Tuesday Morning Book Review || Contagious

BOOK-superJumboEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Contagious: Why Things Catch On (kindle version) by Jonah Berger.

While this book is mostly a business marketing book, the implications for pastors when it comes to preaching and communication are enormous. When you preach, you want your topic and ideas to spread, to “catch on.” That’s the goal of this book.

It is based on 6 ideas, what Berger calls STEPPS: Social currency, triggered, emotional, public, practically valuable, and stories. Sermons must include these for the ideas to catch on and spread.

The public chapter easily had the most to gain for a pastor when it comes to preaching. This is the application part of a sermon. One of the things Berger pointed out was that “people do not do things unless they see someone else do it. If they can’t see it, it is deemed too hard to do.” This is huge for application. Too many pastors simply preach, “Here’s what the bible says, not do it.” But how? How do you read your bible? I agree I should, but where do I start. I hear the Bible says God forgives me, but what does that look like? How do I know if I’ve experienced it?

The other part in that chapter that jumped out was to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Studies have found, “If you want to get people to not do something, don’t tell them lots of their peers are doing it.” Berger used binge drinking in college and downloading music illegally. In both cases, to fight against this, people talked about how many people binge drink or download music illegally. Giving the impression, you are being left out. Pastors do this when we share stats. We give the impression, everyone is doing it and we talk about what not to do. This doesn’t work with teenagers and it doesn’t work when those teenagers become adults. We need to show people what they should do. 

Here are a few helpful things that jumped out for pastors as they preach:

  • Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.
  • When we care, we share.
  • Emotional things often get shared. So rather than harping on function, we need to focus on feelings.
  • People like to help others, so if we can show them how our products or ideas will save time, improve health, or save money, they’ll spread the word.
  • People don’t just share information, they tell stories.
  • Stories are vessels that carry things such as morals and lessons.
  • People share things that make them look good to others.
  • Choices signal identity.
  • To get people talking, give them a way to make themselves look good while promoting your products or ideas along the way.
  • Give people a product they enjoy and they’ll be happy to spread the word.
  • When we talk to others, we’re not only communicating information, we’re also saying something about ourselves.
  • Two reasons people might share things are because they are interesting or useful.
  • Awe boosts sharing.
  • Articles that make people sad are less likely to be shared online.
  • Positive articles are more likely to be shared then negative ones online.
  • Feelings motivate people to action.
  • Seeing others do something makes people more likely to do it themselves.
  • If it’s hard to see others doing it, it’s hard to imitate it.
  • Making something more observable makes it easier to imitate.

All in all, a really helpful read if you want to have the information you share to spread.