After reading a few reviews (New York Times and Storyboard), I had a pretty good grasp of the principals in Contagious: Why Things Catch On, but I still wanted to buy it and make sure I didn’t miss anything. So to unwind from the holiday rush, I curled up with Contagious for a long day of reading this well-developed and organized book. The author, Jonah Berger, must be an excellent teacher and now we can all be his students in a way. Surely entrepreneurs, marketing professionals, and anyone who’s curious why a video on shucking corn goes viral will benefit from this book.
Here’s an example of the interesting research that Berger lays out so clearly. Researchers Adrian North, David Hargreaves, and Jennifer McKendrick examined how the background music in supermarkets affects buying behavior. They discovered that: “When French music was playing, most customers bought French wine. When German music was playing most customers bought German wine. By triggering consumers to think of different countries, the music affected sales.” You may have guessed as much, but now you know there is research to back it up! And I’m guessing this chapter called “Triggers” will make the biggest impact on our world moving forward.
Skipping to the Epilogue, in the book’s final pages Berger speaks ever so briefly about the initial spark needed for something to take off. He says that the spark is only one small part of the story; that no one would claim that the size of the fire depends on the initial spark. Good point, but still, the spark must be there. There is nothing without the spark. And more sparks may be needed to advance each STEPP (Berger’s acronym for the principles that make things go viral). I am grateful for STEPP, its practicality and guidance, but as a creative professional, I must say that the creativity and ingenuity needed in the first place is critical, and, thankfully, still somewhat mysterious.