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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What causes certain products, ideas, and behaviors to be talked about more?" Here's a brilliant explanation.
According to Berger, "The first issue with all the hype around social media is that people tend to ignore the importance of offline word of mouth, even though offline discussions are more prevalent, and potentially even more impactful, than online ones." I agree while presuming to suggest that many (if not most) offline discussions occur because of an initial online...
Published 13 months ago by Robert Morris

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some great insights hobbled by terrible execution.
I love the concept of creating content that is easy to talk about and Berger breaks it down into 6 factors that contribute to creating really sharable content. These ideas are really well explained and make intuitive sense, so after the intro I couldn't wait to get into the meat of what makes these points tick and how they can be used.

Berger is passionate...
Published 11 months ago by Adverse Camber


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What causes certain products, ideas, and behaviors to be talked about more?" Here's a brilliant explanation., 16 Mar 2013
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Contagious (Paperback)
According to Berger, "The first issue with all the hype around social media is that people tend to ignore the importance of offline word of mouth, even though offline discussions are more prevalent, and potentially even more impactful, than online ones." I agree while presuming to suggest that many (if not most) offline discussions occur because of an initial online connection. "The second issue is that Facebook and Twitter are technologies, not strategies." I agree. However, they are immensely important enablers. "Harnessing the power of word of mouth, online or offline, requires understanding why people talk and why some things get talked about and shared more than others. The psychology of sharing. The science of social transmission." Berger has much of substantial value to say about both. What cause certain products, ideas, and behaviors to be talked about more? "That's what this book is about."

I was (and remain) especially interested in Berger's discussion of what he characterizes as six "ingredients" or principles embraced by an acronym: STEPPS. They are Social Currency (enable people to discuss with others what is most important to them); Triggers (prompt or remind people to discuss what could be of benefit to you); Emotion (reveal how much you care but the feelings [begin italics] must [end italics] be genuine, sincere, and authentic); Public (offer what is self-sufficient in terms of its appeal); Practical Value (much of its appeal is determined by its usefulness); and Stories (anchor the message in human experience with which others can identify). Berger suggests that these six as STEPPS (pun intended) during the process of crafting contagious content. "These ingredients lead ideas to get talked about and succeed...[however, they] are unlike a recipe because not all six ingredients are required to make a product or idea contagious. Sure, the more the better" but not every offering must possess all of them.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Berger's coverage.

o Social Transmission, and, Generating Word of Mouth (Pages 7-15)
o Six Principles of Contagiousness (21-24)
o Minting a New Type of Currency (33-36)
o A Brief Note on Motivation (57-59)
o What Makes for an Effective Trigger? (85-90)
o The Power of Awe (102-104)
o Focus on Feelings, and, Kindling the Fire with High-Arousal Emotions (112-118)
o The Psychology of Imitation, and, The Power of Observability (127-136)
o The Psychology of Deals (162-168)
o Stories as Vessels (181-189)
o Making Virality Possible (193-195)
o Epilogue (203-210)

Before concluding his brilliant book, Berger observes, "The best part of the STEPPS framework is that anyone can use it." He's convinced (and I agree) that almost anyone, including those whom he calls "regular people, offering regular products and ideas," can succeed with effective use of only one or two of these ingredients.

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the material that Jonah Berger provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of it. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how create contagious products, ideas, and behaviors that attract interest, initiate online connections, and generate offline discussions.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some great insights hobbled by terrible execution., 14 May 2013
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I love the concept of creating content that is easy to talk about and Berger breaks it down into 6 factors that contribute to creating really sharable content. These ideas are really well explained and make intuitive sense, so after the intro I couldn't wait to get into the meat of what makes these points tick and how they can be used.

Berger is passionate about having testable scientific rigour to underlie his points. This was another great hook for me - things should be proven, repeatable and solid. Sadly this is where the book falls flat - because his examples are often naive or just poor science that fails to deliver on his premise.

