Dr Brent Coker's Going Viral Framework

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework

What makes content sharable?

What are the psychological triggers that evoke sharing motives, and how are they activated?

Over the past eight years I’ve been researching these questions. A summary of my findings can be found in my book Going Viral, and many of the concepts are also discussed in the Virology Viral Marketing Masterclass.

In this blog post, I will outline the three most important elements: Emotion, Self Enhancement, and Affinity.


What does winning a prize and almost getting hit by a car have in common? Both situations invoke strong emotional reactions of course — but both situations also lead to strong word-of-mouth reactions — in both cases you’ll be telling everyone what happened.

Strong Emotions are linked to sharing.

There are two dimensions of emotion: arousal and valence. Although it is critical to use emotions in your marketing content, it is actually the arousal dimension that evokes sharing tendencies. Arousal seems to affect sharing motives through the amygdala part of the brain—a primitive part of the limbic system that is believed to manage feelings-based (affect) memories. Some research suggests it also controls social behaviour. Valence moderates decisions to share marketing content after appraisal from the pre-frontal cortex, though one way to maximise sharing motives is to combine high arousal stimuli of opposite valence.

The science of creating high engagement marketing content using emotions centres on the combination of emotions, and how to maximise the strengths of the emotions to evoke arousal.

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework 1

Here is an example of a super viral (over 1 million shares) that mixes emotions of opposite valence extremely effectively.

Self Enhancement

Self enhancement is a biological tendency for humans to behave in ways to boost positive self-opinion. It’s believed to be a primary mechanism behind building and sustaining self-esteem. Because self enhancement motives appear to be fixed, it’s an extremely powerful tool for motivating content engagement.

People self-enhance in different ways, and for different reasons. Understanding self-enhancement motives in your target audience is a critical step in the initial phases of creating an online marketing campaign. This requires a deep understanding of psychographic preferences—particularly values and ideals. Oftentimes the required information is not obvious, though there are techniques to more accurately identify self enhancement triggers.

There are three general categories of self-enhancement cues used to guide content creation.

(1) Membership cues.   Humans are a group-oriented species. Members of a group are bound by common values or beliefs. If you attend the group’s social meetings you’ll eventually discover what those values and beliefs are—since the topics of conversation give clues about what they might be. For example, motorcycle clubs will mostly talk about the lifestyle of riding a motorcycle, such as near misses with cars, or long-distance adventure tours. These are membership cues—basically things that members in the group think is important and that they all share an interest in. People use membership cues in conversation to confirm, endorse, and legitimise their membership. If membership cues are known, they provide the impetus for content engagement.

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework 2

Impression management.           People share content to manage other people’s impressions of themselves. The usefulness of content that can shape others’ opinions is that it circumvents ego-inflation needs. Content that enables people to manage impressions includes anything that signals something about a character trait that is revered. For example, someone might share a meme that suggests something positive about their work ethic or knowledge of management on LinkedIn.

Dr Coker’s Going Viral Marketing Framework 3

Approval cues.  Approval cues are sought to obtain recognition and respect – two extremely powerful social needs. There’s nothing like the feeling of approval from those around you. When people applaud, laugh, or even pat you on the back, it gives you a tremendous boost in self-esteem. The equivalent of this in social media is engagement (Likes, Retweets, Thumbs up etc). Some types of things people share to earn approval cues may include recent purchases made, recent sporting or life achievements, or amusing situations.


Affinity is a feeling of warmth, respect, and deep appreciation for an activity, idea, or object, that endures over time. Affinity is different from emotion, primarily because emotions are short-term and affinity can be used to evoke strong powerful memories – an extremely useful tool for content marketers.

The most important thing to note about affinity is that it’s a requirement for something to go viral. If you don’t invoke affinity, people most certainly won’t share it. In other words, although emotion might be important when creating marketing content, affinity is critical.

