Jonah Berger: Contagious

This is the first post in our series on Jonah Berger’s new book “Contagious”. And today we want to know WHY DO THINGS CATCH ON? What makes some messages go viral and others just die on the vine? In a world more and more reliant on messaging to make connections, this knowledge is important.

Ok, let’s toss overboard the obvious answer. Messages that are about better and cheaper products have a better chance of catching on than messages about expensive crap. Advertising also can help a message catch on. Right. We know this. But it does not explain why a lot of other stuff catches on. Like … a menu item for a $100 cheese steak sandwich.

BOTTOM LINE – things go viral when the spread by word of mouth. It is better than advertising.

So the trillion dollar question is how to get people to talk about your idea. This is the science of sharing. Surprisingly enough, only a tiny percentage of this type of message travels via internet (around 7%).  And research shows that this is not really about finding the right listeners (Malcolm Gladwell’s theory set forth in his best selling book “The Tipping Point” has not been born out by research). Does it boil down to just talking about something that is already “sexy”? Again, research shows that the answer is “not really”. And one example shows this — a cheap video about a food blender (not sexy) launched a national business.

Research has brought out that at least 6 principles affect how well a message will spread by word of mouth. And we will go through each of the six. They are

gaining social currency
using triggers the right way
getting the right emotional response
building a public image
helping spread practical value
telling great stories

The first is called “social currency”. And that is next!


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