by Jonah Berger
6/7 stars

Why do some ads work when others don’t? What makes a video go viral? Why on earth is the McRib popular? These are questions that Berger addresses in Contagious. He posits the idea that trends and popularity are governed by six different factors in the product’s presentation to the world. He then goes on to examine these ideas through the studies he has done in relation to them. Not every element has to be in place for something to succeed, but the more you have the better your chances.

First of all, a product tends to catch on if is has social currency. Social currency means something to talk about with friends, something that boosts your social status, or even a feeling of exclusivity. It is also helpful if a product is triggered frequently. A trigger is something that you closely associate with the product. One of the examples was Kit Kat and coffee. It’s catchy and alliterative, but it is also linking Kit Kat with your daily coffee break.

Sharing is key. You want something to be more public than private. Some things are more public than others, but there are ways to boost your product’s visibility. One of the best ways to get people to think about or share something is through emotion. Not all emotions work, though. A sense of awe or happiness work really well, but sadness not so much. Anger or fear, however, those also work. If you can get a heightened response from someone on either end of the spectrum, you are more likely to get shares than if you make someone contented.

Another thing that increases sharing is to offer something of practical value. This one is self-explanatory, so I won’t delve into it. Finally, people respond strongly to stories. Stories are how humans have communicated for thousands of years. It makes sense to utilize them today as well

I would highly recommend this book to anyone even vaguely interested in trends, marketing, or psychology. It is fascinating and well written.

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