Contagious- Why things catch on

December 14, 2016
Contagious- Why things catch on
Jonah Berger

Book Review and Recommendation of Contagious- Why things catch on by Jonah Berger.

How do some Products, Ideas & Activities become popular in no time?
What factors contribute to exponential or viral growth of an product sometimes even in seemingly dull market! There are various factors that lead to this kind of abnormal growth, beyond Quality and Price of a product.

1. Social Currency:
People like to talk about things that make them look cooler. So talking about a popular restaurant that sells the best sandwiches around would make them look cooler. Whereas they might not bother telling about their regular dining place.

2. Triggers:
Whatever you associate your product with, becomes a trigger for you. That’s why brands pay Celebrities or Sportsperson huge sum of money as they would like to be associated with that celebrity. Another example is where KitKat associated itself with Coffee in all its advertisements by simply showing coffee and Kitkat together. This acted as a form of Trigger that whenever people drank coffee, they were reminded of Kitkat. It could easily have been some Wafers or Hot Chocolate, but people consume Coffee all the time whereas they don’t consume so much of other things. So by having a Trigger that is repeated continuously, it reminds of Kitkat all the time. As a result of this campaign, the sales of Kitkat increased 30% in the next quarter.

3. Emotions:

“When we Care, we Share”. Consumers don’t care about product features most of the time, whereas they are affected by what they signify or the story behind it. Also, People share stronger Emotions like Excitement, Humor, even Anger. But generally refrain from sharing low energy ones like Contentment or Sadness, as these are less likely to drive people to any action.
BMW ran a campaign in 2001 to evoke strong emotions. However, they created short internet films showing kidnapping, Death experiences and other thrilling content evoking fear & anxiety instead of typical feel good commercials, their sales for the same period increased 12%.
Thus even negative emotions but stronger ones can work as they also drive people to share and take action.

4. Practical Value:

Things that are helpful or may have value to the receiver are shared simply because it has practical value, and people like to help others. We all share things that may save money or time, can improve health or just info that may be useful to others (and in this digital age, we are bombarded with over information- remember Presidential elections in US or demonetization in India)

5. Stories:

Who doesn’t love sharing or listening to good stories? Heck we make up stories for simple incidents about how we bravely saved some animal by fighting for it’s life against probability (it may just be taking the Cat to a local vet, but of course we all have versions of our story). Thus by embedding the message in a story that people would love to talk about marketeers create Contagious content that’s likely to be shared.

These are few ideas in the book Contagious- Why things catch on. It’s a highly recommended book for all marketers and a good read for others who’d like to understand the psychology behind rapid popularity of products, ideas or even people.

Wrap Up

Contagious- Why things catch on

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