I hope that the person who created the default “Sent from my iPhone” e-mail signature text for iOS devices got well rewarded for their work. It is the perfect embodiment of effortlessly viral aspirational content. Taken at face value it is little more than an advertisement for a product – something that benefits the company more than the customer. Yet users seem strangely reluctant to change it. This inertia stems at least in part from what that small phrase says about them as an individual. Even more than half a decade after the device’s release the phrase is still prevalent at the bottom of people’s e-mails, and it can’t just be because none of them can find out where to change the setting. It remains there because it’s boastful in a socially acceptable way.

Full-on destructive envy is the desire to have more than those around you. While that could lead to some pretty antisocial behavior, its milder form – aspiration – can actually be quite a powerful motivational and persuasive factor.

Create desirability to produce envy: An object has to be desirable in order for envy to work as a motivating force.

Create something aspirational: Give your users something to aspire to. Benign envy is a powerful motivator.

Make people feel ownership before they’ve bought: They will value the item more, increasing their desire to purchase

Create status differences to drive behavior: Without differentiation, there can be no envy

Emphasize achievement as a form of status: Give users more status when they achieve certain (company-serving) goals. This trains them to keep coming back for more.

Encourage payment as an alternative to achievement: Show impatient people a shortcut to improved status via their wallets.

Let users advertise their status: Encourage users to build and advertise their status within a community.

Let people feel important: Giving people a little bit of recognition makes them love you more, and do more for you.