Berger, J. (2013). Contagious: Why Things Catch On. New York: Simon & Schuster
I always find the topic of what makes something go “Viral” or in this case “Contagious” actually catch on fascinating. If you were to tell someone 15 years ago that a video had gone “Viral”, they would have looked at you in confusion. But now, a video or a hashtag spreading like wildfire is a common occurrence. With the globe connected and expression enabled to reach many in mere seconds to a wide audience, it seems only natural that this is possible. Netflix television shows, Taco shops for Taco Tuesday, mundane cleaning products or fan fiction jokes are all subject to become “Contagious”.
My primary praise for this book is that I actually learned something and I was not fed just theory. It seemed to me to be the sequel to “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, except with more data. The scope was expanding as well to go beyond the sphere of social influence. An area particularly of interest was “Triggers”. Berger (2013) challenges us to “think about whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environments of the target audience” (p.79). The discussion of social influence was modernized to discuss the impact of social media. I was astonished to learn that while “word of mouth is the primary factor between 20 percent to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions” (Berger, 2013, p.7), that “only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online” (Berger, 2013, p.11). Perhaps in some cases good old in person conversation is best when it comes to influence.
My main criticism of the books was one particular line in which Berger (2013) states that most people would prefer to be “cool than geeky” (p.22). As a geek myself witnessing the tsunami of geek culture becoming mainstream over the past decade, I disagree with his statement. Being cool and a geek can be perfectly synonymous with each other. Clearly he has never been to Comic Con where hundreds of thousands of people (geeks and non-geeks alike) are crammed into a compacted space to get a glimpse of the stars from the television shows that have become “Contagious”.
If you are an up and coming vlogger, blogger, marketer of a product or someone just trying to find a marketing niche, this book will serve as a good inspiration. It would be foolish to promote an item based on just intuition. It is stronger to come armed with data and an outlined map of the areas to hit upon for success. In the age in which competition is fierce, an item becoming “Contagious” can make or break its success.