Contagious is the newest book that tries to answer the age-old question: why do some things catch on, while others…. not so much. The book, written by Jonah Berger, takes aim at The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s blockbuster work about the persuasive effect of super influentials. Berger observes that The Tipping Point’s premise – that the support of super influentials determines adoption of ideas, products or causes – is based on a series of stories, not empirical data. For example, Gladwell explains a sudden resurgence in popularity for Hush Puppies shoes to Manhatten trendsetters who began wearing the shoe. Contagious is based on data and identifies a different set of drivers for the influential process, including relying on social media.
The question we are pondering at OnPR is – which Influential argument works best to persuade US about the best source of influence? Is a logical, data driven source more persuasive? Or do we respond better to personal or dramatic stories that illustrate a concept?
For us, the answer is both. People relate to stories and anecdotes that they can relate to on an individual basis. Others are not swayed by drama; they only want facts to support a position. Some people are right in the middle and want both data and facts. We advise our clients that the best communication and persuasion strategies are those that appeal to both logical and emotional motivations of their audiences.
As a result, we will keep both Contagious and The Tipping Point on our bookshelves and both strategies in our quiver.