A new case study in the vein of “Freakonomics” and “The Tipping Point” addresses the “why” of viral marketing.
Did you know that if you microwave an unshucked ear of corn for eight minutes, then cut off about a half-inch of the bottom, and then remove the corn from the leaves, none of those pesky silks will get stuck to the ear? This information comes from a YouTube video that was posted by an 86-year-old man. It is the only video he’s ever made and it has almost 7.5 million views. According to studies, less than one percent of all videos on YouTube get more than a million hits. So why did this one go “viral”?
That’s exactly what Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has set out to explain. In Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Berger lays out the principles that affect the "virality" of any product, idea, or message. His study focuses heavily on the human element of social epidemics. According to Berger, “Word of mouth [advertising] is the primary factor behind 20 percent to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.”
While the Internet may be a great tool for tracking buzz for products, Berger found that only 7 percent of that buzz took place on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The rest was generated almost entirely by face-to-face interaction. So what makes people talk about something?