Shh. Don’t tell how to make people talk about your brand

Nonfiction book review in marketing

Contagious. How to build word of mouth in the digital age
By Jonah Berger / Simon & Schuster UK LTD, 2014. P. 244. £11.00 ISBN: 978-1-47111-170-9

From Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, John Berger has been investigating how products, services, brands and ideas can be at the centre of people’s conversation. It is the word-of-mouth, a marketing technique to make people to talk about a brand, a restaurant, a product. Contagious is one of Berger’s books, which stand for this technique and how it will impact on any company’s profitability.

On the menu. Berger launches his STEPPS model from which word – of – mouth is all about. It stands for social currency, trigger, emotion, public, practical value and story. By bringing on the table a series of anecdotes, the professor shows to the readers how every ‘station’ makes a product the centre of common conversation, online or offline.

When Berger talk about Social currency. Simply, he points out how to make remarkable a product, idea or brand. This is just to make remarkable selling points by using the mystery and the surprise effects. Besides, social recognition seems to be at the core at this point: people listen to other for recommendations, because people follow what looks “cool” and worthy to be commented.

Why people talk about the product or brand more than others? One word: stimuli. The key is to make people associate brands or products to sights, smells, sounds. The senses play a crucial role because they trigger the association between perceptions and thoughts. It is what Berger names “inducted transference”, that is to make people associate the brand or product with a sense and/or meaning.

Emotionality couldn’t be out of this story. Berger tells us about the marketing benefits by using the theories based on psychological arousal. Awe and happiness, as well as anger and anxiety impact on people’s sensitivities and make the audience remember the brand/product. Somehow, it is the rule of “when we care, we share” (p. 96).

Becoming Public the content is another Berger’s strategy. A viral content should be on the stage and accessible to be imitated by the collective, because at the end of the day, people do what others do. Using smartly the joy of the neologism, the author impress the readers by telling us about the “social proof”, that is people tend to imitate the behaviour of their peers because “People assume that the longer the line, the better the food must be.” (p. 131).

The value of your product or service must be practical. It is Practical Value, when the content is useful, because it carries practical information. It is the how to do it tactic. Based on the “prospect theory”, Berger suggests taking advantage of the point references people have on their imaginary and show deals as valuable as possible.

The last homework for marketers would be the Story. As the Greek story – the Trojan horse, a successful story is when it has a practical information or teaches something to people. The content should make people talk about the message because it is exchangeable, public and emotional.

In overall, Contagious is a great book for whom is curious about how videos are viral, or message or TV advertising. By this book, Berger contributes with vast information available for specialist and practitioners.

If you like the book review, subscribe to receive updates or please feel free contact  me