Contagious: Why Things Catch On, is written by Johan Berger, a professor at The Wharton School (so I’m probably biased).   Contagious was published a week ago, and is genuinely a fun, worthwhile read. Johan Berger discusses why certain videos (products and ideas) go viral, while others languish unknown.  The book is very well written, uses memorable examples, and is backed up by solid research.  The author describes six STEPPS to give an idea/product the best shot at going viral: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Values, and Stories.  This book is a fantastic overview of social contagion and is a must read for any marketer.

A few tidbits from Contagious:

  • Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchase decisions.
  • Word of mouth is more effective than traditional marketing for two reasons.  First, it’s more persuasive…Second, word of mouth is more targeted … is naturally directed towards an interested audience.  We don’t share a news story or recommendation with everyone we know.  Rather we tend to select particular people who we think would find the given piece of information most relevant.
  • We need to design products and ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment and create new triggers by linking our products and ideas to prevalent cues in that environment. Top of mind leads to tip of tongue.
  • Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular.
  • People don’t care how they are doing, they care about how they are doing relative to others.
  • To get people talking, companies and organizations need to mint social currency.  Give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting their products and ideas along the way. There are three ways to do that: (1) find inner marketability; (2) leverage game mechanics; (3) make people feel like insiders.


Interview with Johan Berger: