Making it public helps behaviors spread (Contagious, part 4)

Here’s the fourth post about Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why things catch on. Berger describes six reasons that products, ideas and behaviors spread.

Making it public

Things that are public, that is, visible by others, are more likely to spread. For example, people are more likely to go into restaurants that are full than those that are empty. As my husband always says, “Crowds don’t lie.”

Berger talks about the “power of observability:” shirts are more easily imitated than socks because they’re more visible. I think that’s one reason that recycling has spread more quickly than composting. In Seattle we put the recycle bin on the curbside for pickup, where all the neighbors can see it. But the compost bin is in the backyard, where most people don’t see it. [Read more…]

Triggers: top of mind, tip of tongue (Contagious, part 2)

In my last post, I talked about the first of six STEPPS to crafting contagious content: Social Currency. Here is #2.

Triggers: Top of mind, tip of tongue

Triggers are “stimuli that prompt people to think about related things,” according to Berger. For example, if you asked people what comes to mind when you say “peanut butter,” many people would say “jelly.”

Sometimes a trigger may be an event. Berger says that sales of Mars bars spiked when NASA was working on the Mars Pathfinder mission, just because people were thinking about Mars.

Triggers have a big impact on what we buy and what we talk about. In a grocery store experiment, more people bought German wine on the days the store played German music and more French wine when it played French music.

Frequent triggers are better. [Read more…]

Contagious: book says social influence plays a key role

Why do products, ideas, and behaviors catch on? A book I read recently has some fascinating explanations. Over the next few posts, I’ll tell you some of what I found out.

There are the obvious reasons, says Jonah Berger in Contagious: Why things catch on. For example, it may be better or cheaper, or it may have better advertising. But that only explains part of it.

Social transmission is really important, according to Berger. Word of mouth is the primary factor in 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.

Think about it: I bet you’re more likely to believe a recommendation or opinion from a friend, neighbor or co-worker than an advertisement or website. A friend who says a certain restaurant is good, or a medical treatment is effective, will have more influence on me than an article or ad I read online.

Berger says that social influence is more effective than advertising because: [Read more…]