Review: Contagious, Why Things Catch On | Jonah Berger

A humble, yet honest review created by someone who does know a lot.


Why do certain things become viral while others never seem to hit the ground running? You’ve created this seemingly awesome piece of work but no one is reacting to it. Meanwhile, a video of a blender eviscerating an Iphone 6 plus is racking up a million views. I recently finished Contagious, a book by Jonah Berger. Throughout this piece of work, Dr. Berger reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Essentially, there are six basic principles that drive different all sorts of content to become viral, or “contagious.” Virality is not limited to YouTube videos or retail products, in fact any project or initiative has the potential to “catch on.”

These six principles are social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories (STEPPS). Berger uses real-life examples of successful, and unsuccessful attempts at virality in order to illustrate how each principle of STEPPS can be implemented and executed. Berger created this piece of work in order to bridge the gap between people pushing initiatives, and becoming a hit. Although previous authors have studied and published research on why things catch on, these pieces of work have been mainly descriptive. Before Contagious, there was no answer to what underlying human behavior was prompting these outcomes. Berger has accomplished this, he has created this book as a tool for anyone and everyone to understand the components and social science behind becoming “contagious.”


This book did not merely feel like I was reading the work of some estranged professor from Wharton, it felt like I was being equipped by an individual who had studied the art of virality meticulously, one who knew his stuff. Berger breaks down each component of his book in such a simple and insightful way, a concept that should be almost impossible for us to understand can now be mastered in a matter of few reading sessions. That is game-changing, quite simply. It has completely disrupted marketing, and as a result, levels the playing field. Each of the six principles he has identified are thoroughly explained, supported, and are paired with several real-life examples. This is not a book based on theory, this is practiced experimentation with results.

Despite the book being expertly created, I did feel as if substantial portions of each chapter were plainly case study after case study, detail after detail, it became mind numbing. Often times I felt as if I was on autopilot due to the information overload. Besides this, I had no other complaints with the book. In fact, I have never found any other book related to this topic to be half as helpful as Contagious.


What is so awesome about reading Contagious is that it feels like you should not read it, like it is too important and crucial for everyday people like you and I to know. Virality feels like something that is totally random, a hidden algorithm that is stuck in the matrix. This book destroys the idea that the gap between us and the ability to catch on is unknown. I hope that many people, especially people with positive and helpful initiatives, ideas, or products come across this book, study it, master it, and implement it. The world would become a much better place if the right people knew just how to reach more people.

Through my internship with Access Ventures I was able to acquire this book and study it’s content. Access Ventures is an impact investment firm located in Louisville Kentucky. You can learn more about them here.

If you’d like to purchase Contagious, you can do so here.

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