Contagious: Why Things Catch On Book Review

“Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger is a modern-day marketing bible that I had the pleasure of delving into recently. As someone fascinated by the dynamics of why certain ideas, products, or content go viral while others languish in obscurity, this book was a captivating read. Berger unravels the mystery behind contagiousness in the digital age, offering valuable insights that are both eye-opening and practical. In this review, I’ll share my personal thoughts on this book and why it’s a must-read for anyone looking to understand and harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

1 Sentence Summary: “Contagious” by Jonah Berger explores the psychology behind why things catch on, revealing six principles that make ideas or products go viral, and provides actionable strategies for creating contagious content in the digital era.

Contagious How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age by Jonah Berger

TitleContagious: Why Things Catch On
AuthorJonah Berger
GenreSelf Help
Publication DateMarch 1, 2013
Length256 pages

Where to Purchase

Best Quotes from the Book:

  1. “People don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives.”

This quote underscores the importance of storytelling in making ideas contagious. Berger emphasizes that our brains are wired to respond to stories, and when information is wrapped in a compelling narrative, it becomes more shareable and memorable. The lesson here is to craft your message into a narrative that resonates with your audience.

  1. “Social currency is about making people feel like insiders.”

Berger introduces the concept of social currency, which suggests that people share things that make them look good or feel special. This quote highlights the importance of creating content or products that allow consumers to showcase their uniqueness or insider knowledge. It encourages marketers to tap into consumers’ desire for social validation.

  1. “Triggers are stimuli that prompt people to think about related things.”

Berger explores the idea that triggers can lead to top-of-mind awareness, making your product or idea more likely to be talked about. This quote underscores the significance of linking your product or message to frequent and relevant triggers in your audience’s daily lives.

Book Summary:

“Contagious” is a comprehensive exploration of the psychology and mechanics behind why some ideas, products, or content go viral, while others remain unnoticed. Jonah Berger presents six principles, each represented by a catchy acronym, to help readers understand the dynamics of contagiousness: STEPPS (Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories).

One of the book’s primary strengths is its practicality. Berger provides a wealth of real-world examples and case studies that illustrate how these principles work in action. Whether it’s dissecting the success of a viral video, explaining why a particular urban legend persists, or analyzing the popularity of a restaurant, Berger’s examples are relatable and insightful. Readers can easily apply these concepts to their own marketing efforts.

The book also stands out for its engaging writing style. Berger strikes a balance between academic rigor and accessibility, making complex psychological concepts comprehensible to a broad audience. His storytelling prowess keeps the reader engaged throughout, and his use of anecdotes and research findings adds depth to the subject matter.

However, one criticism is that at times, the book may feel slightly formulaic. While the six principles are essential and well-explained, some readers may yearn for more diverse examples or a deeper dive into specific industries or scenarios. Additionally, the book could have provided more practical exercises or tools to help readers apply the principles effectively.

Book Review:

Jonah Berger’s “Contagious” is a goldmine of insights for marketers, entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in understanding the mechanics of virality in the digital age. Berger’s writing style is approachable and engaging, making even the most complex concepts in psychology and marketing accessible to a wide audience. His use of real-world examples and case studies ensures that readers can immediately grasp and apply the principles of contagiousness.

One of the book’s notable strengths is its relevance. In today’s hyper-connected world, where information spreads at lightning speed through social media and other digital platforms, understanding why things catch on is more critical than ever. Berger’s book equips readers with the knowledge and tools to craft contagious messages, products, or ideas that can resonate with their target audience.

Moreover, Berger’s emphasis on storytelling as a crucial element of contagious content is a standout feature of the book. In a world inundated with information, narratives are what capture our attention and make ideas memorable. This insight alone is worth the price of the book for anyone in marketing or communications.

While “Contagious” provides a solid foundation for understanding the principles of virality, it could have gone a step further by offering more hands-on exercises or tools to help readers implement these concepts in their own marketing strategies. Additionally, a more diverse range of examples from various industries could have enriched the book’s applicability.


This book is part of my list of best manipulation books. Check out the list for more books on this subject.

This Book is Recommended For:

  1. Marketers and Advertising Professionals: “Contagious” is a must-read for anyone working in marketing, advertising, or public relations. It provides actionable insights on how to create content that resonates with audiences and spreads like wildfire.
  2. Entrepreneurs and Startups: Those looking to launch a new product or service can benefit from the principles outlined in the book to gain traction and build word-of-mouth buzz.
  3. Social Media Managers: Professionals responsible for managing social media accounts will find the book’s insights on triggers and social currency particularly valuable in crafting shareable content.
  4. Anyone Interested in Viral Phenomena: If you’re curious about why certain videos go viral or why some ideas spread like wildfire while others fizzle out, “Contagious” offers a fascinating exploration of the psychology behind these phenomena.

Small Actionable Steps You Can Do:

  1. Craft a Compelling Narrative: When sharing an idea, product, or message, think about how you can wrap it in a compelling narrative. Stories are more likely to be remembered and shared.
  2. Identify Triggers: Consider the triggers that are relevant to your product or content. What elements in your audience’s daily lives can prompt them to think about your offering? Align your messaging with these triggers.
  3. Embrace Social Currency: Make your audience feel like insiders by providing them with information or experiences that others might not have. This can create a sense of exclusivity and encourage sharing.
  4. Create Practical Value: Ensure that your product or message offers practical value to your audience. If people find your content genuinely useful, they are more likely to share it with others.
  5. Evoke Emotion: Craft content that elicits emotional responses. Whether it’s humor, inspiration, or awe, emotions make your content more shareable and memorable.
  6. Be Public: Encourage public displays of your product or message. When people see others using or endorsing what you have to offer, it can lead to social validation and increased sharing.

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