Great New Reads: Contagious

Release Date: March

Simon & Schuster; $26

A mere decade ago, Mother Nature had a monopoly on viral “marketing,” and the phrase “spreading like a virus” was a bad thing. No more. Today, going viral is akin to winning the lottery. And while we know the pathways of social transmission—YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, email, word-of mouth and other channels—we still don’t know exactly why certain products, people or behaviors catch fire while others barely simmer. Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, set out to solve the mystery. After reviewing reams of published research and conducting his own imaginative studies, Berger isolated what he calls the six principles of contagiousness: social currency, triggers, emotion, public (visibility), practical value and stories. Leaving the academic jargon in the classroom, Berger clearly explains the very human responses and psychological, social and cultural dynamics underlying those components and illustrates each with genuine examples of successes and failures. Why did people flock to a Philadelphia eatery to shell out $100 for a cheesesteak? What made Rebecca Black’s critically panned song "Friday" a YouTube sensation and pop-culture phenomenon? Why did Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent garner 100 million hits in just nine days? The answers will surprise, enlighten and educate you. Berger’s intelligent, appealing and accessible book is highly recommended reading for anyone looking to launch or increase the visibility of a business.

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