There are several ways to invoke affinity, though two of the most popular include the following:

(1) Youth. People value memories from their youth. Activating time-based affinity from youth-based memories requires identifying a theme that has strong meaning. Youth-based memories don’t have to be specific memories, but rather can be characterised by themes, which widens their appeal. For example, everyone has memories of receiving gifts in their youth. These memories are tied to nostalgic times of being young, which do have importance for a wide range of people.

(2) Relationships. Almost everybody has had relationships in their lives that matter. These memories can be general in nature (mothers vs. a specific person). Using this strategy, the task is usually to identify a likely relationship theme, which usually means romantic or family based but could also be mentor based such as a teacher or leader.

A super viral (over one million shares) example of affinity based content using relationships.

These are the three basic elements of the Going Viral framework.

You can find out more about the factors contributing to highly sharable content in my Virology series, or download a free chapter of my book Going Viral.


Price Discount or More for Free?

Is it better to offer more of a product for free, or offer a price discount?

Consider this example of chocolate (though the concept is true for any product).

Price Discount or More for Free? 4

In this example we’ve got two bars of chocolate. The difference is on the left you’re offering a 33% price discount from the usual $2.99, and on the right you’re offering 50% more for free.

In both cases you’re making the same amount of money – 2 cents for each gram of chocolate you sell. They are the same deal.

But – research tells us that consumers will tend to respond to the bonus free option more than the price discount option. You’ll earn more money from sales buy always offering ‘more for free’ rather than offering a straight discount.

For more short marketing tips, please check out my YouTube channel.

The Service Recovery Paradox

The Service Recovery Paradox

What do you do about negative feedback online. Delete it? If it’s a crackpot contribution or using profanity  – sure go ahead. BUT if its genuine you might have an opportunity to INCREASE customer satisfaction and loyalty. By using something called the ‘Service Recovery Paradox (SRP)’

So what is the SRP?

A study was done years ago that found that customers who had experienced a “transgression” – or something that went wrong when buying from a brand,  and had the transgression fixed by the brand were actually more satisfied with the brand than if the service encounter had gone smoothly.

For example, a traveller’s flight is cancelled. When she calls the airline, they apologise and offer her another flight of her choice on the same day, and a discount voucher against future travel. Under the service recovery paradox, the traveller is now happier with the airline, and more loyal to it, than she would have been had no problem occurred.

In a study we did some years back we found that when someone senior from a brand responded to negative comments their brand, the brand was perceived as more trustworthy, more genuine, and generally a more positive brand.

We tested two fictitious social media pages in a laboratory experiment. Group A was a mix of positive and negative comments about a brand. Group B was purely positive.

The Service Recovery Paradox 5

The other difference was that in Group B, the negative comments had a response from someone senior from the organisation, in this case Sam Head of Sales. The response signalled empathy and an offer to fix the transgression (problem).

The Service Recovery Paradox 6

The results found the negative page had more positive evaluations from consumers. Evidence of the “Service Recovery Paradox”

The Service Recovery Paradox 7

So – the point is that on social media you shouldn’t arbitrarily delete negative comments from dissatisfied customers – they can potentially be a huge opportunity.

To see more tips, check out my 18 MBA Marketing tips on YouTube – short tips – Gold nuggets of marketing knowledge hidden in academic literature — stuff that has a powerful effect on consumer behaviour, but perhaps not that well known.


How to use Affinity to Increase Content Engagement

When you create content to post online, what’s the number 1 thing you care about? Engagement right? Affinity is the key to engagement. In this blogpost I describe what affinity is, how to create affinity, and why it drives engagement.

What is ‘Affinity’?

Affinity is something that people deeply care about. Ultra strong relevance, usually tied to people’s value system. If people don’t care about the story you’re trying to tell, they’re not going to share it.

Technically, affinity is a feeling of warmth, respect, and deep appreciation for an activity, idea, or object. Affinity is different than emotion, which is characterised by more of a short term physical response to a stimulus. Affinity is an enduring quality of feeling radiating from the heart, that doesn’t necessarily have any physical symptoms.

The most important thing to note about affinity is that it’s a requirement for something to go viral. If somebody doesn’t relate to or care about your Marketing, then they most certainly won’t share it. Although emotion might be important when creating marketing content, affinity is critical.

