How to trigger a better response from your straplines, blogs and articles with the right associations. 


If you’ve never seen the movie Contagion, it’s definitely one to add to the list. It’s a great movie, but how does a ten-year-old movie, ranked 270th in iTunes Downloads list jump to second most downloaded movie overnight? There was no expensive re-release. No digital remastering. Yet the movie also made top download lists on Google Play, Amazon, and Torrent at the same time.


triggers in copywriting and marketing like saturday night Takeaway

Research conducted by The Verge in collaboration with TorrentFreak, using the Torrent tracker data, showed four instances of Contagion downloads spiking between the end of January 2020 and early March that same year. Here’s the bit that piques my inner marketing psych geek – each spike could be linked to a global announcement around the Covid-19 pandemic.


So what’s causing this unusual behaviour? 

The movie detailed life in a global pandemic, so when we found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, a ten-year old movie, with a cast packed full of Hollywood heavyweights seemed like the perfect reference point. The pandemic triggered the memory of the movie as the  world faced its own contagious pandemic of (at that point) entirely unknown proportions. 


What is a trigger and how can it help you to sell more?


Triggers work on the basis that at any single moment some thoughts are more prevalent than others. The thoughts that appear top of mind can be initiated by sights, smells, sounds or words, environmental factors that can change in an instant. 

For example, If we were meeting for coffee and I walked up to you and said ‘Hey What’s up?’ you may find yourself thinking more ‘cold Bud’ than ‘smooth Latte’. If you can’t remember the legendary Budweiser ads, click on play to experience the totally off-the-wall, yet brilliant campaign ad of the ’90s. ‘An apple a day’ – hello caramel and nougat covered chocolate treat (yeah, Mars bar). And the simple words ‘hello boys’ may bring back thoughts of Wonderbra ads and car pile-ups.





Triggers aren’t limited to marketing campaigns and clever slogans though. During the NASA Pathfinder mission to Mars, the sale of Mars chocolate bars rocketed (if you’ll excuse the pun).

Some of these slogans haven’t been used for many years, but they still pop into your mind when you’re least expecting it. Effective trigger association can last long after a particular campaign is dead and buried, but it’s those triggers that are placed effectively that can bring the short-term sales boost that you’re looking for.


When to use triggers effectively

The most effective triggers are those that can prompt a memory at the exact point your product or service is needed.

For example, the recent pairing of the popular Ant and Dec show ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ with Domino’s pizza was nothing short of pure genius. You think takeaway, you can’t avoid entertaining the prospect of Dominos, either selecting or dismissing the takeaway pizza box.  What’s even smarter is that the TV program, complete with sponsorship airs at exactly the time on a Saturday night when many families would be sitting down to watch TV, and considering getting up to prepare dinner … or not. 

By pairing Kit Kats with coffee breaks, Nestle netted themselves a further £200mil in additional sales. 

To find the right types of triggers for your brand, think about two key things:

  1. When your product or service is needed.
  2. When your product or service is actually purchased.

 For example, a good trigger for a new set of noise reduction headphones could be the opening screen of a zoom call, but in terms of purchase opportunity, the timing sucks. You need to be buying those headphones way in advance. So, maybe a better trigger would be linking the headphones to an appointment arriving in an inbox. More specific, sure, but then every appointment that drops is a opportunity to think about buying headphones. 

It’s all about the timing

Triggers can be extremely powerful things. We’ve all experienced them, whether it’s the waft of a perfume that takes you back to your childhood or a friend greeting you with ‘hey, you guys!’, the power of triggers is undeniable.

Linking your product to something is easy, but the secret to securing long-term and short-term sales is linking your product or service to a trigger that’s likely to fall at the right time to make the purchase. There’s not a lot of point advertising an airline on a billboard beside a beach. By the time you’re in your swimmers and hitting the beach, you’ve usually already booked your flight home.  The trigger needs to occur at a point when the consumer is looking to make that particular decision. Maybe on the train journey to work? 

Once you’ve identified the right trigger, it’s then about how you incorporate that into your marketing collateral. But there are plenty of opportunities for that. All it takes is a decent integrated strategy.

And if you need help with that, you can always give me a call on 07920 440506.