Contagious Summary – Why Things Catch On
9 min read ⌚
In Contagious, you will learn techniques to generate buzz for your business, something that gets tougher by the day, mostly due to fierce local and global competition. It can be said that all companies, in particular, the smaller ones, count on creativity to make their case, and this book will teach you how to materialize your ideas regardless of your current standing.
Mastering just six techniques can generate countless gains. Jonah Berger’s proposal is tempting: to understand the principles that can turn your content into a contagious one, and get shared thousands of times, you must be willing to absorb new insights.
By knowing and applying the six principles of Contagion: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories, you will see with your own eyes what it takes to take your business from point A to Point B, without necessarily spending thousands of dollars to get some coverage. Want to learn the science of viral, let’s dive into it!
“Contagious PDF Summary”
Key Lesson 1: Social Currency
The most powerful marketing is the personal recommendation. Of course, we have the desire to share our thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Did you know that 40% of what people say about their personal experiences and relationships?
Do not think that talking about personal experiences and relationships is vanity. It is more than vanity. It is pleasurable. Telling about experiences and personal relationships activates brain circuits that react to rewards, similar to the pleasure of, for example, having money in your wallet or eating a large chunk of a delicious chocolate cake.
But not all personal experiences and relationships become an agenda of the day. People speak more of some thoughts than others. We share things that make us seem more fun, smart and cool, that is, we need to offer people shareable content that triggers inner notability.
But how? Simple! To provoke internal notability, offer unusual, extraordinary content worthy of note and attention. Break the pattern that people are accustomed to waiting for. You can find internal notability in any product or idea.
Think of content that will make people appear remarkable in sharing information, after all, the desire for approval is a fundamental human motivation.
How about an example? In 2002, the Executive Vice President of Snapple’s advertising agency, Marke Rubenstein, was looking for a new way to bring entertainment to its customers.
The company already used the media in a non-conventional way, as in the case of the Snapple Lady – a Snapple employee who played a new middle-aged Yorker who responded to the company’s fan mail.
The ads had positive repercussions and were very well accepted by the consumers, who were amused by the loaded accent and the humorous tone of the announcements.
Snapple’s goal was to keep the humorous tone on something similar. During a meeting, someone suggested that the bottle cap of Snapple was an idle site and that it could be used to advertise.
A failed attempt to use the bottle cap to make jokes made Rubenstein afraid to repeat the mistake, but eventually gave a different attempt. The idea was to put in fact facts and strange scientific curiosities that people did not know and that too they did not know they’d like to know in the caps.
Fact # 36, for example, said that the sound emitted by a duck did not produce an echo. It’s the kind of thing that can seem extremely volatile and without content, but that certainly generates comments and a great repercussion.
Snapple’s curiosities are remarkable, provide social currency and, even if for a short time, generate discussion and public engagement. Are you in doubt that Instagram would be full of photos of Snapple caps if the idea were launched ten years later?
Key Lesson 2: Triggers
Marketing is also spreading the love. It’s about touching true enthusiasm for products and services and therefore talking naturally about products, brands, and organizations all the time.
Did you know that American consumers mention brands more than three billion times a day? Talking about brands is almost like breathing, but you need to provide consumers with triggers that are small environmental reminders for concepts and related ideas to lead to action.
It seems complicated, but it’s not! Think about the context in which your target audience is immersed daily. Think of some message that represents a situation that people who consume, or can consume, live routinely.
Ready! You’ve linked your brand or product to a day-to-day stimulus from your consumer. Whenever he takes that action, he will remember his brand or product. Attention: do not connect your brand or product to a stimulus already associated with a lot.
The color red became irrelevant when associated with several different things, like romance, fast cars, and Coca-Cola.
Be original. Triggers lead people not only to speak but to choose and use.
Another example? Walt Disney World. The mere sound of these three words awakens the most varied emotions in anyone who hears it. It is a magical world for children, an adventure for the young, a return to adulthood for children and a business class for entrepreneurs.
So much so that The Disney Way of Enchanting Customers is a world-famous book in business and the company itself is a benchmark in customer service and user experience.
However, when comparing Disney with Honey Nut Cheerios – a breakfast cereal very common in the United States that appeals to various audiences – the entertainment company loses points in the word-of-mouth. Daily consumption of cereal triggers are much more frequent than the holiday destination triggers.
Key Lesson 3: Emotions
When we care, we share! Build your content filled with excitement. Traditional marketing works with information. Information, purely, does not motivate people to share. Emotions, yes! They connect and strengthen relationships.
In your content, select high excitement emotions that make people act. Positive Emotions: Always animate and inspire by showing that people can make a difference. Negative emotions make people haunted or angry.
Haunting people is not so difficult. The word haunting may seem negative when it comes to a person, but it is much simpler than it looks. We can use as an example the winner of Britain’s Got Talent, Susan Boyle.
Old-fashioned clothes, looking as if they were 20 years older than their real age and the timid way of walking, caused a pejorative sensation in the audience of one who was witnessing a person completely displaced in an environment that did not belong to him.
When asked about her dreams, Susan stammered and replied that she wanted to be a professional singer. The lack of similarity of her with the most famous singers of the time caused an even greater astonishment in the audience, which came to see the competitor as a joke.
She also chose a particularly difficult song. I dreamed the dream is part of the classic musical Miserables, which makes it well known and recognized complex.
