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Contagious Kontomo – Triggers

Blog abstract: Serious performing art presentations are often not-at-all-commercial, complex, and diverse. Because of this, cultivating relevant ‘triggers’ (i.e., things around you that remind you of ideas) that are coherent and commercially viable have been difficult. Kontomo can help cultivate triggers in much less haphazard ways. As a point of reference for discussion, we explore the idea of ‘triggers’ as expounded in Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

Reading time: approximately 6 minutes

“Interesting products didn’t receive any more word of mouth than boring ones.… [There was] no correlation between levels of interest, novelty, or surprise and the number of times people talked about the products.” (Berger, Contagious, 67)

The above is a quote from Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, and the observation relates to whether people talk about a product or experience for more than a few days after initial contact.

For example, after an impressive or unusual concert, you might talk about it or remember it well for a day or two afterwards. However, whether you would continue to bring it up in conversation for more than few days after that, is another matter.

If I may make a spoiler for those who have yet to read Berger’s book, he reaches the plausible hypothesis that the difference between something that continues to get talked about and something that doesn’t, is the existence (or lack of) ‘triggers.’ He defines ‘triggers’ as “little environmental reminders for related concepts and ideas.” (Berger, 70)

Triggers themselves can be anything. It could be, for example, the scent of a perfume – maybe it would remind you of a specific person? Or how about the sound of a wind chime – could it remind you of a memorable place or time? And certain foods and flavors can remind you of your childhood or family because,. . .it’s probably the taste you remember from when you were young. But it seems in our screen and advertisement-dominated society, that the majority of triggers are found in the visual sphere.


Triggers are important in studying ‘virality’, since having an idea be ‘top-of-mind’ is critical to whether you share it with others. It is also essential to your decision-making process. When deciding what to have for lunch, if you don’t recall tacos, it is unlikely you would decide to have one, even if a great tacqueria around the corner is just one block away. Thus, absent a trigger that frequently appears in our immediate environment, the way marketers try to get people to even just recall things, is constant reminding in the form of advertising.

Let’s look at the scheme of things with ’triggers’ from the other side (i.e., marketer). Here, the focus is identifying what relevant triggers there are for the product or experience (e.g. a concert). It becomes sort of like playing charades. What environmental cues are likely to elicit a reminder with your target audience?

Before we consider the situation with performing arts concerts, let’s briefly take, for example, merchandising. If I may poison your mind for a moment, these Star Wars lightsaber chopsticks are goofy (or cool, depending on your point of view), but most of all, effective in ‘infecting’ your mind.

You might agree with me that the idea behind these chopsticks is not unique – probably every Star Wars fan (including yours truly) has imagined using some stick-like object as a lightsaber, including chopsticks. But once you actually see these lightsaber chopsticks (which are not that high-performance in terms of utility as ‘chopsticks’ according to some Amazon reviews – though of course that’s not the point), you may be reminded of the Star Wars franchise even when using ‘normal’ chopsticks. To what degree you will have “chopsticks = Star Wars” implanted in your mind probably depends on whether you’re even a fan of Star Wars in the first place. From this, we realize that some level of intrinsic interest and understanding has to exist for a trigger to make an idea ‘top of mind’.

Triggers for the performing arts?

Now, let’s think of performing arts concerts. What triggers can we count on in the real life environment of an eventgoer? And what amount of the eventgoer’s understanding can be leveraged by the trigger?

What if you saw someone carrying a cello case in the subway? Perhaps you’ll recall ‘music’ on a general level, and perhaps ‘classical,’ but it’s unlikely to be more specific unless you recently experienced a fantastic cello concert. If you know New York City well, what about “57th Street”? Is that enough for you to think of Carnegie Hall? Moreover, is it enough for you to contemplate finding out what concerts are going on at Carnegie and buy a ticket? What about “34th Street”? I would wager that a lot of people would be reminded of the famous movie Miracle on 34th Street (or at least the title), Macy’s, and Christmas. And that movie, meanwhile, despite its feel-good message, reminds us of gift-giving and the need to shop for those gifts. Meanwhile, what about purple lighting? Would it remind you of something like, a pop concert? And if you had a great time at the last pop concert, might a purple light entice you to look up the concert schedule of your favorite pop star? I pose these questions quasi-rhetorically, and the answers I suggest are off the top of my head.

The point is, triggers don’t necessarily lead to action, especially if there is no perceived immediate need for what pops into our head. However, because triggers are everywhere, not having a reliable channel to cultivate meaningful triggers in the first place, is a severe marketing disadvantage in today’s world. Popular art, through music videos, branding, creative album art, cohesive fashion culture, and commercial brand tie-ups, figured out channels to cultivate a variety of triggers. Serious performing arts – partly by nature of its complex, diverse, and often not-at-all-commercial message – have long had difficulty in creating coherent and commercially viable channels for cultivating triggers.


Kontomo allows eventgoers to revisit their digital playbills at will and as frequently as they like, wherever they like. It cultivates triggers through the phone and the app. Moreover, flexible eventgoer feedback provides presenters and artists an understanding of what matters to (and what is being understood by) their eventgoers. And by leveraging the ability to follow-up with the eventgoer, presenters and artists can cultivate unique triggers that produce meaningful on-going relationships in eventgoers’ real lives. Triggers, really, would be a by-product of this kind of interaction between presenter, artist, and eventgoer.

Berger writes: “Consider the context. What cues make people think about your product or idea? How can you grow the habitat and make it come to mind more often?” (Berger, 209)

Conversation with the presenter and artist can help keep the concert relevant and authentic. Activities tied into the experience (and not necessarily through forced participation) can create subtle triggers allowing the experience to resurface back to ‘top of mind’ more often. By opening up the channel between the eventgoer and presenter, Kontomo proposes a way to cultivate triggers for performing arts presentations that have not existed before.

We hope to show you soon with Kontomo used at a concert or event near you.

Please let us know your thoughts!

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