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“Why Things Catch On?” a Book by Jonah Berger Essay

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Updated: Oct 1st, 2020

The core theme of the analyzed book is the concept of contagiousness in the economic context. In other words, Jonah Berger tries to point out the factors that make one product or service more popular with customers than another. Thus, the book elucidates various mechanisms that contribute to the efficient marketing.

Jonah Berger suggests discussing the principal determinants of contagiousness: social currency, triggers, emotional and public aspects, practical value and stories. A particular emphasis is, likewise, put on the examination of the social transmission theory and the importance of its basic element – “the word of mouth”. The theory is, in fact, the underpinning rationale, upon which Berger relies throughout the book.

Thus, the author argues that in order to ensure successful promotion of a product or service, it is essential to make the targeted public not only aware but interested and eager to speak about it with their friends and family. As a result, he suggests implementing a six-step strategy aimed at encouraging “the word of mouth” mechanism instead of employing the customary advertising techniques.

The novelty of this idea resides in the fact that Berger offers a new vision of advertising. In other words, he does not directly criticize the core basis of the classic marketing, though he provides some fresh insights on the alternative solutions. On the whole, he shifts the focus from making the targeted audience informed to making it speak about the product. In such a manner, a customer turns into the major promoter. Hence, the author gives a valuable lesson on how to carry out efficient, yet, cost-effective marketing and product promotion.

The key strength of Burger’s argument in favor of the “words of mouth mechanism” resides in the fact that this lesson is not a novelty for the readers; yet, it might turn out that people would never analyze these techniques in the framework of marketing and advertising. Thus, for instance, it is evident that the majority of people depend on the opinion of their friends and families rather than on what a particular advertising campaign claims.

In the meantime, little has been said regarding how this finding can be applied to improving the marketing strategies. What Burger offers is simple and evident; meanwhile, it is different from what the classic marketing theory implies. As a result, Burger’s lesson is twice valuable as it makes it possible to become a successful marketing specialist by making a good use of the personal experience as a customer.

The next strength of Berger’s argumentation that should be essentially pointed out is the practical application of the offered recommendations. Otherwise stated, each time the author suggests implementing this or that method, he necessarily shows how it can be possibly done in practice. Thus, for instance, while speaking about the social currency, Burger explains all the mechanisms of its functioning in details. At this point, the triggers of contagiousness that Burger describes seem to be particularly simple to apply to practice.

Hence, for instance, it becomes evident why some advertising campaigns fail despite the fact that they seem to be well-planned at the first sight. It becomes clear that in order to ensure that the performed advertising strategy reaches its target, it is essential that either habitual or natural triggers are employed. Looking back to the practical experience, it might seem surprising why no one would ever suggest this simple tactic before.

The alignment of practice to theory is very important. There is a wide variety of business literature that offers elaborate marketing theories but does not give any guideline for their implementation. Thus, a beginning entrepreneur needs to digest a large scope of information and generate his or her ideas regarding its practical employment. For example, Burger’s speculations upon psychological arousal are not directly aligned with the practical use at the first sight.

Meanwhile, the author’s skillful reference to real-life experience shows that the best way to engage the targeted audience emotionally is to ensure that the advertised content acquires some astonishing or amusing connotations. It is a common truth; yet, Burger is the first to show its relevance to the marketing field. From this perspective, Burger’s book has an evident competitive advantage – all the ideas that he offers are supported by the relevant hints on their realization.

The second advantage of Burger’s “business lesson” resides in the fact that the author’s book is full of vivid examples and real-life illustrations. On the face of it, the book can be characterized as “entertaining reading” rather than a piece of a consistent business guide. In the meantime, the ideas that it elucidates are well-grounded and almost scientific. Thus, it is the narrative’s simplicity and clarity that creates an impression of “entertainment”.

Burger’s examples are not the formal references to the official statistics but the description of some life experience that every reader is likely to have once had. Hence, for instance, when Burger refers to the example of Crest’s advertising, one will necessarily think of dozens of similar examples. As a result, Burger’s lessons and recommendations are quickly understood and, most importantly, easily remembered. Practice shows that any theory, whatever complex it might be, should be necessarily accompanied by the relevant examples. The quality of the latter determines largely the theory’s acquisition.

In terms of weaknesses that Burger’s argumentation has, it should be noted that the author mainly refers to the examples of “failures” while trying to explain the mechanisms of a particular technique. Otherwise stated, Burger manages to illustrate what should not be done and explain what should be done.

Meanwhile, he fails to illustrate the latter with real-life examples. Except for the restaurant case that the author describes at the very beginning, the book contains little evidence of the effective implementation of Burger’s ideas in practice. It would be useful to speak about those advertising campaigns that reached the targeted aim following Burger’s recommendations in order to adopt their positive experience.

Therefore, Burger provides a consistent and clear guideline for improving advertising techniques and methods. The author recommends focusing on the “word of mouth” mechanism in order to make more people interested in the proposed product or service. In such a manner, the book contains a useful lesson for those who search for alternative promotion strategies. The knowledge retrieved from this book might be effectively applied to practice.

In order to do that, marketing experts need to focus on making their offers worth speaking about. Otherwise stated, instead of pointing out the key benefits of the product, that are normally common for other offers in this product line, it is more critical to put a particular emphasis on those aspects that might seem interesting for the targeted audience and encourage it to discuss the product with others.

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""Why Things Catch On?" a Book by Jonah Berger." IvyPanda, 1 Oct. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/why-things-catch-on-a-book-by-jonah-berger/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Why Things Catch On?" a Book by Jonah Berger." October 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-things-catch-on-a-book-by-jonah-berger/.


IvyPanda. ""Why Things Catch On?" a Book by Jonah Berger." October 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-things-catch-on-a-book-by-jonah-berger/.


IvyPanda. 2020. ""Why Things Catch On?" a Book by Jonah Berger." October 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-things-catch-on-a-book-by-jonah-berger/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '"Why Things Catch On?" a Book by Jonah Berger'. 1 October.

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