. If you can show people rather than tell people, they will watch it and engage.”

As an example of how the dullest things can be made exciting, Berger pointed credit unions here.

For additional information, Berger offers other resources here.

Posted in NWCUA in the News.