Contagious Jonah Berger or “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” is a bestselling book by Jonah Berger that investigates the factors that make certain ideas, products, and content go viral and capture the public’s imagination. 

Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, draws upon his extensive research in the field to offer readers valuable insights into the science of virality.

Read more: ‘Contagious’: Jonah Berger on Why Things Catch On – Knowledge at Wharton (

Contagious Jonah Berger: Unlocking the Secrets to Crafting Contagious Ideas

In this book, Berger introduces the concept of the “STEPPS” framework, which comprises six key principles: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories. Each of these principles helps explain why some things become contagious and others do not. 

For instance, Berger discusses how Social Currency is related to people’s desire to share information that makes them look good or enhances their social standing. Triggers are cues in the environment that prompt people to think about or discuss a specific topic or product, and Berger demonstrates how these triggers can play a crucial role in making things go viral.

One of the central insights from Contagious by Jonah Berger is the notion that virality is not purely a matter of luck; it can be understood and strategically harnessed. By examining real-world examples and case studies, Berger illustrates how ideas and products that leverage the principles of the STEPPS framework are more likely to spread.

He also discusses the role of storytelling in making information memorable and shareable.

Read more: Contagious: Why Things Catch On (

In essence, Contagious by Jonah Berger is a fascinating exploration of the psychology behind why some things become contagious and widely popular while others remain obscure. It offers practical takeaways for marketers, business professionals, and anyone interested in understanding how to create content and products that resonate with people and spread through word-of-mouth.

Berger’s book provides valuable insights into the dynamics of virality in the digital age and remains a recommended read for those seeking to grasp the art and science of making things catch on.

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Common problems in organization

According to “Contagious” by Jonah Berger, here are the five common challenges organizations encounter in today’s dynamic business environment:

1. Virality and Word of Mouth

In a world saturated with information and advertising, it’s challenging for ideas or products to go viral and spread through word of mouth. Word of mouth drives 20-50% of all purchasing decisions, yet most marketing efforts fail to generate significant viral sharing.

Read also: Word of Mouth vs. Viral Marketing (

2. Information Overload

Consumers are overwhelmed with information, leading to selective attention and the disregard of most marketing messages. People are exposed to the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of data every day, causing them to filter out most messages to cope with the overload.

3. Consumer Skepticism

Consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising and may dismiss marketing messages as biased or insincere. Trust in traditional advertising has steadily declined, with only 33% of consumers trusting ads.

Read also: Why Marketers Are Returning to Traditional Advertising (

4. Short Attention Spans

Modern consumers have shorter attention spans, making it challenging to convey complex or lengthy marketing messages effectively. The average human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2015.

5. Ignoring Marketing

Consumers have developed ad-blocking mechanisms, mentally filtering out most marketing messages to avoid interruptions. The adoption of ad-blockers has steadily increased, with millions of users actively blocking online ads.

Benefits from this book

Within the domain of marketing and business strategy, “Contagious” by Jonah Berger imparts invaluable insights and essential lessons that can reshape your approach to your undertakings. These encompass:

1. Leveraging Social Influence for Success

“Contagious” provides insights into the psychology of sharing and why some ideas catch on while others don’t. By mastering these principles, you can increase the chances of your message going viral and benefiting from organic word-of-mouth marketing.

2. Crafting Content That Resonates

“Contagious” teaches you how to create content that captures attention and stands out in a crowded digital landscape. By addressing the issue of information overload, you can ensure your message is heard and remembered.


Figure 1. Jonah Berger STEPPS to virality.

The STEPPS framework, as introduced by Jonah Berger in his book, illuminates the intricate dynamics behind the virality of ideas, products, or content. S-T-E-P-P-S stands for six pivotal principles that drive contagiousness. Here are what each letter stands for:

  • Social currency

Social currency illustrates how we share content that elevates our status and makes us look good in the eyes of others. It’s all about maintaining a positive image.

  • Triggers

Triggers emphasize the role of everyday reminders that keep a concept or product top of mind, ensuring it’s always at the tip of our tongues, ready to be shared.

  • Emotion

Emotion reveals that we are more likely to share content that evokes strong emotions, whether it’s laughter, joy, anger, or empathy. When we care deeply, we’re driven to share.

  • Public

Public underscores the significance of visibility. Content and behaviors that are observable tend to be mimicked and shared, creating a snowball effect.

  • Practical value

Practical value highlights the importance of usefulness. We share information that offers practical benefits, such as tips, advice, or valuable insights, ultimately helping others in the process.

  • Stories

Stories stress the power of narratives. Information, when wrapped in a compelling story, becomes highly engaging and memorable, often traveling under the guise of casual conversation.

These six principles together form the foundation for understanding why certain ideas become contagious in our social and digital landscapes.

3. Building Trust and Credibility

“Contagious” provides strategies to overcome consumer skepticism by making your marketing messages more trustworthy and authentic, thus increasing their effectiveness.

4. Crafting Concise and Compelling Messages

“Contagious” offers insights into crafting messages that are concise, memorable, and capable of holding the audience’s attention in our fast-paced world.

