Jonah Berger's, "Contagious–Why Things Catch On"

The other day at work, and somehow, we hosted a discussion with author Jonah Berger and his new book, Contagious–Why Things Catch On.

All employees received an email briefly highlighting the accomplishments of Mr. Berger, everything from his latest work (a New York Times bestseller) to being a professor for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. I didn't know anything about him or his book but I figured it was an hour and a half out of the work day for me so why not.

He was the best presenter I've seen in quite some time: engaging, witty, thought-provoking. Turns out his new novel is about marketing/advertising, but not in the traditional sense. He seemed to present more the psychological aspect of the business, not necessary the numbers and the statistics. Berger argues that good advertising and marketing tells stories because people want stories, something emotional to relate to on a personal level. This delighted me, seeing that my own, personal design philosophy gravitates towards the emotional allure that design can have. It made me hopeful that maybe I have some of the right ideas that I can use in some better-suited career down the line. I find myself becoming more and more interested in using design to provide opportunities for its audience to reconnect and engage. I'm trying to figure out if, for me, that means more of an advertorial track (in a non-traditional sense) or what.

Aside from investing a personal interest in Berger's talk, I was particularly interested in how his advice could apply to my job. Being that I work at a newspaper, we make most of our money through advertising. There's countless arguments for why print is dead, particularly newspapers. And yeah, sure, I get it. But I hate when people say it; I wish instead their argument would be, "Print is dead–in the way that we know it." The difference being that one embraces technology and asks how it can either support print or how the two can marry to provide a complete product. I see so much potential, both from an advertising and marketing standpoint for these two platforms to complement each other.

One point that Berger made during his discussion was the idea of putting a "peanut butter with your jelly." He says that when seeing the phrase, "______________ and jelly", peoples' minds immediately pair the two together. Berger argues that the same has to be true for any audience. Give them a piece that automatically conjures up imagery/thoughts of the other.

To me, newspapers should also work this way. Newspapers should not be synonymous with print only, and yes,  I do think that if the newspaper industry is going to survive, it has to embrace a digital platform that complements its print counterpart, not replace it.