One of the ways to create affinity is to remind people why they love something. The biggest problem with this however is that not all of your target audience might like the same thing. It’s of course easier if you’re selling something where your target market is bound together  by a shared passion, like motorcycling, but for many brands their target audience is more mixed. In this situation, activating meaningful memories that a wider range of people care about is a better choice.

Here’s an example. This is a well-known surf brand here in Australia, and this type of advertisement is often used by surf brands – a pic of someone surfing inside the barrel of a wave.

How to use Affinity to Increase Content Engagement 8

Did this go viral and get a lot of engagement? No. Although it appeals to their target market’s main interest – it doesn’t tap into their value system (create affinity).

Compare that example to this example from a competitor. They realised that their target market cared deeply about 2 things – (1) location – where they had surfed. And (2) the health of the ocean – surfers care about ocean a lot – it taps into their value system.

How to use Affinity to Increase Content Engagement 9

So in this image we have someone surfing in an iconic surf location for those who surf – Java – an island in Indonesia. And it’s also showing the amount of pollution in the ocean. You think this went viral? Its sure did – the engagement was through the roof.

So that’s affinity – before you start creating content – figure out what your target market deeply cares about, and use that in your campaigns.

You can learn more about Affinity in my book, or in my Virology Viral Marketing Masterclass

Rejoinder: The difference between Affinity and Emotions

Affinity is a powerful feeling that creates the foundations of sharing. Affinity manifests itself as a feeling of warmth, respect, or deep appreciation for an activity, idea, or object. Affinity is different from emotion for several reasons.

An emotion is characterised by some kind of physiological effect. Adrenaline is released, or blood pressure increases. Facial expressions might change to match the emotion. Emotions are characterised by energy and a physical change in the body. They’re usually short term, and can come and go quickly.

Affinity in contrast is a long term quality of feeling. It is a passion that somebody has for something that radiates from the heart. It is a closeness to something, characterised by passion.

Operationally, affinity has greater importance for the prediction of viral content than emotion.

LinkedIn Captions

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free)

You should always add subtitles to your video because (1) most people flick through social media feeds with no sound, and; (2) it increases your engagement.

Adding subtitles gives you a chance to entice people to pause and turn the sound up on your video. And of course the accessibility issue.

I generally find my engagement is higher on my videos that have subtitles (e.g., my MBA Marketing Tips Series) https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHoja44QrITnflDFfw_xR25ZGjkSSvM9B And it’s not actually that hard to add subtitles – so it’s a no-brainer for me.

Although Facebook and YouTube can generate subtitles for you automatically, unfortunately LinkedIn doesn’t have this feature. So we need to be a bit creative to make it happen.

Linkedin provides the option to add subtitles by uploading an ‘.srt’ file at the time when you upload your video.

In a nutshell, what you do is generate the subtitles in Facebook, and then generate a subtitles file to use in LinkedIn. You upload the subtitles file when you upload your video in LinkedIn.

Both Facebook and YouTube have sophisticated machine learning algorithms that generate subtitles automatically for you, but I have found Facebook’s algorithm is more accurate and easier to adjust for Linkedin.

Step 1: Upload your movie into Facebook.

As mentioned earlier, we need a way to auto-generate subtitles for our footage, and Facebook has the best algorithm for this. So you’ll first need to upload your movie into Facebook to get the subtitles generated (you could use third party software and manually transcribe your movie but who has time for that?)

When uploading, you’ll be given an option to “Auto Generate Captions”. Go ahead and do this. It might take a few minutes, but in general the results are fairly accurate. After generating it will also give you the option to check and edit the result – go ahead and do this if you want, but generally to save time I just trust the accuracy (except it never gets my name spelling right — Calls me ‘Brent Koga’ instead of Brent Coker, lol).

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 10

Step 2: Generate an ‘.srt’ file for LinkedIn.

Open your video in Facebook after it’s finished processing. Make sure you’re using Chrome browser (you could use another browser, but these instructions are Chrome specific).

