Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger – Summary

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger - Summary
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Ever wondered why some ideas and products get talked about more than others? How do some things go viral? What is the science and psychology behind word of mouth?

Jonah Berger’s answer to that is to be contagious. Jonah Berger’s broken it down into a series of 6 steps to crafting contagious content. It’s STEPPS actually.

Social Currency

Just like the clothes we wear and the cars we drive, what we talk about influences
How others see us. This is called social currency.

The things we say and share affect the way others see us. It’s the idea of status by association.

To leverage social currency into our contagious content we must first be remarkable.


Triggers are Top of mind Tip of tongue.

One of the most viral videos of 2011 was Friday by Rebecca Black. It was dubbed as one of the worst songs ever but was widely viewed.

If it was a really bad song, then how was it viewed so often? It’s because of cues and triggers. After some analysis, the song had a spike in traffic on you guessed it Friday. The song was linked to the day of the week.

Another genius marketing example was Kitkat and Coffee. Kitkat linked itself to coffee, which is consumed frequently. So every time you think of coffee, Kitkat comes to mind.


Sharing emotions helps us connect and also helps in maintaining and strengthening relationships.

Emotions can be categorized into positive and negative. We share emotions that arouse the recipient the most. That’s why Funny content is shared because it has high arousal.

Awe Boosts sharing and sadness decrease it. People share positive things more than negative. Emotions spread the word.

Canadian Musician Dave Carroll had a negative experience with United Airlines the Baggage handlers were casually throwing bags through the air.

After pleading, to no avail, he made his way to the baggage claim to see his worst nightmare come true: his $3500 guitar was smashed to pieces.

He spent the next 9 months negotiating with United for some kind of compensation but they denied it. Furious, he wrote a song about it and uploaded it on YouTube entitled “United Breaks Guitars.”

United Breaks Guitars

Within 4 days he received 1.3 Million views and United Airlines suffered permanent damage as a result of the incident. It was one of the most viral songs of 2009.


Easy to see, easy to imitate, we imitate what we see. When you see white headphones, what comes to mind? Apple Headphones.

A product, idea, or behavior advertises itself when people consume it.

The Yellow silicon Livestrong wristbands were so popular during Lance Armstrong’s Heyday they sold 85 million to pay for his Livestrong Foundation.

Practical Value

People like to pass on practical information. News others can use. We need to highlight why our product or service is better than the competition.

Practical Value can be anything that helps the consumer. Tips, tricks, and something useful to others about the product or service.

It’s about helping others and saving them their time and money. When we care, we share also the opposite is true: sharing is caring.


Ever heard of Blendtec’s will it blend? The Blendtec story demonstrates virality isn’t born it’s made.

Tom Dickinson was one of the first practitioners of viral marketing on YouTube with Blendtec’s will it blend series.

He demonstrates the sheer power of Blendtec blenders by blending regular everyday objects. All Marketers tell stories and Tom Dickinson does a good job at that.

How to be Contagious

To be contagious, you must provide helpful, relevant, and consistent content. Word of mouth is much more targeted and more trusted than advertising.

Think about the last book you read?

How did you find out about it?

Someone told you that’s the power of word of mouth.

First, find out who your target audience is and craft stories that are interesting and something they can learn from about you and your product.

Once the story is contagious, your customers turn into advocates, and they do the work for you.


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