Jonah Berger’s “Contagious” Catches on at Just a Book

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This week we were very excited to welcome Jonah Berger as our featured author at our fifth annual book club for marketers, Just a Book. Over the past month, we invited Chicago marketers to join us in reading his best-selling book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” which culminated in a meet and greet and Q&A session with Jonah at the American Writers Museum.

“Contagious” combines groundbreaking research with real-life stories to reveal how to strategically create infectious content and design messages that people will share. Prior to the event with Jonah, we broke down some key concepts from the book, including how to effectively harness social influence and word-of-mouth to create viral content.

At the event, attendees received their own copy of “Contagious” and were able to hear from Jonah himself on the book’s concepts. Here are a few key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Word-of-mouth is still important. As marketers, sometimes it feels like we have to constantly change our strategies to keep up with evolving technology and consumer trends. However, Jonah reminds us that we don’t have to change everything. According to a McKinsey & Company study, word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of traditional advertising, and each dollar spent on word-of-mouth goes ten times as far. Concerned that word-of-mouth is only effective for the B2C industry? Think again. Jonah explains word-of-mouth is equally, if not more important, to B2B businesses due to the fact that 91% of leads in B2B come from existing business, which drives word-of-mouth. If you can turn your current clients into advocates of your brand, they’ll do the promotional work for you.
  • Social media is important, but not everything. Having a strong presence on social is essential in today’s world, but Jonah warns that social media marketing can’t stand alone – instead, it needs to be supported by a more robust strategy. No matter how many friends or followers you have, there’s no guarantee that all those people will actually see your content. It’s far more important to make sure you’re engaging with the followers you have, rather than solely trying to increase follower count for the sake of having a high number on your profile. Jonah reminds us that social metrics don’t drive behavior, and that what matters more is engaging the right customers through word-of-mouth conversations offline.
  • Top-of-mind means tip-of-tongue. In “Contagious,” Jonah explains that one way to generate word-of-mouth about your business is to link a trigger to your product/service/brand in order to stay top-of-mind. Last night, Jonah gave a great example of Geico’s well-known “Hump Day” advertisement, where a camel announces to its office on Wednesday that it’s hump day. Jonah revealed that the term “hump day” acted as a trigger for Geico, and that by linking their brand to this recurring trigger, Geico saw a major spike in shares of their advertisement on Wednesdays. If you’re successfully able to trigger your audience at the right time, your brand will be top-of-mind for consumers and thus tip-of-tongue in conversations.
  • Make people feel like insiders. Choice is a form of communication: what we talk about and share is a signal of who we are. Therefore, according to Jonah, we’re more likely to share things that make us seem cool, smart, special or in the know. As marketers, we can use this to our advantage by creating content that will make our audience feel interesting and like insiders so they’ll be more compelled to share it.

Once again, thank you to everyone who attended this year’s Just a Book. Our goal with this event has always been to get smart marketers in the same room to discuss how to move business forward, and this year proved to be no different. We hope to see you again next year!


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