Contagious: Why Things Catch On, published in 2013, is a New York Times bestseller written by Jonah Berger, a young marketing professor at Wharton. The book is an easy and enjoyable read designed for the mass market. The introduction of the book holds the thesis of the book, which is the discovery that there are six common ingredients, or principles, behind viral ideas and products that he has studied. The rest of the book goes into each of the six ingredients with mostly anecdotal stories. This isn’t an intellectually rigorous book where each line is meaningful (there are fillers and questionable assertions), and offers little in the way of original ideas. However, if approached with a “I’m reading this for fun” attitude, you will enjoy the experience and walk away with enough to justify its purchase.
The six principles, as I interpret them:
- Social currency — how it make people look when they share the idea (i.e. status and virtue signaling)
- Triggers — things that prompts the recall of the idea, so that it is top of mind (i.e. the idea has to connect with people’s daily realities)
- Emotion — how the ideal makes people feel (i.e. the idea has to trigger a meaningful from the entire human being, not just the rational mind)
- Public — easy to observe, not hidden
- Practical values — inherent usefulness or value
- Stories — how the idea fits a broader narrative