Top critical review
A Redux of Rogers' "Diffusion of Innovations," Published in 1962
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2018
I'll admit that I enjoyed reading Jonah Berger's "Contagious: Why Things Catch On." As I read it, however, it quickly became quite ironic how similar the concepts and ideas presented were nearly identical to those laid out by the late Everett "Ev" Rogers in his seminal work "Diffusion of Innovations," which was first published in 1962 and is still in print. It seemed that entire chunks of Rogers' work was lifted and repackaged by Berger with contemporary experiments, examples, and a renaming of concepts (e.g., Rogers uses the term Observability, while Berger uses Public). When I reviewed the sources in the Notes section of Berger's "Contagious" book, a citation to Rogers' work was absent.
Interestingly, Berger's academic work cites Rogers' work. In addition, a podcast interview with Berger posted on influencerinc.co notes that one of Berger's "favorite five" is the book "Diffusion of Innovations." In another interview posted on thereadinglists.com, Berger states that "'Diffusion of Innovations' was one of the first books to examine the question of why some products succeed while others fail. The author looked at everything from hybrid corn to new computer technologies." The syllabus for the course taught by Berger for The Great Courses (How Ideas Spread) includes suggested readings; none other than Everett Rogers and his "Diffusion of Innovations" appears on the list.
I earned a PhD in marketing from the University of Washington and my dissertation focused on innovation adoption and diffusion. Before entering academia, I briefly worked as a consultant. I was fortunate enough to have worked along with Rogers on one of my consulting projects with a major packaged foods company. There are simply so many things stated in Berger's book that mirror concepts that Rogers wrote about and talked about in his own work. While "Contagious" is obviously a well written book, anyone interested in the topics Berger presents must read "Diffusion of Innovations," which is far more comprehensive (and interesting) than Berger's work. "Contagious," I believe, is nothing more than a "dumbed-down" version of Rogers' work presented in a way to sell to the masses. Other than the concept of persistence, nearly everything covered by Berger was written by Rogers in 1962.