For example, he mentions an experiment to support the idea that people like to talk about themselves (I think we can all agree that people love to talk without the need for an experiment to prove it, but hey ho). The unforgivable sin is that he chooses an experiment that doesn't show that. The test asks people to take a paid survey and at some point they are given a few minutes of boring downtime. They can choose to wait it out, or they can choose to take less money for the survey but be allowed to talk about themselves during that downtime instead. The paper's authors claim that because their participants will sacrifice money to talk, it means that we find talking about ourselves so beguiling that we'll give up money to do it. All it really proves is that people will pay to avoid boredom. To back that up, many free to play videogames base their entire income on forcing people to wait or pay money to skip the wait. People find that BOREDOM abhorrent enough that they will pay to avoid it - making the game company millions of dollars. So this experiment doesn't back up his point, instead it makes you think he's trying to obsfucate the truth using SCIENCE. The book and his points are worse off for it.

A few pages later Berger says things should be gamified with badges because people like to have a symbol that proves they have accomplished something - and then they share it. That's fine if it's a national medal or a Nobel prize, but digital badges passed beyond saturation point years ago. My friends' Facebook walls are clogged with foursquare and candy crush badges (and whatever else the latest games are posting on their behalf). Rather than wanting to share badges and pass them on, we're becoming hyper-aware of not spamming our friends with crap - because we know how irritating they are when they clog up our social feeds. This in itself falls foul of one of his own points - people share things that other people will think is cool to give them social capital. This point is awesome and really rings true, but it directly contradicts people's real behaviour when it comes to badges.

The book is chock so full of these contradictions and shlock science that all the good stuff gets lost.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected a lot more., 21 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Contagious (Paperback)
I was not very impressed with this book at all, full of fluff and no concrete, solid information. I certainly won't put this book on the list of my favourite business books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 13 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Contagious (Paperback)
except from the clever colors its considered best by many field people. I would suggest it for marketeers and even for list to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great exposition, 3 Feb 2014
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Jonah Berger provides a compelling analysis of how word of mouth works. Full of memorable examples, laid out in prose of exemplary clarity. Great reading for anyone who is launching a new product and needs inspiration in telling their story. And for anyone interested in how society works today. It's Contagious stuff!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and useful, 29 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Contagious (Paperback)
I read this in a few nights and found it a helpful guide for how to think about 'social' content on websites and in other areas. It actually influenced the way we launched a product and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand why some ideas or content gets traction online.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read and good straightforward ideas, 27 Jan 2014
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Really like this book as it is easy to follow and has lots of good ideas and clear examples of how to apply them. Am using it for everything from my day job through to helping my partner promote his band.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 2 Nov 2013
This review is from: Contagious (Paperback)
Excellent read, a must have for anyone who wants to truly understand why some services/products/ideas go viral.

All techniques are explained really well, with many real life examples, which is highly useful if you are looking to make an idea of your own go viral!

Thanks to the author, loved the book!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review, 26 Mar 2013
This review is from: Contagious (Paperback)
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

It is only recently, with the rise of the internet, that the term `viral' has gone, well, viral. But the phenomenon of social pandemics--ideas, products and behaviors, that catch on and spread quickly and widely--has been around presumably as long as sociality itself. The phenomenon is interesting in its own right, for it says something meaningful about our psychology and how we interact. However, understanding how social pandemics work also holds great practical value, for when public service messages, charity campaigns or products and services go viral, the effect has a big impact on behavior and the bottom line.

On the mechanical side of things, understanding why something goes viral is straightforward enough: it must be something that has an impact, and that people are eager to talk about or imitate. But this just forces us to ask: what is it that makes something impactful, and ripe for sharing or imitating? We may think that our intuitions can carry us some way toward answering this. Nevertheless, getting something to go viral is certainly no easy task (as many a would-be influencer has come to find); and therefore, we may benefit from a more methodical, scientifically-minded attempt to understand the phenomenon. It is just such a project that Wharton marketing professor and writer Jonah Berger has been engaged in for much of his career, and in his new book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Berger reports on his findings.

Berger's research has revealed that there are 6 main factors that help explain social pandemics. They are 1. Social Currency; 2. Triggers; 3. Emotion; 4. Public; 5. Practical Value; and 6. Stories

When it comes to social currency, this refers to how good or important something makes us look for sharing it. We want to look bright, funny, entertaining, knowledgeable, prestigious etc. in the eyes of others; and therefore, we are more likely to mention those things that make us appear so. Certain talking points are naturally more interesting than others, just as certain characteristics are naturally more noteworthy; however, ideas, products and behaviors can all be presented or manipulated in certain ways to allow them to partake more of each (for example, a blender may not appear so interesting, but highlighting just how powerful it is by way of having it mash-up an iPod can make it appear a whole lot more interesting--and hence more worthy of sharing).

