Contagious: Why Things Catch On author Jonah Berger began teaching a class called “Contagious” at Wharton several years ago. His premise was that whether you are in marking, politics, engineering or public health, you need to understand how to make your products and ideas catch on. People who couldn’t take the class would ask if there was a book they could read to catch up. Here it is.

He says people don’t listen to advertisements, they listen to their peers. But why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? What makes online content go viral? Berger has spent a decade answering these questions.

In this book, Berger reveals what he believes is the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. It’s helpful that he shares successes and failures. Much of the content is common sense, but it is nicely and concisely presented.

Readers will move through six basic principles Berger says drive things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors and YouTube videos:

  • Social Currency – Will people feel cool and in-the-know when they share your product?
  • Triggers – What will remind others to think about and talk about your product?
  • Emotion – “When we care, we share.”
  • Public – How visible is your product or idea?
  • Practical Value – People like to share information that is helpful and practical.
  • Stories – If you package your product or idea in a remarkable, interesting, and relevant story, you increase sharing exponentially.

Berger shares the characteristics of what makes something go viral so the reader can build viral messages. Unfortunately no one can predict what really will go viral. However the messages will motivate readers to try some new approaches and that can never hurt.

In the manufacturing technology world some of Bergen’s examples and teachings are a reach. However, given this is an IMTS year and exhibitors are looking for every way to market their show presence, Berger’s lesson will be of value.

About the Author
Jonah Berger is a Marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has published dozens of articles in top-tier academic journals, and popular accounts of his work have appeared in places like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Science, Harvard Business Review, Wired, BusinessWeek, and Fast Company. His research has also been featured in The New York Times Magazine's annual "Year in Ideas" issue.

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