Press the F12 button on your keyboard to open the developer tools.

Then press Ctrl and f to open the search feature in the developer tools.

Then type the word ‘captions’ without quotes into the search box.

It should highlight a URL that begins with the word ‘blob’. Double click on this URL to select it. Press Ctrl and C to copy this URL.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 11

Paste the URL (Ctrl and V) into a new tab in your browser. For example, in my example below I copied the URL blob:https://www.facebook.com/e9a65fa5-ea8a-480f-93a0-7f9035e77879

You should see a page with text. This is the subtitle information used to render subtitles.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 12

Step 3: Generate the .srt file for LinkedIn.

I use Notepad++ for this step, but you could also use regular Notepad.

From the URL you pasted into your browser, select all of the text in this page (Ctrl A).

Paste all of the text into a new Notepad document (Ctrl V)

Save the file. Change the “save as type” to All types. Give the file a name ending with .srt

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 13

Now, we have an srt file, but the problem is that it is still in the Facebook format so won’t work in LinkedIn (linkedIn will give an error if you upload it).

To make the srt file compatible with Linkedin, we need to do three things.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 14

First, delete the word ‘WEBVTT’ at the top of the document.

Second, open up the find and replace function in Notepad (Ctrl F). We need to remove all the ‘size’ references. Type the size statement into the ‘Find what’ field of Notepad, and keep the ‘Replace with’ box empty. In our example, the size statement is size:90%

IMPORTANT: There is a space between time information and the size statement. You MUST also remove this space, otherwise LinkedIn won’t accept the file and will throw an error.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 15

Third, we need to replace all the full stops in the document, with commas. Use Find and Replace again to do this.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 16

Last, save the file.

Now we have a LinkedIn compatible subtitles file. After following this process a few times, it becomes very quick.

Step 4: Upload the subtitles file into LinkedIn

Choose the video upload post option in Linkedin. At this point, you’ll see a small ‘edit’ button after you select your video file. This is where you upload your subtitles file to match your video.

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 17

Click on the Edit button, and browse to your .srt subtitles file degenerated in the previous step.

After you select your file, you should see this:

How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Your LinkedIn Video (for free) 18

If you see an error instead, then you have done something wrong when you removed the Facebook specific stuff in Notepad in the previous step (the WEBVTT statement, size information statements including spaces, and replacing the dots for commas).

If it works, then go ahead and save the video settings in Linkedin, and you’re good to go!

Hope this tip was useful for you. Please connect with me on social for more Digital Marketing and Consumer Psychology tips. Thanks for reading!







The Problem with Blockchain in Australia

We expect that the range of potential applications of DLT (Blockchain) will grow exponentially over time. This could have far-reaching implications for our stakeholders, and affect the way these entities operate and the structure of the market in which they offer their services.

—Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), document: INFO 219, 2018.


Blockchain technologies are having a profound impact on industries, economies, and societies around the world, revolutionising data security, efficiency, banking and payments, and start-up capital raising. In 2018 to date, USD$18 billion has been raised to finance more than 700 new blockchain enabled businesses. Of these, 51% of blockchain business models raised funds in the US, Switzerland, and Singapore (figure 1). Australia has been relatively slow, with approximately 15 blockchain technology start-ups raising capital, though ASIC and other government institutions believe blockchain enabled entities in Australia will grow rapidly in the near future (ASIC 2018). It is now estimated that more startup capital is raised through blockchain enabled ICOs globally than traditional venture capital (VC) methods (figure 2), highlighting the popularity and rapid diffusion of blockchain.


