I just read an exceptional book by Jonah Berger called Contagious – Why Things Catch On. There is some key criteria needed for me to call any business/marketing book “exceptional” and this book hits them all.
1) For one a good marketing book should enlighten me to some facts and ideas that I was unaware of or seem counter intuitive. This helps me re-frame or add valuable info to my own marketing programs and those of my clients. Contagious delivers. Did you know that although traditional advertising has it’s place, that according to Jonah, “word of mouth from everyday Joes and Janes is at least ten times as effective”? I did… but it never hurts to hear it again and reinforce the incredible value in getting people talking.
2) Another indication of a successful and valuable marketing book to me is if it spurs ideas. If a book triggers heavy brainstorming about my own marketing methods, ideas for new products, or better ways to communicate the value of sticky promotional items to customers, I’m all in. I found myself constantly putting down the book and writing down ideas.
Contagious is about helping ideas spread, which really taps into what I constantly preach about the power of promotional stickers. Jonah poses this question, which obviously can be considered through a promotional product lens;
“What good is status if no one else knows you have it?”
“If people get something not everybody else has, it makes them feel special, unique, high status. And because of that they’ll not only like a product or service more, but tell others about it… Having insider knowledge is social currency.”
This book was well worth my money and time just for the chapter on Social Currency.
3) Case studies and stories not only make a book easier and more fun to read, but stories also are a more effective way to transfer information and learn. Would you rather hear (or read) a great story or sit down with a textbook or look at some advertisements? Stories, therefor are also an important part of making something contagious as well.
“One good story about a mechanic who fixed a problem without charging is worth dozens of observations and years of trial and error. Stories save time and hassle and give people the information they need in a way that’s easier to remember.” – Jonah Berger
4) Not a prerequisite for a good marketing book, but certainly worth bonus points in my mind, is mentioning stickers at all. After all, in my opinion promotional stickers are one of the best valued, guerrilla marketing tools available and in most marketing books they are ignored. They can be integral tool in helping ideas and businesses spread and catch on. Here’s an idea Jonah put forth in the book…
“Tickets usually sit in peoples pockets, but if theater companies and minor league teams could use buttons or stickers as the “ticket” instead, “tickets” would be much more publicly visible.”
Great idea, but I might also add that the stickers or buttons don’t necessarily need to replace tickets, but could be given with the ticket to encourage exposure and word of mouth long after the event. A long lasting sticker could also tap into the “insider” status and social currency which Jonah illustrates is so valuable.
Jonah also mentions “I voted” stickers in the book as an example of making the private act of voting more public;
“[the stickers] provided a ready reminder that today is the day to vote, others are doing it, and you should too.”
Overall, I came away from the book with some great ideas for my business, information that can help me better sell my product and services, and some stories that were fun, interesting, and valuable to read. So, I just had to pass it on. I highly recommend Contagious to any business owner or marketer. If you haven’t read it, grab it now at Amazon.
Related: Another great book on marketing and spreading ideas is Made To Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath. I talk about sticky marketing and their book in this Blog Post