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Contagious: Why Things Catch On Paperback – May 3, 2016
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We’re all familiar with the idea of something—a video clip, for example—going viral. But how does it happen? Berger identifies six principles that operate, either singly or in combination, when anything goes viral, including social currency (a restaurant makes itself so hard to find that it becomes famous); emotion (the clip of Susan Boyle’s first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent exploded on YouTube because people reacted to it emotionally); triggers (more people search online for the song “Friday” on Friday than on any other day of the week); and practical value (a man’s video showing how to cleanly shuck a cob of corn exploded due to its useful application). Some of what the author talks about here will seem utterly obvious, but there is plenty of insider stuff as well (for example, the brain trust at Apple debated which way the logo should face on the cover of its laptops: rightside up to the user, or rightside up to someone looking at the laptop’s open lid?). On such decisions are fortunes made. An engaging and often surprising book. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Jonah Berger is as creative and thoughtful as he is spunky and playful. Looking at his research, much like studying a masterpiece in a museum, provides the observer with new insights about life and also makes one aware of the creator's ingenuity and creativity. It is hard to come up with a better example of using social science to illuminate the ordinary and extraordinary in our daily lives.” (Dan Ariely, James B. Duke professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and bestselling author of Predictably Irrational)
“Why do some ideas seemingly spread overnight, while others disappear? How can some products become ubiquitous, while others never gain traction? Jonah Berger knows the answers, and, with Contagious, now we do, too." (Charles Duhigg, author of the bestselling The Power of Habit)
“If you are seeking a bigger impact, especially with a smaller budget, you need this book. Contagious will show you how to make your product spread like crazy.” (Chip Heath, co-author of Made to Stick and Decisive)
“Jonah Berger knows more about what makes information ‘go viral’ than anyone in the world.” (Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and author of Stumbling on Happiness)
“Jonah Berger is the rare sort who has studied the facts, parsed it from the fiction—and performed groundbreaking experiments that have changed the way the experts think. If there’s one book you’re going to read this year on how ideas spread, it’s this one.” (Dave Balter, CEO of BzzAgent and Co-founder of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association)
“Think of it as the practical companion to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.” (Tasha Eichenseher Discover)
“[Berger] sheds new light on phenomena that may seem familiar, showing with precision why things catch on. . . . As a playbook for marketers, Contagious is a success.” (Danielle Sacks Fast Company)
“Contagious contains arresting — and counterintuitive — facts and insights. . . . Most interesting of all are the examples Berger cites of successful and unsuccessful marketing campaigns.” (Glenn C. Altschuler The Boston Globe)
"For nonexperts who puzzle about the best way to make an impact in a world of social media addicts with short attention spans, it provides plenty to think about. . . . If there were a 'like' button underneath it, you'd probably find yourself clicking it." (Maija Palmer Los Angeles Times)
“An infectious treatise on viral marketing. . . . Berger writes in a sprightly, charming style that deftly delineates the intersection of cognitive psychology and social behavior with an eye toward helping businesspeople and others spread their messages. The result is a useful and entertaining primer that diagnoses countless baffling pop culture epidemics.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The book is just plain interesting. Berger’s cases are not only topical and relevant, but his principles seem practical and are easily understood. . . . I have a strong feeling that this book will catch on.” (Ben Frederick The Christian Science Monitor)
"An exegesis on how ideas really 'go viral' (hint: the internet gets too much credit) by a marketing wunderkind." (Details)
"A provocative shift in focus from the technology of online transmission to the human element and a bold claim to explain 'how word of mouth and social influence work . . . [to] make any product or idea contagious." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Why things catch on was a very good read. At first considering it was an assigned reading I thought it was going to be boring. But the idea that social media is not actually the key to things catching on is actually so true. Anything starting to catch on is only the cause of people talking about it. I remember in high school everyone was on myspace and then a buzz started about Facebook. People were telling each other about it, it wasn't being sold on the news or t.v but through the most simple form of word of mouth. This book gets exactly to that point word of mouth is key and to get things to catch on there are principles.Not all are required at the same time to get something to catch on, yet you can also use all of them to get something to catch on. These six principles are Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories. Overall the book went very in-depth on each of these principles and how you can apply them to making a product contagious or making them infectious. the research behind each principle was also very helpful and i also enjoyed the examples of the businesses that went along with them. It really showed how an entrepreneur can really push themselves to new heights when they want to be different. I also learned being different is key. Overall I would say this book can be very helpful to future students of this class when it comes to the group project because it is hard to come up with a company that does something different in this age. Companies come out everyday and new technology comes right along with it, so being different will always help.
Berger writes what is essentially a 30 page introduction before getting to the meat of his findings. He suggests that the key to why things stick can be found through the six elements of the STEPPS model: Social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories (23-25).