Figure 1: proportional differences in USD raised in ICOs according to country

Figure 1: proportional differences in USD raised in ICOs according to country (Source: Smith and Crown)


Figure 2: Comparison of traditional VC early stage funding to ICO funding (Source: Ernst Young, 2018)

Figure 2: Comparison of traditional VC early stage funding to ICO funding (Source: Ernst Young, 2018)


Although the opportunities and economic benefits of blockchain are significant, policies and frameworks guiding the implementation and mitigation of risks of new business models employing this technology remain woefully underdeveloped. A significant body of research suggests that regulatory, compliance, and best practice uncertainty stifles economic innovation (e.g., Blind, Petersen, and Riillo 2017; Jones 2015). Consistent with this research, a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that in addition to audit and compliance concerns, regulatory uncertainty is currently the biggest barrier to blockchain adoption (figure 3). Some evidence suggests innovative blockchain start-ups in Australia are relocating offshore to avoid this uncertainty (and potential retrospective violations), highlighting the urgent need of policies and frameworks to guide blockchain compliance and implementation in Australia.

There is currently no clear pathway for investors, entrepreneurs, and regulators to mitigate blockchain risk, and there are insufficient frameworks for guiding the successful implementation of blockchain enabled business models and ICO fundraising. Given the potential economic benefits associated with the emergence of blockchain, and the rapid diffusion of blockchain throughout multiple industries and financial systems, there is an urgent need to address this deficiency.

Figure 3: Barriers to adopting blockchain (Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2018)

Figure 3: Barriers to adopting blockchain (Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2018)



What is Blockchain?

A blockchain is a distributed decentralised database (ledger) of records that may include digital events such as code execution, or simple transactions. Each transaction or digital event is stored in a ‘block’, that is connected to other blocks in a chain formation. Modifying the data in any block breaks the chain – thus acting as a secure mechanism to ensure each transaction or digital event in a blockchain is unable to be edited. Verification of transactions recorded onto a blockchain is handled through a process of consensus, whereby participants in the system agree that any transaction is valid before it is recorded. Thus, the two benefits of using blockchain over a traditional database include: trust-less verification of records through consensus, and immutability of data (data recorded is unable to be modified by hackers).

The application of blockchain in society may be broken down into two broad categories: Financial and non-financial. Examples of financial applications include: speeding up and simplifying cross-border payments, increasing the accuracy and settlement times for share trading, automating transactions through ‘smart contracts’, securing and verifying identity management protocols. Some examples of non-financial applications include: verification of ownership, supply chain traceability, energy and resource consumption incentivisation, voting verification, data integrity and security, Internet of Things (IoT) communication protocol standardisation and security, and hardware applications such as smartphones.

Initial Coin Offerings (ICO)

An ICO is a means of crowdfunded financing for start-up companies. In an ICO, a specific quantity of tokens (aka cryptocurrency, alt coins) is offered for sale to investors in exchange for legal tender fiat currencies or other cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or Ethereum (Schuettel, 2017).  This process establishes a direct relationship between start-ups and investors. Tokens are often sold as utility within the internal ecosystem of the ICO, in this case called coins, while in other cases they are sold as a right of ownership or royalties to a project but not necessarily with some voting rights. Accordingly, in addition to raising capital for a start-up, ICOs are also used to kick-start the sale of a service where investors are given opportunity to buy coins at a discount, given the supply and demand once released to market. Investors could become users of the service. In comparison to traditional IPOs, ICOs create new roles for their investors. The role of investors in traditional IPOs is to provide a fund and offer them opportunities to vote on major corporate issues. With the current ICO design, investors are incentivized to support the Ecosystem of the new technology at different stages including funding, advertisement and usage after it launches.

Total funds raised by ICO since January 2017 is significant (Figure 4), and recent research by Ernst and Young suggests that cumulative ICO funding now surpasses traditional early stage venture capital (VC) funding (figure 3) suggesting trends towards fundraising through ICOs cannot be ignored.

Figure 4: USD raised in ICOs January 2017-Present (Source: Smith and Crown, 2018)

Figure 4: USD raised in ICOs January 2017-Present (Source: Smith and Crown, 2018)



There are several specific issues that will need to be addressed to maximise the economic benefits of blockchain in Australia, and reduce stakeholder risk. Countries around the world have adopted a variety of strategies to deal with blockchain, from extremely tight restrictions (e.g., China) to adaptive and sandboxing type models where rapidly changing and experimental approaches keep up with the pace of rapidly changing technology environment (e.g., Singapore, Switzerland, Malta). Some countries have taken advantage of blockchain regulatory uncertainty (e.g., Canada, Singapore, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Malta), proactively enticing world entrepreneurs. Switzerland is thought to be at the forefront of blockchain growth model facilitation. We suggest that Australia is unfortunately lagging far behind.

