Jonah Berger is a best-selling author credited for writing the book Contagious, a book that explains why products catch on. Besides his book, Jonah teaches at the Wharton school of business at the University of Pennsylvania and is an expert in the field of advertising. Through intriguing anecdotes and astounding research studies, Berger manages to explain to us the six key points to making a product/brand a viral success. The six steps are Social Currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical Value and Stories.
The main points that Jonah touches in his book are the six concepts mentioned beforehand that in essence boost word of mouth, he refers to them with the acronym STEPPS.
People share what makes them look good. There are three important factors that yield social currency: finding the product’s inner remarkability, leveraging game mechanics and making the consumers feel like insiders. A memorable example he used to explain this idea was the anecdote of "please don't tell". This was the name of a secret bar hidden inside a hot dog restaurant that displayed remarkability and made tellers seem 'cool.' The owners purposefully found a way to add revenue by making something worth sharing with others, and the fact that the name told them not to only made the numbers go even higher.
“So to get people talking, companies and organizations need to mint social currency. Give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting their products and ideas along the way.”
"Top of mind means tip of the tongue." Associating your product to the right triggers can increase the immediate and long-term word of mouth your product receives. It is not so much the remarkability, but whether or not your product is easily accessible through thought. I found that the story that best described this aspect was the association the KitKat brand found by joining its products to coffee. The company found a clever way to spice up the chocolate bars by using fun alliteration (Kitkat coffee) and bringing attention by pairing the product to something we see commonly. Now every time you drink coffee you will think Kitkat.
“Accessible thoughts and ideas lead to action.”
"When we care, we share!" Highly arousing emotions (positive or negative) lead to virality when it comes to marketing. Activating emotion is they key to transmission. One example of arousing emotions was conveyed with Susan Boyle's audition, whose talent was underestimated in Britain’s got Talent by being judged solely for her appearance. The 47-year old woman wowed the crowd with her astonishing voice, making the video go viral in a matter of days. It was unexpected, remarkable and inspiring, making for millions of spectators across the globe.
“excite people or inspire them by showing them how they can make a difference. On the negative side, make people mad, not sad. Make sure the polar bear story gets them fired up.”
"Built to show, built to grow." when people see, they imitate. Observability is key to making your product contagious. Social proof is something crucial, but if must be used purposefully or else it could advertise the wrong thing. For this concept, I found the Apple logo issue to be the most meaningful. Mac had a dilemma where they didn't know which way to make the apple logo face, either the owner or the viewers, and decided on viewers to increase observability. Observability increases publicity in the means that it advertises things that otherwise would remain unseen; when you wear shirts with brands or accessories, you are reminding people of the brand that in essence is being promoted.
“Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular.”
What matters is the news you can use. Practical value accounts for a big part of virality; people like to help others out, and by sharing useful news they are strengthening their bonds and relationships. To do this, ensure that the message you are spreading is the truth, is easy to see, properly framed and accessible. Make sure that the message is not too accessible, because exclusivity in deals may boost sales. Taking, for example, the corn shucking video. Where Ken Craig, an average 86-year old man explained viewers how to easily shuck corn; this video was found very useful by viewers, making it go viral very quickly. This comes to show how useful things account for word of mouth due to useful information that got passed on.
“Our desire to share helpful things is so powerful that it can make even false ideas succeed. Sometimes the drive to help takes a wrong turn.”
In this chapter, Jonah uses the example of the Trojan horse, a metaphor for an interesting and memorable story that is worth re-telling. When trying to make or tell a brand’s story, it is important to make it integral and valuable. This way as the story is retold, the company name doesn’t get lost in the anecdotal part. A great example for this is the golden palace marketing stunt that resulted in failure. Where a guy infiltrated the Olympics and belly flopped in a tutu making for a pretty remarkable story. Even though this anecdote was of high emotional impact, it had very little to do with the brand itself. This caused the story to be re-told, but the brand to get lost in the explanation.
“People don't think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.”
“The earth has music for those who listen.”