When it comes to triggers, this refers to stimuli in the environment that are associated with other phenomena, and that remind us of them. For example, peanut butter is highly associated with jelly, and so the mention of the former often `triggers' the thought of the latter. Ideas, products and behaviors that are naturally associated with triggers that we encounter more often are more likely to be brought to mind than others, thus increasing the chances that they will be both talked about and influence our behavior, and hence spread. Natural associations often work best; however, associations between unrelated items can also be established through clever advertising campaigns (such as the Kit-Kat bar being associated with a coffee break).

When it comes to emotion, this refers to the fact that phenomena that evoke highly arousing emotions, both positive and negative (such as awe, excitement, anger and anxiety), are more likely to be shared, and hence spread; while phenomena that evoke less arousing emotions (such as sadness and contentment) are less likely to be shared. The share-ability of things that evoke highly arousing emotions helps explain why Susan Boyle went viral.

When it comes to public, this refers to how prevalent something is in the public eye. Things that are highly public and visible are more likely to be talked about and imitated than those that are more private. Nevertheless, there are ways to bring private phenomena into the public sphere. For example, donating to a charity tends to be a rather private affair. However, both the Movember movement in support of colon cancer (featuring the highly conspicuous mustache), and Lance Armstrong's Livestrong campaign in support of cancer (featuring the yellow wrist-band), managed to bring charitable support into the public sphere, thus contributing to the success of these campaigns.

Practical value refers to the fact that people like to be helpful to others, and so anything that is particularly useful is more likely to be shared than that which is less so. This helps explain why so many articles on health and education matters are so widely shared, and also why an otherwise nondescript video about shucking corn (called `Clean Ears Everytime') went viral on YouTube.

When it comes to stories, this refers to the fact that people tend to enjoy telling and hearing stories. Therefore, ideas, products and behaviors that are wrapped in narratives (and especially compelling narratives) are more likely to be shared than those that are just presented as information. Google's `Parisian Love' commercial, The Dove `Evolution' commercial, and Panda's `Never say no to Panda' campaign are all good examples of products being wrapped in compelling narratives.

Berger's book is a very easy read, and he does a good job of using academic studies and interesting real-world examples to help prove his points. None of the theory here will be new to anyone who is steeped in the marketing/advertising industry (as is clear from other reviews). And much of it will even strike the rest of us as being somewhat self-evident after the fact. Nevertheless, it is not likely that many of us will have explored the subject with so much rigor, and this is valuable in itself. Altogether a very enjoyable read about an interesting subject. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com; a podcast discussion of the book will be available soon.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful Characterizations of the Ingredients for Popularity, 5 April 2013
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 122,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Contagious (Paperback)
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance." -- 1 Timothy 4:9 (NKJV)

Some nonfiction books state important ideas for the first time. Others restate what is known in terms of new information. Still other texts capture the essence of what's known in more powerful ways. Contagious falls into the last category. If you haven't studied marketing before, it's a solid place to start with understanding what attracts attention and draws more people ... especially through face-to-face or telephone-to-telephone conversations. In other words, this book is about word of mouth, a profoundly important way to market anything.

In today's world, many people are convinced that only social media drive trends. While that may happen someday, the trends start elsewhere and are echoed later in social media. Unique experiences and word-of-mouth testimonials are at the core of how such things start and spread.

If you just want a recipe for marketing, go to page 209 in the Epilogue, which succinctly summarizes the book's elements: social currency, environmental reminders, generating emotion, visibility, practical benefits, and effective stories. I found the list a little overly summarized to be completely helpful. Professor Berger's strength as a business author is explaining what the labels mean. I advise you to dig in and study his examples.

While I've been involved with business marketing as a professional for many decades (you don't want to know how many), I found his examples to be more compelling than those I recall from other fine books on the subject.

I intend to recommend this book to all my entrepreneurial students who need a stronger marketing program.

Bravo, Professor Berger!
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Contagious
Contagious by Jonah Berger (Paperback - 14 Mar 2013)
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