Why Things Catch On : A Book Review

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Everybody wants that next blog post or video to go viral. But sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason why something catches on. No one can tell me that on talent alone, Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ deserves 60 million YouTube views. There’s something larger at play that we don’t get.

However, Jonah Berger will have you at least understanding the key principles that will improve your likelihood of making something go viral. His book ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’ is an excellent read for anyone in the marketing field or anyone in business really.

Why things catch onHis 6 basic principles from social currency to triggers include a number of examples to put everything in context. Learn why Jonah thinks Rebecca Black’s hit song went viral. Learn how a steak restaurant became the ‘place to eat’ after putting a $100 steak on their menu.

Perhaps my favourite story from the book was that of the bar ‘Please Don’t Tell’. PDT didn’t go and find the most expensive commercial space, they didn’t spend a heap of money on advertising and they didn’t put the neon lights out the front. They opened up in the back of a hot dog restaurant and made people go through a phone booth to get in. They don’t even take bookings. So what made PDT one of the trendiest places to go? Social currency as Jonah puts it.

Another principle that really grabbed my attention was triggers. The book highlights a couple of good examples including ‘Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat’. The campaign was a hit almost overnight as Jonah explains it. What it did was associate Kit Kats with coffee or having a break. So when people sat to have a break or have a coffee – They grabbed a Kit Kat. Triggers is also how Jonah explains ‘Friday’ by Rebecca Black.

But to stay on ‘triggers’ the curious example was that of political campaigning and one that I don’t believe is utilised outside of the U.S. (Definitely not in Australia). Jonah explained that votes at polling booths were influenced by their location and a party’s flyers at that location. Basically, if the specific polling booth was at a school, then they found they could demonstrate stronger influence by communicating the party’s education policies.

Contagious truly is a great read and one that you’ll struggle to put down, which is something that can’t be said for a lot of high-selling business books.

If you struggle to find the time to sit down and read (as do I) then check it out on audiobook at Audible – ‘Contagion‘.

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