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Contagious Named 2014 Best Book in Marketing

Word of mouth is the name of the game in marketing, but how do you get people talking—and sharing your message online and off? Jonah Berger explores the science of social transmission, revealing what kinds of concepts gain steam and popularity in our hyperactive digital age in his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, winner of the 2014 Berry-AMA Book Prize for the best book in marketing.

The annual award recognizes books whose innovative ideas have had significant impact on marketing and related fields. The prize is one of the American Marketing Association Foundation’s programs designed to acknowledge academic and practitioner marketing excellence, and is named in honor of Leonard L. Berry, a distinguished professor of marketing at Texas A&M University, and his wife Nancy F. Berry. Marketing books that have set the standard for excellence and that were published within the previous three years (2011-2013) were eligible for consideration for the 2014 award.

This year’s award winner is an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School whose research focuses on the effect of social influence on a product’s or idea’s success. Berger has served as a consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, and his work has appeared in outlets such as The New York Times and Harvard Business Review.

Berger’s book walks readers through his six principles of contagious content, which he refers to as STEPPS: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. The book provides a set of actionable techniques and insights to help readers spread their own marketing messages and other shareable content.

The 2014 Berry-AMA Book Prize winner and finalists were selected by a five-member judging panel led by Rajan Varadarajan, a distinguished professor of marketing and the Ford Chair in Marketing and E-Commerce at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, who’s currently serving as the AMA’s vice president of publications. Other team members included William Cron of Texas Christian University, Michael Krauss of Market Strategy Group, Gordon Wyner of Millward Brown, and Valarie Zeithaml of the University of North Carolina, who’s also vice president of finance/secretary for the 2014-2015 AMA board of directors.

The judging team praised the book’s thorough research, and its relevance in today’s marketing world. “This book is the most comprehensive yet in presenting multiple paths for helping an idea become contagious,” Cron says. “It is the most convincing book that any offering—your offering, for instance—can catch on.”

Adds Wyner: “The book does a great job of synthesizing a lot of information to make it useful for marketers. It draws on case examples and published research to support its main themes in a very readable way.”

Contagious was chosen from a list of finalists that also included Inside the Box, by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg; Converge: Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology, by Bob Lord and Ray Velez; and Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Marketing Dominance, by Gerard J. Tellis.