Specific issues that urgently need to be resolved in order for Australia to maximise the economic benefits of blockchain include the following:

Are Tokens Securities?

An ICO involves selling of ‘tokens’ (utility tokens) to raise money. These tokens may be bought and sold on public exchanges, though they differ from stocks in that they do not usually come with cash flow or voting rights. When a blockchain becomes active, some tokens act like currencies (e.g., bitcoin), whereas others act like staking or betting mechanisms, or coupons that are redeemable for goods and services offered by the company.

Current legislation does not specifically account for ICOs, tokens, or cryptocurrencies, and under strict interpretations of the functions of tokens, they may be legally considered securities or derivatives (the Corporations Act 2001). Specifically, if tokens are issued in respect of a platform where purchasers are speculating on the token’s value, then they can be considered a derivative under current Australian legislation. In which case, the ICO process in Australia could be considered a managed investment scheme, which would suggest ICOs in Australia are illegal, since distributing derivatives and securities (Managed Investment Schemes) by an unlicensed operator is illegal.

In September 2017, ASIC noted: ‘ICO issuers may frame the entitlements received by contributors as a receipt of a purchased service. However, if the value of the digital coins acquired is affected by the pooling of funds from contributors or use of those funds under the arrangement, then the ICO is likely to fall within the requirements relating to MISs (Managed Investment Schemes)”. Currently legislation does not fit the economic realities of ICOs, and as a result there is evidence of Australian start-ups relocating offshore to avoid uncertainty in local markets.

Traditional Asset tokenisation

Blockchain models are disruptive for a number of reasons, one being that they have the potential to increase the liquidity of assets. Shares of stock in private companies are illiquid – they cannot be easily traded. Tokens from an ICO however are highly liquid, and able to be traded almost instantly on exchanges. There are more market participants, greater trade volume, and smaller spreads, and as a result the price when selling is usually higher (‘illiquidity discount’).

Blockchain models facilitate trading on secondary markets through tokenisation, and therefore open possibilities for traditionally illiquid assets to be tokenised, increasing liquidity. Houses for example could benefit from mortgage tokenisation, whereby a real estate owner purchases a house though tokenisation, and makes payments to token holders instead of a bank like a traditional mortgage. Commercial real estate investments could be made on a smaller scale, bought and sold by trading tokens on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Evidence suggests tokenisation of assets is already a reality [3], and research strongly suggests the next wave of blockchain diffusion is likely to encroach on asset tokenisation. Without proper guidance there are multi-faceted regulatory issues with this blockchain variant diffusing through traditional industries, including serious security issues and potentially unenforceable ownership claims.


There are tax issues with blockchain enabled business models, particularly with regards to ICOs, and money transfer legislation. One notable example is the so-called “Netflix Tax” which requires sellers of digital goods to collect and remit GST. In theory, an token issuer (an ICO) should be required to collect GST when the sale of the token occurs or when the token is redeemed, though the collection and enforcement mechanism for how this should occur has not be developed. Part of the difficulty with regards to collecting tax on token sales in Australia is related to who owns a token at any given time, given almost all token ownership is largely anonymous, particularly when overseas exchanges are used to buy and sell.

Smart contracts

An important feature of blockchain enabled business models is the operation of ‘smart contracts’. These are automated computer routines that execute commands such as payments and other terms of a contract. Problems arise when smart contracts are combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI). If a machine makes a contract, is it enforceable, and who is responsible for losses or damages caused by machine errors? Because of the distributed nature of blockchain, it is not possible to “switch-off” the blockchain when needed.

According to section 15C of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999(Cth), a contract formed through the interaction of automated message systems (which may include smart contracts) is:

…not invalid, void or unenforceable on the sole ground that no natural person reviewed or intervened in each of the individual actions carried out by the automated message systems or the resulting contract.

