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Contagious Jonah Berger Summary



What makes things go viral and spread like wildfire? Is it because the product is just naturally shareable or is it simply a matter of luck or does it all come down to good marketing? It's no secret that a well-planned advertising campaign can help, but advertising alone won't guarantee that product will become contagious. In this book called Contagious, Berger argues that word-of-mouth is more important than traditional marketing to make things go viral. It’s because word of mouth is more persuasive and more targeted. People tend to trust what others tell them more than what they see on ads. Also, people share stories with those who are actually interested in the topic. Berger explains that you can make your product contagious by taking advantage of the power of word of mouth, all you need to do is to follow the STEPPS formula. STEPPS stands for social currency, triggers, emotions, public, practical value, and the stories. In this video, I'll explain exactly what these are and how you can apply each of them to make your product go viral.


1: Social Currency

Think about the last time you impressed someone. What did you talk about? Did you try to impress them with an interesting fact or by showing off some insider knowledge? If so, you wouldn't be alone. Sharing certain things makes us look good to others, which means we are more likely to share them. Berger recommends three ways to get people talking about a product or an idea: 1- Inner Remarkability: One way to generate surprise, is by breaking a pattern people have come to expect. Barclay Prime, a Philly-based restaurant, got buzz by selling a $100 cheesesteak. It defied expectations and, thus, got people talking. 2- Leverage game mechanics: Like the reward program that hotels and airlines use. People will go out of their way to achieve status and to fly with their preferred airline (even if it means making multiple layovers), They love telling others that they are a Diamond Medallion member with Delta and along the way, they spread the word about brands. 3- Make people feel like insiders: For example, there is a bar in New York called "Please Don't Tell." To enter the bar, customers have to use a secret entrance. This makes them feel like insiders, which means they are more likely to share that experience to impress others.

People share these remarkable facts with others to just look good, but when they do, they also share the brand name.


2: Triggers

For a product to become contagious, it can't just be immediately interesting, and most successful products trigger ongoing and long term interest. Triggers keep ideas and products fresh in the minds of consumers, ensuring that they keep talking about your idea. For example, in 1997, The Mars Candy Company noticed a spike in their Mars candy bar sales. They had not changed their marketing campaigns, yet sales were up. It turned out that during that same period, NASA was organizing a mission to Mars and the news triggered the idea of the candy in people’s minds, and sure enough sales spiked. But you can also deliberately create your own trigger. For example, the Kit Kat Bar became successful, mainly because of the marketing campaign, which associated eating a Kit Kat with taking a coffee break, something many people do every day. They showed the candy bar next to a cup of coffee with the slogan, "the break's best friend." The campaign became successful because whenever you took a coffee break, the idea of eating a Kit Kat would be triggered. So, to ensure that people will keep telling others about your product, you should employ a trigger. And remember the old saying, "top of mind is tip of the tongue."


3: Emotions

Emotions compel us to action. They make us laugh, shout, share, talk, and buy. In an analysis of thousands of New York Times articles to better understand why certain pieces of online content are widely shared, Berger found that positive articles were more likely to be highly shared than negative ones. No surprise there. After all, when we care, we share. But that wasn’t the full picture. Berger also discovered that people were more likely to share articles that evoked anger or anxiety. Why? Because anger and anxiety are high-arousal emotions. The reason we are more likely to share high arousal articles and videos is that they excite us. So, to make products or ideas catch on, focus on feelings; the underlying emotions that motivate people to action. And remember to pick ones that kindle the fire, activate people, and drive them to action. On the positive side, excite people or inspire them by showing them how they can make a difference. On the negative side, make people mad, not sad.


4: Public

It turns out if a behavior is observable, it's more likely to be contagious. Observability has a huge impact on whether products and ideas catch on. Why? Because observable things are also more likely to be discussed. We are most influenced by products, ideas, and behaviors if we observe them frequently. This perfectly explains why the famous "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign actually increased drug use. They showed a wide range of young people in a variety of situations being offered drugs and refusing them. But the campaign made it seem that drugs are quite common and taking them is normal. The fact that we tend to imitate the behavior that is public caused an increase in drug use. Clever marketers can take advantage of this tendency by making their logo or brand publicly noticeable. Like the bright yellow Livestrong bracelets, many people can be seen wearing. And remember if something is built to show, it’s built to grow.


5: Practical Value

If a product or idea is simple, practical, and useful, it's more likely to become contagious. That's because useful and practical things make our lives easier. For example, Ken Craig, an 86 year old farmer from Oklahoma produced a single amateur YouTube video to show that microwaving corn made it possible to remove the husk without leaving behind any of the corn silk. This video attracted more than five million viewers simply because it was something people can use. Another practical and useful thing we tend to share our discounts. Studies show that how a discount is presented is also important. There is a discount principle called the Rule of Hundred, which says if a product is priced below 100$, a percentage discount such as 10 percent off is more attractive than saying 10$ off. But if it's over 100$, the numerical discount is more attractive than the percentage discount. Of the six principles of contagiousness that Berger discusses in the book, Practical Value may be the easiest to apply.




6: Stories

All of us know the tale of the Trojan Horse. Have you ever wondered why that is? What is about certain stories that make them endure? People don’t just share information, they tell stories. Stories help us transmit information to others. They engage our emotions, motivating us to feel and take action. The story of the Trojan Horse has been shared over time, not just because it's an entertaining tale, but because it also teaches us valuable lessons. Never trust your enemies and don't celebrate victories prematurely. Stories capture our interest and we get caught up in the unfolding narrative. One such example is the story of Jared Fogle's Subway diet, where he lost 245 pounds by eating only the fast-food sandwiches from Subway. Losing so much weight by eating fast food was interesting, a story that got massively shared and became a contagious advertising campaign for the company. Its message was that, even if you eat only Subway sandwiches every day, it will be a healthy diet. Jonah Berger says blending your advertising into a story is equivalent to building a Trojan Horse where you hide your message inside the horse. Your message travels under the guise of what seems like idle chatter



In summary, to make your product contagious by taking advantage of the power of word of mouth, simply follow the STEEPS formula, make sharing information about your product a form of social currency for people, use triggers, and arouse emotions to get them to share your content, make your product publicly visible and practically valuable, and finally build a compelling story around it.


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