contagious bookWharton professor, Jonah Berger, originally became interested in the psychology of human behavior because of everyday things like people watching. He found he favored commercials over programs on TV. After reading the book, The Tipping Point, a best seller by Malcom Gladwell, he wanted to learn more.  Specifically, he was intrigued by  why people did the things they did, shared them and recommended them to others. Was is personal? Was it the humor? And why did so many people share things with kittens in them?

After years of studying and tagging newspaper stories, mostly viewed YouTube videos, and other popular products and brands, he developed a breakdown of 6 principles (his STEPPS) for why each became that way.

Jonah spoke at the recent Shop.org Summit in Chicago and shared both valuable information with marketers as well as  cool stories. He also explained why he dressed a certain way (like a professor), so we would like him.  Social currency is one primary reason people share content on social sites, but it is also why they share them in the face to face as well. While only 7 percent of things are currently shared across social networks online, Jonah made the argument that a whole lot of other things happen “offline.” As such, the most valuable marketing technique is a personal recommendation. It’s why guerilla marketing and word of mouth marketing are so important.

Improve the Customer Experience

To that end, Jonah shared 800 copies of his new book Contagious Why Things Catch On.  Watching the “contagious” behavior of conference attendees grabbing the books was in itself a social sharing of sorts.  But in reading the book on the flight home,  I found that Berger makes some good arguments for why products and services stick – it’s not only social currency. There are triggers, emotions, visibility, value and stories. Would someone want to tell a story about the “experience” they had with your product? Why are kittens so popular on the internet? When you hear hump day – do you think of the Geico camel? And when you see someone wearing white headphones, what brand do you think of first?

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Contagious, its an easy read and the marketing principles make sense. And if you find yourself at the secret bar he mentions in the book, please don’t tell.