There does not currently exist any clear direction to indicate who is responsible if losses or damages are caused from a smart contract programmed by a machine. Complicating matters are the data providers that translate real world data that executes the smart contract (known as “oracles”). Oracles run “off-chain” (not part of the verifiable blockchain system), and are therefore subject to misinformation feeds to smart contracts. Oracles contain software that may setup smart contracts, though assignment of responsibility to an oracle is complex and under current legislation potentially unenforceable.

We foresee an urgent need as part of the AUSBLOCK framework to address this issue through a formal technology arrangement system whereby expected qualities, attributes, features and even behaviours are accounted for, including securities, guarantees and insurance. Blockchain technology is maturing rapidly and we foresee in the near future smart contracts feature more prominently in commerce. The issue is that autonomous software entities can come into existence at any time, though they cannot just be “switched off”.

ICO Issues

Currently, the ICO process does not require any formal regulatory approval or protocols. Most projects are backed by whitepapers which is essentially a prospectus that outlines the technical aspects of the product, the problems it intends to solve and how it is going to address them, a description of the team, and a description of the token generation and distribution strategy. It is at once a pitch deck, a business plan, a marketing plan, and a technical manual. This process of crowdfunding eliminates the cost of regulatory compliance and intermediaries, while increases risk for investors.


Blockchain technology is having a profound impact on global markets, equity fundraising practices, and asset tokenisation. Diffusion is rapid, and there is an urgent need to harness the opportunities and economic benefits of blockchain, and mitigate potential risks without stifling innovation and development. Regulatory uncertainty inhibits innovation, but there is a trade-off between protecting public interests versus stifling innovation.

Global regulation of blockchain varies substantially, both by country and by use-case. Areas that need urgent attention include: smart contract law, asset tokenisation, and guidance on what needs regulating, and what should not be regulated. The nature of whether or not tokens are securities or derivatives remains unclear. Until this is resolved, development will be stifled. Regulatory uncertainty can be more harmful than the regulation.



Literature cited


ASIC (2018), “Info 219,” https://www.asic.gov.au/regulatory-resources/digital-transformation/evaluating-distributed-ledger-technology/.

Blind, Knut, Sören S. Petersen, and Cesare A. F. Riillo (2017), “The Impact of Standards and Regulation on Innovation in Uncertain Markets,” Research Policy, 46 (1), 249-64.

Jones, Huw D. (2015), “Regulatory Uncertainty over Genome Editing,” Nature Plants, 1, 14011.




Fidget Spinners – Why they’ve gone viral

“Daaad. Can eye have a fidget spinner? Please?”

Said my kids, and an estimated 2 million other kids last week.

This is something I haven’t seen in a long time. Sure, there have been several fads over the past couple of decades, but not like this. The biggest selling toy of all time–the Rubik’s Cube–sold approximately 350 million units. And now this… wow. This might be coming close.

So. Why have these things gone viral. Can we explain it?

To understand why fidget spinners have gone viral, we need to start with the basics: why things go viral. Most research in this area has looked at emotions. Simplistically, content that activates strong emotions gets shared, and the sharing causes it to go viral. More precisely, emotions activate physiological arousal (stop sniggering quagmire, psychologists use the word arousal differently), which in turn stimulates the amygdala (part of the brain), which controls social behaviour (gets people sharing).

Ah-ha! So fidget spinners activate emotions right? And that causes them to go viral right?

Kind of. Lets dig a little deeper.

Here’s the thing – SOME emotions activate arousal, and some don’t. It’s usually the strong ones that influence sharing (terror and intense excitement are two that get people blabbing pretty quick). Fidget spinners activate intrigue (try one – you’ll see). The question is: is intrigue an emotion? And if it is, –is it strong enough to activate this Amygdala thing, and kick something off to go viral?

Amazement is the gold standard when it comes to making something go viral, but it’s terribly difficult to activate.

