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Book Review of Contagious by Jonah Berger

Contagious_BookCoverWhy do somethings catch on, while others don’t? Why are some stories and songs more popular than others? Why is rumor and negativity more contagious than facts and positivity?

Jonah’s book, Contagious, highlights some of such viral content, and factors that help make an idea big / sell-able and infectious.

The six principles of contagiousness shared by Jonah focus on the simplicity, effectiveness and credibility of ideas that make it viral. Social Currency (social relevancy, resonance), Triggers (stimuli that prompt people to think about related things), Emotion (evoking connect in terms of emotion), Public (creating behavioral residue that sticks and is visible), Practical Value (monetary value and otherwise) – all wrapped in to Stories (creatively shared for the viral effect).

Smartly, the six principles form the acronym – STEPPS, and showcase “the underlying psychological and sociological processes behind the science of social transmission”.

Diving into each of the principles, as separate chapters, Jonah takes you on a splendid journey of different brands that made it big, solely on “personal recommendation”. Remember: people share things that make them look good to others.

Rich with stories as examples, the book is a good read for anyone and everyone, who aims to be viral in this digital age. As long as the content is useful, worthy, and smartly put using one or more STEPPS, you can harness social influence and be contagious!


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An Audience With Anuja

Advertising, writing books, being a family person, Anuja Chauhan has been there, done that, and with much elan and grace. We get talking to the lovely lady to see what makes her tick.

Before we get down to writing, tell us something about your career in copywriting at  JWT.
I loved it! It never felt like working…and to think I drifted into it completely randomly! I can’t  imagine any other career where I could’ve worked so happily and for so long…It was only when you  got more senior and it becomes more about ‘managing’ and meetings and being politically correct  than about the actual writing that things began to suck a litte…the pure creative side was always a  total blast.

When, where and how did writing novels happen to you?
I had a small epiphany at some typical, out-of-control, fifty-crises-brewing-at-once Pepsi shoot. That  if I wrote novels I would have total control. I wouldn’t have to worry about variables like research,  and celebrity tantrums and budgets and the weather and anal film directors and exacting clients. I wouldn’t have anybody to blame but myself if the end product sucked. I needed to do that -because when you can blame other people, you have a safety net of sorts, you know?  Writing novels would be flying without a safety net. Scary but exhilarating.

What brought about the ideation of your first book Zoya Factor? Being your first book, what were some of the things you had to struggle with?
The idea came from something that actually happened to a friend of mine. People started thinking she was lucky for a certain team. I found the premise fascinating. Imagine if you were a lucky charm – what a roller coaster ride that would be! The tension – the sense of responsibility. And this was three years before Paul the Octopus.

The language in your book is verbose and full of zest? Are you like this in your real life too?
I can’t say really…

Coming to your second book, Battle for Bittora, the first one dealt with cricket, one of India’s biggest passions. What made you choose politics for the second one, apart from it being another passion in India?
I saw huge scope for humour, irony and idealism in Indian politics. And also, I thought is was a very natural (though unexploited) setting for a love story.

Did you ever feel the burden of a hit debut while writing your second novel?
Yes! I did a bit. I had no such worries while writing Zoya. With Bittora though, I did feel a little self-important and frozen with performance anxiety initially.

How much of your stories are inspired from real life and how much do you devote to research?
I do a lot of research – but I really research the feel more, the mood, the emotions, rather than actual dates-and-dry facts. I lift a lot from life as well, but you know, I mix and mash rather than cut and paste, so nothing is ever replicated in its real-life form.

With which book did you have more fun while writing- Zoya Factor or Battle for Bittora?
I had fun writing both. Really. I was a bit more tense with Bittora of course, because of ‘expectations’

What’s your remedy when faced with writer’s block?
Do something else. Put it away for a bit.
Did you have any second thoughts about how your stories and characters turned out  after the book went to press?
No not really – people said Zoya was a bit too long, but I never really felt that. I still don’t.

Which authors do you think have played an important role in shaping up your writing  style and technique?
Well, I love Vikram Seth. I love his aunties and hot heroes and witty, insightful asides. I love Lucy Montgomery ( Anne of Green Gables) and Meg Cabot ( Princess Diaries.)  And I love JK Rowling.

Tell us something about yourself that no tabloid knows.
I am attempting to grow my nails so I can acquire a 3300 rupee French manicure!
You were with JWT, one of the top ad agencies for more than 10 years and held the VP & Executive director position. You have a successful writing career and you’re raising three kids. What superpowers are you keeping secret from us?
I have a fabulous cook/housekeeper. She bought up my husband, his brother and sister and all my three kids. Her name is Eppa Matthias. I put up with all her attitude (and she dishes out a lot) but I’ll never let her leave me!

Apart from writing, what do you love and enjoy doing?
I love painting furniture, walls, cycles anything! I love chatting with my (or anybody’s) kids. I can knit very good socks and I’m a mean rip-sticker!

What next do we see from the desk of Anuja Chauhan?
That’s a secret, sorry, but I’m working hard at the moment!

Which authors would you recommend from amongst your contemporaries?
I really enjoyed The Immortals of Meluha.

Any tips that you’d like to share with budding writers?
Yes, just write. Write a whole book.Then only worry about agents and publishers and advances!  Talk less, write more.

Quick 5

Nikhil or Zain : Zain!
Favorite book:
A Suitable Boy
Superboss or Supermom :
I suck at being both actually 😦
Favorite holiday destination :
Anyplace vibrant and beachy – Goa/Maldives/Australia
Favorite soul food :
Hot Maggi noodles with extra mirchi

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