Contagious: Why Things Catch On

New York Times bestseller and named Best Marketing Book of 2014 by the American Marketing Association

What makes things popular? Why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?

If you said advertising, think again. People don’t listen to advertisements, they listen to their peers. But why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?

Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger has spent the last decade answering these questions. He’s studied why New York Times articles make the paper’s own Most E-mailed List, why products get word of mouth, and how social influence shapes everything from the cars we buy to the clothes we wear to the names we give our children. In this book, Berger reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Discover how six basic principles drive all sorts of things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors and YouTube videos.

Contagious combines groundbreaking research with powerful stories. Learn how a luxury steakhouse found popularity through the lowly cheese-steak, why anti-drug commercials might have actually increased drug use, and why more than 200 million consumers shared a video about one of the seemingly most boring products there is: a blender. If you’ve wondered why certain stories get shared, e-mails get forwarded, or videos go viral, Contagious explains why, and shows how to leverage these concepts to craft contagious content. This book provides a set of specific, actionable techniques for helping information spread—for designing messages, advertisements, and information that people will share. Whether you’re a manager at a big company, a small business owner trying to boost awareness, a politician running for office, or a health official trying to get the word out, Contagious will show you how to make your product or idea catch on.

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3 Responses to Contagious: Why Things Catch On

  1. Jim Williams, Influitive

    Fascinating read for marketers trying to unlock the secrets to viral success 0

  2. Jonathan Goodman "He's good--man"

    The Best Overview of Social Contagion Theory I’ve Seen 0

  3. I am C, Not X

    Lacks Critical Thinking; Boring Writing If this material is enough to cover an entire Wharton MBA course, then I’m not sure what that says about Wharton’s program. There is just not that much information in this book far beyond common sense most people already intuitively know. I had been looking forward to this book release as the topic is interesting and even possesses its own themed six characteristics, conveniently ascribed the acronym STEPPS, which the author Jonah Berger explains contributes to why products or ideas become contagious. Mr. Berger argues that if we want our product or idea to catch on and spread like wildfire, we must try to build into it as many of these six STEPPS as we can. STEPPS stands for:Social currencyTriggersEmotionPublicPractical ValueStoriesIf discussing something makes you look interesting or cool or special, then that something provides you with “Social currency’.If there is built into a product or idea easy cues that can trigger it to come to mind, then it has a strong ‘Trigger’.If the brand/concept can evoke emotions of anger or good will/ happiness (but note NOT sadness – since we don’t want our friends/family to be sad and therefore are not inclined to share something likely to invoke sadness), then it has ‘Emotion’.If your product or cause can be broadcast to others, it is ‘Public’.If it provides ‘Practical value’, it is more likely to be shared.Lastly, if a memorable story can be spun around it, then it has the added benefit of having a ‘Story’.Now, let’s apply STEPPS to the book itself: 1) Clearly, the answer the book claims to explain (Why do certain products and ideas go viral?) has Social Currency — it’s an interesting topic in which most everyone would be interested; and it makes us look interesting in bringing up that we are read on the subject through this “groundbreaking” book (more on this “groundbreaking” claim later). 2) There are Triggers all around us that cue the topic for discussion (you see hipsters all around you and wonder how a lifestyle of skinny-jeans-wearing-gastrointestinal-issues-causing/fixie-rubber-shoe-braking-bike-riding came to be; or maybe how it is that we’ve gone backwards to wearing heavy Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and why these retro audio phones [form factor] are fashionable; or why you see Toms shoes all about as they really are plain and resemble the old cheap kungfu shoes that are dirt cheap and available in any chinatown (but they have a strong cause behind them- hencePublic’ factor)…you get the point — these are just my examples; they weren’t mentioned in the book – although they would have been good stories for Berger to include. 3) People can become emotional about why some things have become contagious – they can be in awe/angry over ideas and triggered to talk about what they have read in this book. 4) The book is “Public” – its cover is bright orange. Eyeballs will be attracted to it; curiosity will be aroused. 5) The topic attempts to explain a phenomenon of which an understanding would undoubtedly prove of great practical value, especially if you have something to sell/spread. Lastly, 6) it contains (attempts to contain) some entertaining stories to hopefully have a place in your memory prevalent enough for you to tell others about this book.Now, that, in a nutshell, is the book. That’s it. EVERYTHING else – every page after the intro – hammers you over the head with what I’ve described above, over and over and over again until the insufferable boredom of repetition starts to resemble an old torture technique I watched as a kid in a movie long ago. Thin sheets of wet paper towels are placed one by one slowly over a victim’s face. Each sheet is very thin and the victim can breathe through each layer. As each new sheet is applied at slow intervals, it becomes a little bit harder to breathe. This is a drawn out, protracted torture. Finally, the weight of the wet sheets becomes so heavy, the victim, whose breathing has become increasingly labored, eventually suffocates. This book for some awful reason was akin to a literary version of that torture. Books like this usually follow the formulae: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. Well, in this book, everything you need to know is explained adequately in the introduction. Then the body of the book is layer upon layer of thin wet sheets foisted upon you until you are suffocating from the repetition and hammering of simple ideas – over and over and over again.If you like Malcolm Gladwell’s books, you probably will like this book. I do not like Gladwell’s books but I do think Mr. Gladwell is a great story weaver and a strong writer. I cannot say the same for Mr. Berger who authored this book. For the same reason I am not a fan of Gladwell’s books, I felt like most of Berger’s arguments were oversimplified,…

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