To answer the first question: No, intrigue is not an emotion, it’s a feeling. A feeling is more complex, and may involve several emotions interacting. This is why not all things that are intriguing go viral — put simplistically, there are different types (complexities) of intrigue -some work, some don’t.

Intrigue starts with uncertainty, which activates curiosity, which creates apprehension (mild fear), which leads to amazement. It’s actually the amazement that causes the viral effect, not the uncertainty, and not the curiosity. Amazement is the gold standard when it comes to making something go viral, but it’s terribly difficult to activate. So how does the fidget spinner do it?

Usually intrigue is too mellow to activate sharing. But when the process of uncertainty and curiosity is prolonged, it results in apprehension and awe, that leads to amazement. That’s the key. The problem is prolonging the curiosity phase long enough so that apprehension and awe can develop (amazement) – that’s the tricky part.

To understand how to prolong curiosity to activate amazement (and thereby viral sharing), we have to revisit old school research on negative emotions.

For a long time, psychologists have understood that people tend to feel better about a negative experience after they share the story with others (usually people share negative emotions with people  close to them). It’s an old clinical psychologist’s trick – get the patient to re-live the negative experience to get them on the road to recovery. Why? Because the overwhelming anxiety experienced after a negative episode is caused by the negative experience running through the person’s head in a constant cycle. They can’t stop thinking about it, it’s emotionally exhausting, and the replay of emotions causes ongoing distress. The brain replays the experience over and over because of uncertainty.

Human’s are biologically programmed to make sense of their surroundings (actually a survival mechanism). Like when you’re lying in bed at night and you hear a noise–probably you’re not gonna get much sleep until you get up and check it. Your brain needs to make sense of it and close the story. Traumatic experiences replaying in someone’s head is the brain working in overdrive to make sense of what happened — to close the story.

Fidget spinners prolong the curiosity in young minds by keeping the story open. Kids are particularly susceptible to this process, since they haven’t yet developed the skills to resolve the uncertainty that leaves the intrigue hanging. Their minds can’t make sense of what is happening in a fast way, and as a result uncertainty and curiosity lead to apprehension and awe, and ultimately amazement. The amazement activates sufficient arousal to activate the Amygdala. Endorphins and dopamine are released (another survival response funnily enough), which leads to social sharing between young minds.


Happy spinning.

Fidget spinner

Fidget spinner


How Social Currency drives Content Engagement

Think about how many jokes you’ve heard in your lifetime. Dozens? Hundreds? Now think about how many jokes you can remember. If you’re like most people, it’s a struggle to remember more than a few. Jokes are basically short messages that have gone viral, but they aren’t really that memorable. So if jokes are not that easy to remember, how do jokes survive and not just disappear?

It has to do with the speed of transfer. Jokes don’t just survive because they’re written down somewhere—most jokes have been around since long before the internet, and not everyone reads joke books. Jokes are spread by word-of-mouth—one person telling another. If people stop telling each other jokes, the joke will eventually disappear, unless of course someone reads it somewhere and begins telling the joke again.

It’s the word of mouth sharing of a joke that keeps it alive. The motive that causes word-of-mouth sharing is related to the emotion that the joke creates. Jokes are designed to be humorous, which explains why they’re shared. Someone will tell someone else a joke, to make them laugh. But why would an individual feel compelled to make someone else laugh, by telling them a joke? The reason is because all people have a desire to build something we call social currency.

Social currency is intrinsic value we use to help us interact with others, and build social status. When people respect or admire us, we have social currency. When we have social currency we have a good reputation, people respect us, and we feel sense of belonging. For example, one reason why men keep up with popular sports, even though they might not play the sport themselves, is so they can use sports knowledge as a conversation piece with other men. This earns them social currency by helping them build bonds based on shared interests. Building social currency is something all people desire to do, and therefore efforts to build and retain social currency control much of our behavior.

Social currency therefore acts as a powerful motivator for people to share information with others. People share a humorous image, a joke, an idea, a movie, or any other information if they feel that other people will appreciate their efforts to share something that has value. People appreciate others who share useful information, which results in the sharer earning social currency.