What makes some ads more shareable than others?

In one of the more memorable commercials of Super Bowl 2020, rapper Lil Nas X and actor Sam Elliott face off in a dance duel for Cool Ranch Doritos. The cost was arguably worthwhile, considering the millions of times the spot was viewed and shared across social media platforms for free.

Wall of television screens showing commercial images.

Shared content is a goldmine for marketers, but it’s tough to determine exactly what moves viewers enough to want to share. A new study from Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger looks at the emotional triggers that make people want to share advertising content. The study, “Why Do Some Advertisements Get Shared More Than Others,” is published in the Journal of Advertising Research.

“Shares are free, so the more people that pass your message along, the less you have to spend on advertising,” says Berger. “The only question then is, how to get people to share?

“You might think that sharing is all about valence, or positivity and negativity. We share things that make us feel good and avoid sharing things that make us feel bad. After all, why would people want to share something with someone else that would make them feel bad? But that’s not the entire story,” says Berger. “If you want people to share, making them feel good isn’t enough. Feeling content isn’t going to make people share. You have to fire them up. Make them feel excited, inspired, or surprised.”

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.