occurrences or environments. For
example, sales of Mars candy bars
spiked in 1997 when NASA’s Pathfinder mission explored the red planet.
3. Emotion. When we care, we share.
Berger analyzed more than six months’
worth of data from the New York Times’
“most emailed” list to discover that certain high-arousal emotions can dramatically increase our need to share
ideas—like the outrage triggered by
Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars”
video, in which he complained about
the airline’s handling of his guitar.
4. Public. People tend to follow others,
but only when they can see what those
others are doing. There is a reason why
baristas put money in their own tip jar
at the beginning of a shift. Ideas need
to be public to be copied.
5. Practical. Humans crave the opportunity to give advice and offer tips
(one reason why advocate marketing
works—your best customers love to
help out), especially if those tips and
advice offer practical value. It’s why we
“pay it forward” and help others. Sharing is caring.
6. Stories. People do not just share
information; they tell stories. And stories are like Trojan horses—vessels that
carry ideas, brands and information.
To benefit the brand, stories must not
only be shared but also relate to a
sponsoring company’s products. Thus
the failure of viral sensations like
Evian’s “Roller Babies” videos that did
little to stem the bottled water company’s 25 percent drop in sales.
There is so much that Contagious
offers marketers, making it required
reading that follows in the footsteps of
Malcolm Gladwell as well as Chip
Heath and Dan Heath. It also per-
fectly demonstrates why advocate
marketing is such a powerful idea.
Viral campaigns eschew overt market-
ing messages by cleverly tapping into
consumer wants, desires and emo-
tional needs. Similarly, advocate mar-
keting helps marketers reach audiences
through a more effective and trusted
means than direct messaging.
Advocacy is not the same as brand
loyalty—after all, I am a repeat United
Airlines customer and belong to its
loyalty program, but I do not pro-
actively promote or refer it to others.
Nor is advocacy defined by social
media—amazingly, Berger points out
that every day, the average American
consumer engages in more than 16
word-of-mouth exchanges, yet only
7 percent of those exchanges are con-
Like gift giving, advocacy is an
inherently selfish function disguised as
altruism. We share our experiences
because that act enhances our personal
and professional reputation and makes
us feel good. When marketers tap into
these very human needs, they can
reach a much broader audience with a
more genuine message than any adver-
tisement can provide.
find out more
Author Jonah Berger talks about
what led him to write Contagious
and outlines some of the book’s main
about the reviewer
Jim Williams is vice president of
marketing at Influitive, an advocate
marketing software company based
in Toronto, with offices in Boston
and San Francisco.
see for yourself
Musician Dave Carroll
created this video after
his guitar was broken
by United Airlines
baggage handlers. The
outrage triggered by
the video helped it
Evian’s “Roller Babies”
ads were a hit but did
little to improve sales.