But Susan’s voice made the entire audience silent for three whole minutes, in which she performed flawlessly the beautiful track that rocked the musical. The audience’s unbridled crying and excitement contributed to the shame of the contestant exalting herself further, making her leave the stage the moment she finished singing.
That proves that she also felt out of place for not being equal to the other participants, but the fact that she got a standing ovation from the audience and jurors proves that haunting is an important part of sharing and haunting people is something positive when done right.
Forget the sadness. It leads to passivity, with 16% less possibility of sharing compared to pleasant emotions.
Key Lesson 4: Public
“Monkey sees, the monkey does”. Often people imitate those around them. By observing others doing some things, people become more prone to do too. Why does it happen? Our tendency to imitation reduces our uncertainties. We assume that if others are doing it, it must be a good idea.
That is one of the principles of viralization and the new creation of trends. Going back a bit to the past, we can use the Hotmail case of success. In a universe where your e-mail box should be accessed through the platform of a provider tied to a single computer, an e-mail service that could be accessed on any machine was a tremendous revolution.
Basing the service on a browser was a huge breakthrough for digital communication and a freedom for the user. It is no wonder that the day chosen for the launch of the service was the Independence Day of the United States, certainly the largest possible representation of freedom for an advertisement of the time.
Therefore, the social currency soon gained space among users. Those who used Hotmail liked to talk about the service, as this gave them social status and a certain differentiation among others. Being free is also a factor of extreme relevance, as the Practical Value has gained space in the midst of so many benefits offered to users.
In contrast, emails sent through Hotmail accounts carried a message in the footer that said: “Get your private email for free at www.hotmail.com.” That generated Social Validation and made users feel good about sending an email containing the message.
Just over a year ago, 8.5 million subscribers and several million dollars more in market value, Microsoft acquired Hotmail for $400 million. The strategy is similar to the one adopted by Apple when offering as the default email signature the message “Sent from my iPhone.”
The Social Coin is of extreme value and causes several users to opt to keep the default signature instead of customizing it with a signature of their own. Ideas that advertise themselves are excellent triggers and, when well executed, can yield absurd values.
Key Lesson 5: Practical Value
Practical Content is content with relevant information that can help others. We share these contents to be useful to others, after all, the direct opportunities to help people are rare nowadays. Practical Content is an easy and quick way to help, which makes us feel good.
Viral videos are proof that Practical Value is an important part of gaining viewers and word of mouth. An excellent example is Ken Craig, an 86-year-old man who turned over a video about peeling corn.
The efficient manner in which you thrashed the spike without the hair of the corn clinging to it made Ken have more than 5 million views in his video, which was shared solely and exclusively for a Practical Value. People like to pass on information that they find useful and practical.
The small everyday life hacks are of extreme practical value and very shared by those who want to help others.
Other information with great practical value is the offer. By sharing offers, we are helping each other to save money. Emphasize the incredible value of the offers, taking into account scarcity and exclusivity, that is, make the offer appear valuable and have limited time to obtain.
One more trick to make the offer seem irresistible is to apply the Rule of 100: High-value products tend to be better accepted in bids if it is done in percentage and relative values.
In low-value products, the absolute structuring of the discount gives more visibility to the offer, and this tends to have a greater acceptance.
Key Lesson 6: Stories
Entertain, engage and transmit messages. These are the main characteristics of Stories. They have a beginning, a middle and an end, and if the story slaps the person still in the beginning, he will want to know everything else.
The original form of entertainment remains as part of our culture, even with so many other ways to have fun in the 21st Century, as well as being a quick and easy way to get a lot of knowledge in a lively and engaging way.
How about building a narrative that will be transported from one person to another, talking about a product or idea? There are great examples of ideas and stories passed down for generations without losing the main concept.
The Subway sandwich network, for example, has seven options with less than six grams of fat in its menu. But the information has no context if it is transmitted without a background. So you need to build a trojan horse for your information, something that gets people looking for that reference during a conversation.
An interesting way to do it is to build a narrative, a true storytelling that carries together an idea or a product. Controversial Benetton campaigns or brand-driven viral infections are excellent examples.
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“Contagious Quotes”People don't think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride. Click To Tweet Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular. Click To Tweet Why does it matter if particular thoughts or ideas are top of mind? Because accessible thoughts and ideas lead to action. Click To Tweet Contagious content is like that—so inherently viral that it spreads regardless of who is doing the talking. Click To Tweet Even in cases where most people are doing the right thing, talking about the minority who are doing the wrong thing can encourage people to give in to temptation. Click To Tweet
You have met the six principles of Contagion: Social Coin, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories. They can lead to surprising results. So let’s recall these principles quickly?
- Social Currency: what we say influences how others see us. The messages we deliver are crafted to deliver the desired impressions.
- Triggers: they are stimuli that incite people to think of related objects, products or brands.
- Emotion: contagious content that transmits and provokes sensations.
- Public: people observe and imitate attitudes.
- Practical Value: People like to help others. Why not showcase products or ideas that will save time, improve health, or save people money?
- Stories: Engage your idea, product or brand in a narrative.
Just a regular guy with a knack for writing, and digital marketing.
Emir is the Head of International and SEO at 12Min. In his spare time, he loves to meditate and play soccer.