Jonah Berger’s book Contagious explores why certain things catch on and become popular. He starts by dismissing the belief that many, including myself, thought to be true; that a small number of “influencers” cause idea or products to catch on. He opens this discussion by stating that all people hold the same importance in word of mouth, which he considers to be the strongest form of communication of products and ideas. How interesting an idea or product is does not always translate into sharing and word of mouth. Throughout the book he outlines 6 aspects that he calls STEPPS, which he believes drives things to catch on.

The first is Social Currency that explores how people share things that they believe will make them look good or interesting. The person doing the sharing does not receive any monetary gain for spreading this information, but instead will receive Social Currency among peers. He used examples of knowing about a secret bar or airlines that offer VIP titles for people that fly often. I thought this was the most interesting of all the aspects because it not only allows customers to feel good about themselves and the product, but it in turn benefits the company by word of mouth and maintaining a good relationship with that customer.

In advertising, everyone is constantly trying to figure out how to make a campaign go viral or make people remember their advertisement. Social Currency explores how to not only stick in the mind of consumers, but also encourage them to advertise for the brand simply because they want to. Because the message is brought up in a natural setting it is also trusted and valued more by consumers.

The second is Trigger, meaning that in order for people to buy a product or do what an advertisement is suggesting, they must think of it at the right time. If you can associate an idea or products with a trigger, people are more likely to remember the product or idea when they would buy it or do the activity. Emotion is also a deciding factor in why things catch on. When people are stimulated they are more likely to share. This means creating stimulating emotions like anger, awe and humor, but this could also be extended to how people who are physically stimulated and more likely to share. The book was great in detailing how these two aspects must tie into the brand and the brand personality effectively.

The next aspect, Public, outlines how the monkey see monkey do mentality helps things catch on. This explores how we can allow others to see what the people around them are doing, in the hopes that they will imitate it. Brands can do this by making reusable bags that customers will use again and again or putting their logo in a place that will be visible for others to see. Practical value explores how people will share things that they believe will be valuable in their everyday lives or for someone they know. It is human nature to try and help each other, so people like to share things they believe can help those around them. Both of these aspects demonstrate how to increase recognition of brands, products or ideas without spending money. Using these aspects are also considered more authentic to potential customers than advertisements.

Making things into Stories was the last principle of making things catch on. It explained how things can be retold easier if they are wrapped in a story because it will not only keep people engaged, but allow them to tell it again and again. From a marketing and advertising standpoint it is important that the product or idea is a pivotal part of the story so it does not get left out as one person tells another.

Though this can be used for marketing and advertising purposes, Berger uses examples that demonstrate how these rules can be used to make almost anything from YouTube videos to cultural trends catch on. This book is essential for anyone in advertising or marketing because it outline what they should think about when creating a campaign. There are many examples of how real campaigns and ideas have become contagious by incorporating an aspect of STEPPS. From a research standpoint this could be valuable in understanding why a campaign or idea did not excel, and understanding how to reach consumers. It has also become increasingly important for companies to monitor how likely customers are to recommend them to others. This can often make or break their business. Therefore I believe that everyone should read this book, as it gives a great base for understanding word of mouth and how to use it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *