Foodservice Equipment Reports

Harness The Power Of Word Of Mouth

At NAFEM’s Annual Meeting & Management Workshop—held in New Orleans Feb. 7-10—attendees were treated to some wonderful presentations. One speaker, Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, shared a message that was particularly thought provoking in terms of how we build brand awareness and stay top-of-mind with customers. 

Berger has a book titled “Contagious, Why Things Catch On” (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2013) in which he shares six principles that can generate word of mouth for brands, products, services and ideas; they’re worth thinking about.

He refers to his principles as STEPPS, and I’ll share just the briefest explanation. The first is Social Currency: We share information that makes us look like we’re “in the know” because it makes us look smart. Does talking about your brand, product or service make people look smart or connected? 

Next is Triggers. If I say, “peanut butter and…” what do you say? “Jelly,” of course. So what prevalent trigger can you tie to your brand/product/service so that when customers encounter the trigger they think of you?

Emotion: Does talking about your brand/product/service generate an emotional response? We’re lucky we’re in the hospitality business because cooking and sharing meals elicits lots of emotions. 

The first “P” in STEPPS is Public, and Berger asks, “Does your product or idea advertise itself? Can people see when others are using it?” Who doesn’t recognize a Starbucks cup? The motto for this principle is “built to show, built to grow.”

The second “P” is Practical Value: If people talk about your brand/product/service, will it help others? Is it news they can use? An example is Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” video campaign. Not only is it hilarious and entertaining, but do you doubt those blenders are powerful? 

The final principle is Stories, and that’s where your brand/product/service gets talked about because it’s part of a good story. What has more impact: basic facts about your menu and location, or a story about one of your server’s great customer service? Narratives are inherently more engaging than facts, but you should still embed facts (menu, location) within them.

Berger’s clearly got a good message, because here I am, spreading the word.

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