Beyond the Build


Long Haul Reading

There are a zillion books out there on business that we all think we need to read to be successful. To me, the standouts are those that help us in business and in life, like Good to Great by Jim Collins and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Who can ever forget the impact of fixing broken glass or why getting the wrong people off the bus (team) is just as important to success as teaming with the right people in an organization.

I just finished up another book that I think is a keeper: Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger.

If you’ve ever wondered why some things go viral, he claims there are six links in our minds:

  1. Social currency–Making people feel like they are “in the know.”
  2. Triggers–Introducing everyday things that remind us of an item or idea.
  3. Emotional resonance–Implanting a desire to share with others, maybe because of anger or outrage.
  4. Observability–Making something highly visible.
  5. Usefulness–Giving people practical or helpful information to share.
  6. Storytelling–Establishing a connection with a product/idea using a narrative.

Becoming top of mind or maybe even viral is not necessarily a game of chance, I learned. As I read through the chapters, I started to wonder why I liked certain things and did not like others or why I brought up certain stories with friends.

As the author explains, social currency is one of the most fundamental human motives. While it’s hard to see it in ourselves, it’s easy to spot in others. People care about what others think about them. We want to look smart rather than dumb, cool rather than uncool. We wish to be in the know, so we talk about things that make us look that way.

While I found some of the marketing tactics explained were commonly known, others did surprise me. Given the failure and success rates of publicizing about any product or service at all, it seems that anyone can use some of the basics in the book to spread the word about what they are offering, no huge advertising budget or marketing creativity required.

The author must have done something right, because I am sharing this cool read with others. To me, this is similar to lessons learned via a business conference or a “must read book.” It is about the small things one remembers, then acts upon one at a time.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.