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[Book Review] Contagious: Why Things Catch On — by Jonah Berger

This 2013 book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger is a quick, fun read about the nature of why some things go viral and some things don’t. (The terms “contagious” and “viral” take on a whole new meaning while reading it in a Covid world!)

Berger breaks the reasons you might tell your friend about your mouthwash—or why you might not—into an easy six point list with a pithy catchphrase for each one. His list makes it sound simple, which is the beauty of a well-written “self-help” style book. Of course! you want to exclaim, it all makes so much sense!

Putting these ideas into practice is much harder, but applying the thought-process behind it all makes it easier to think about why someone might care at all. Discovering why someone might care at all is the key to all marketing (see my next read This Is Marketing, by Seth Godin).

When we create a company, or a product, we see something we want to do, or something we want to create. We see a need that requires filling. Showing someone else they have that need (and how it can be filled) is what marketing does.

What makes us share

Berger’s book focuses on how a marketer might use a company’s audiences natural inclinations to encourage them to spread their knowledge about a product. The list of reasons is simple. People share things because they want to provide value (this funky sponge stand has made my life so much easier!) They do it because they’re triggered to do so (that reminds me…). They pass something along because they feel emotional about something (this cat curling up in a vase made me unaccountably happy) or they want to be a part of something and prove they belong. Sometimes people want to show they are doing the right thing (the ice-bucket challenge). They tell someone about something because they because they want to show their knowledge and provide a value. And lastly, because… gosh, it’s just a great story, isn’t it?

We all do these things every day, without thinking of it. (And Berger explains these theories in detail a lot better than I have.) But when you are marketing your product or your company, you have to think about it. If you don’t have a large budget with which to spread the word or provide repeated exposure to your brand, it helps to have your audience give you a hand in getting your product to “catch on.”

Sooooo satisfying!

Something spreads in a viral manner because it is in some way satisfying for it to do so. Being the one to show someone a hilarious video for the first time feels good. Giving something the answer to a problem they’ve been having also feels good. Remembering to do that thing you’ve been reading about that’s a healthy practice feels fulfilling on some level. Taking a fun (or terrible) experience and telling our friends and family about it enhances the joy of a great moment, or takes the sting out of a bad one.

So one of the questions we might ask you at Loodon when we talk about your marketing needs might be, “Why would one of your clients or users tell someone else about you?” and we can come up with a creative way for them to do it.

Contagious by Jonah Berger
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