Sunday, February 17, 2013


Word-of-mouth often leads to popularity, or notoriety. It is much more effective than any form of traditional advertising and it seriously impacts the products people buy, the way they behave, and what they discuss.

So, how do you get it? What makes people talk about certain subjects rather than others? What makes some online content go viral? According to marketing professor Jonah Berger, the answer came be found in the psychology of social transmission.

Berger and his colleagues in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania studied hundreds of products, analyzed thousands of news articles, and tracked millions of purchases in an effort to understand why people talk about and share certain things more than others with the objective of helping marketers By applying this knowledge to their own products and ideas, marketers craft "contagious" content that is more likely to spread.

"We noticed that the same six 'ingredients' or principles were often at work," Berger explains. "Six key STEPPS, as I call them, that cause things to be talked about, shared, and imitated."

Berger's six STEPPS to contagiousness are delineated as Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories. Each chapter of his book, Contagious  focuses on one of these principles with research and examples showing how individuals, companies and organizations have applied them to help popularize their products and ideas.

Berger's book has some clear and important implications for anyone selling something, whether it is broccoli at a farmers market or an e-book online. By understanding why people talk about and share things, you can make your own product more contagious.

Why Things Catch On
by Jonah Berger
Simon & Schuster, 2013

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