Contagious | Jonah Berger

Summary of: Contagious: Why Things Catch On
By: Jonah Berger


Prepare to dive into the fascinating dynamics of ‘social contagion’ as we explore the book ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’ by Jonah Berger. Grabbing public attention can sometimes happen spontaneously, but when it comes to marketing, the task can prove a daunting challenge. In this summary, we reveal the secrets behind the success of certain ideas and products as they spread like wildfire through word of mouth, outperforming even the most expensive advertisements. Discover the six ‘principles of contagiousness’ distilled into the handy acronym, STEPPS, and learn how you can apply these factors to your own product, service, or cause.

The STEPPS To Creating Contagious Content

To make a product, service or idea catch on, it needs to have “social contagion”. While superior quality or cost-effective advertising can make a product trendy, they alone cannot explain why some ideas and items become contagious and others don’t. Word of mouth provides the best promotion and is more targeted than paid advertisement. The key is to create “contagious content” – viral ideas and topics that proliferate no matter who distributes them. To develop contagious content, you must understand the six principles of contagiousness: social currency, triggers, emotion, public visibility, practical value, and stories (STEPPS). These principles explain why people talk about ideas, products, or causes and how to draw that conversation to your product. Remember, Facebook and Twitter are not strategies, but technologies. 93% of word of mouth happens offline.

Creating Social Currency

A product, service, cause, or idea becomes social currency when people feel important or knowledgeable talking about it. To achieve inner remarkability, consider what sets your product apart from the rest. JetBlue, for example, offers unexpected perks like spacious seating, a variety of snacks, and individual video screens. Triggers keep your product top of mind and tip of tongue. Engage your customers in a game, such as a mileage program, to inspire them to keep coming back. These game mechanics carry social currency and encourage customers to discuss their tactics and victories on the web.

The Power of Triggers

Triggers prompt conversations about products, services, or ideas. Marketers must research and understand how word-of-mouth conversations take place and whether they are immediate or ongoing. Triggers can arise unexpectedly in the environment surrounding a product. For a trigger to be effective, marketers need to evaluate how often it happens, the strength of its link to the product, and if it’s part of the product’s normal milieu. The potential effectiveness of a trigger can also depend on geographic location and time of year. Triggers are a potent tool in breeding word of mouth since people talk about products, brands, and organizations frequently.

Stirring Emotions

People tend to discuss topics that evoke emotions and share them via social media or in-person conversations. A scientific photograph of a cough became one of the most widely shared articles in The New York Times. It doesn’t require expensive advertising or focus groups to get people to feel emotional. Positive emotions such as amazement and awe, as well as negative emotions like anger and anxiety, can make a topic go viral. Emotions usually inspire action, making it essential to trigger the desired feelings. While advertisers generally avoid negative emotions, in some instances, they can be effective, particularly in medical campaigns.

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