Social currency is the notion that people share things that make them look good. We all want to seem well-informed, intelligent, and aware of important topics so what we share must project those things. Berger uses an example of a secret, rock and roll bar in New York, at which you must enter into a phone booth and dial their phone number to get inside. After you eat your meal and consume your drinks, you are handed a card that says “please don’t tell” with the number on the back (30). Who wouldn’t tell everyone they know about this!? Knowing about the secret bar gives you social currency. Berger supports his claim with data he has collected and says “indeed, research finds that more than 40 percent of what people talk about is their personal experiences and relationships.” (33). this trend of concept followed by research Berger has completed is prevalent throughout the book as he works through the six steps. Triggers are the next up in the STEPPS model and the idea is that to have sticking power, an idea must be on the top of the mind. For instance, when I think of jelly, I also think of peanut butter. When I think about product X, I better be thinking of your company’s concept. An example Berger uses is that of Kit Kat associating itself with taking a coffee break. Next is emotion. Quite simply, when we care, we share. When it comes to public, this refers to how prevalent something is in the public eye. Things that are highly public and visible are more likely to be talked about and imitated than those that are more private. Practical value is up next and it is perhaps the most obvious. This concept is discussing why health and cooking related items are shared so often and useless YouTube videos about shucking corn are not so popular. We will share things that we get practical use out of and think our friends will want as well. Lastly, the aspect of stories refers to the fact that people tend to enjoy telling and hearing stories. Therefore, ideas, products and behaviors that are wrapped in narratives (and especially compelling narratives) are more likely to be shared than those that are just presented as information.
Judging by the 18 pages of notes following this 231 page book, it is very clear that Jonah Berger did an extensive amount of research before publishing this work. As stated in the about the author section, Berger and research assistants tracked 7,500 articles from prominent publications to see which were most shared. This research however doesn’t cover any social media, a heavily weighed upon topic in this book, so I would say that most of his statements are supported by other experts. I found that it’s not necessarily who agrees with Berger that’s important; it’s who Berger agreed with that lead to the information in this book.
It would be a stretch to say that I disagree with concepts brought up in “Contagious” because there was not enough controversy to object to. Each point was well supported, but appealed to common sense. I thought that one of Berger’s more interesting examples of how things become viral had to do with a blender and YouTube. In 1999, Tom Dickenson founded BlendTec that featured a high powered blender that could grind pretty much anything into fine dust. When he was ready to distribute, he called an old college buddy to be his marketing director and on this directors first day, he entered the warehouse to find saw dust on the floor. It turns out that Dickenson had been testing his blenders by putting 2x4’s against the blades. Ingenuity struck and soon the director had a video camera set up in front of Tom and was giving him anything he could find to blend up; marbles, golf balls, a rake and even an IPhone. All were pulverized and the videos were put on YouTube. In the very first week, this video racked up over 6 million views and was so wildly successful that a web series was born called “Will it Blend?” The series now has over 300 million views and has boosted sales at BlendTec by no less than 700 percent. Berger gives this example to introduce his STEPPS model but before he does, he asks the reader if things are born to be viral. He clearly states that “Virality isn’t born; it’s made (21).” This idea gave me pause. We’ve all seen viral videos of people falling off of skateboards or of kittens doing adorable things right? I don’t believe that every viral video is filmed intentionally to be viral but the fact that they are shared millions of times can give us insight into the human mind. Who wouldn’t want to see an IPhone in a blender or a kitten playing peekaboo? However, the concept of constructing an idea that people relate to and want to see has been around as long as advertising has. Berger presents a model on how to do this but none of his concepts are new or revolutionary. In short, I agree with Berger and his concepts just as he has agreed with scholars before him. To disagree would be irrational because the concepts are tried and proven; the difference is that now we apply them to digital media instead of just print.
To explain why I agree further, I want to focus on a key point in Berger’s STEPPS model, social currency. He dives in to an entire chapter about social currency and breaks it into sections titled “minting a new currency,” “inner remarkability,” and “leverage game mechanics.” I had never thought about conversation topics as a way to gain social value but in reality that idea is exactly why we are always on the lookout for new gossip or interesting facts to share at cocktail parties. If you are giving out interesting information, then you become more interesting. When thinking about how things catch on, especially if you need an idea to stick for advertising purposes, a large part of the idea should give the audience social currency. This very book and its topic are an excellent example of this concept.
I found “Contagious” neither good nor awful when all was said and done. While Berger presented ideas that aren’t really new, he did take a fresh approach on an important topic. My biggest complaint would have to be the amount of word fat in this book. It took eons for Berger to get to his points and he was incredibly repetitive. That being said, this book didn’t really need to be an entire book. It would have made a fascinating and a much less time-consuming academic paper.
As you read through this book you realize you don't need to spend tons of money on marketing. All you need is someone else talking about your product or service.
He doesn't tell you how to get people talking about your product or service, but he makes you think about marketing in a simplistic way.
Author Page: RJ Sumrall
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