In today's world, where things seem to rapidly go viral, given the presence of social media, Contagious: Why Things Catch On is a study of the various factors that result in this kind of popularity. Similar to Malcolm Gladwell's, The Tipping Point, which was published in 2000, Contagious differs from it in certain basic ways. Whereas Gladwell argued that things usually become popular because they are adopted by people who are themselves at the center of things, Contagious argues that it is something about the idea itself that makes it go viral.
Author Jonah Berger claims that there are several factors that result in popularity; he sums them up in the acronym STEPPS—Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value and Stories. By making use of these factors, it's possible to take any idea and present it in a form that will eventually lead to its popularity. However, some of the things that Berger tells us are astonishing because they go against conventional wisdom. For example, he quotes a study in which people were asked if they would rather get paid $50,000 or $100,000. It seems like a simple question but the people who were getting paid $50,000 were told that everyone else around them would get paid $25,000 whereas the people who were getting $100,000 were surrounded by people who were getting $200,000. In comparison to those around them, the first group was doing better and the second group was doing worse. It turned out that the majority of people chose group A even though, rationally speaking, group B was better. This is an example of what Berger refers to as social currency.
Berger gives many other examples and studies of advertising campaigns which make for fascinating reading. Another interesting point he makes is that we may think that word spreads faster through social media but, in fact, it is person-to-person conversations that really lead to popularity. So the best way to get something to go viral is to make it the kind of thing people will want to talk about.
Jonah Berger is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has published a number of articles in journals and accounts of his work have been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Harvard Business Review. He teaches a course called Contagious: How Products, Behaviors and Ideas Catch On at Wharton and has been nicknamed the "Iron Prof." He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
What makes things popular?
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?
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 Emailed 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 antidrug 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, emails 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. Download and start listening now!