5. Making Marketing Irresistible

“Contagious” teaches you how to create marketing that is so compelling and relevant that consumers willingly engage with it, rather than trying to avoid it. It shows you how to make marketing that people want to be a part of, rather than ignore. By following its principles, you can create marketing that connects with people on a personal level, building strong brand loyalty and long-term success in your industry.

Read also: “This is Marketing” by Seth Godin: 7 Marketing Insights & Case Studies

Case studies

In the realm of marketing and business strategy, “Contagious” by Jonah Berger provides indispensable perspectives and pivotal lessons, poised to reframe your approach across various endeavors, such as:

Case study 1: Blendtec’s viral advertisement

One of the cases discussed in “Contagious” is the example of Blendtec, a company that sells high-powered blenders. Blendtec faced the challenge of making blenders go viral, which is not an inherently exciting product. They tackled this by creating a series of YouTube videos called “Will It Blend?”


Figure 2. “Will It Blend?” show.

Source:, “Will It Blend?” show.

These videos showed the blenders blending unusual and unexpected items like iPhones and golf balls, often with humorous results. This approach not only showcased the blender’s power but also encouraged customers to share these entertaining videos with their friends and family, effectively harnessing the power of word of mouth and virality.

Example of Execution: Let’s say you’re launching a new line of gourmet chocolates. Instead of relying solely on traditional marketing, you could create a series of quirky and visually captivating short videos showcasing your chocolates in unexpected situations. These videos could feature the chocolates participating in fun adventures or being used in imaginative recipes. Share these videos on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, encouraging viewers to share them with their friends.

By creating engaging and shareable content, you can harness the power of word of mouth, as people share your unique chocolate experiences, generating buzz and curiosity around your brand.

Case study 2: Google’s search engine

The book discusses how companies like Google deal with the issue of information overload. Google’s search engine initially faced a problem where users were overwhelmed by search results. To address this, Google developed a highly effective and user-friendly algorithm that ranked search results based on relevance, which significantly reduced information overload. 

Read more: Communication Overload: Keeping Up with Google Search’s Constant Updates (


Figure 3. Google’s search engine now.

This innovation made it easier for users to find what they were looking for quickly, improving the overall search experience.

Example of Execution:

Imagine you’re launching a new productivity app in a crowded market. You can address the issue of information overload by designing a clean and intuitive user interface. Prioritize seamless navigation to enhance the user experience and minimize cognitive load.

Incorporate a smart algorithm that learns users’ preferences and priorities over time, providing them with personalized recommendations and decluttering unnecessary information. Create video tutorials and user guides that explain how your app simplifies complex tasks.

Promote these materials on your website and YouTube channel to educate users about the app’s features and benefits, ensuring that they can easily navigate the digital landscape without feeling overwhelmed.

Case study 3: Dove Real Beauty campaign

A case mentioned in “Contagious” related to consumer skepticism is that of the Dove Real Beauty campaign. Dove’s campaign aimed to challenge societal beauty standards by featuring real women of various shapes, sizes, and backgrounds in their advertisements. This approach countered the skepticism consumers often have about beauty product advertising, where airbrushed models are the norm.


Figure 4. Dove Real Beauty campaign.

Source:, Dove Real Beauty campaign.

By promoting a more authentic and relatable image of beauty, Dove gained credibility and trust among consumers, effectively addressing the problem of skepticism within their industry.

Example of Execution: Suppose you’re introducing an eco-friendly clothing brand. To combat consumer skepticism in the fashion industry, start by sharing the transparent journey of your clothing production. Create behind-the-scenes videos and articles that showcase your sustainable practices, from sourcing organic materials to ethical manufacturing.

Partner with influencers who are passionate about sustainability to authentically promote your brand and its values. Offer detailed information about your products’ eco-friendly certifications. Provide a clear breakdown of your pricing to demonstrate the value of sustainable fashion. Lastly, actively engage with your customers on social media, addressing their concerns and showcasing user-generated content that highlights the positive impact of choosing your sustainable fashion products.

By being open and genuine in your communication, you can build trust with skeptical consumers and differentiate your brand in a crowded market.

6 recommendations for business leaders to soon execute 

“Contagious” by Jonah Berger provides essential guidance for business leaders seeking success in the ever-evolving marketing arena. In today’s dynamic business landscape, the ability to make ideas and products contagious is a valuable asset. Berger’s book offers valuable insights into achieving just that. Here are six recommendations drawn from the book:

  1. Social currency: make people feel like insiders

Encourage your audience to share information or experiences that make them look knowledgeable or exclusive. Provide them with valuable content or insights that they can share with their social circles to enhance their social status.

  1. Triggers: associate your product with everyday triggers

Connect your product or message with common, everyday triggers or situations that prompt people to think about or discuss it. This makes your content more top-of-mind and shareable.

  1. Emotion: evoke emotion to drive sharing

Craft your content or messaging to elicit strong emotions like awe, anger, or amusement. Emotionally charged content is more likely to be shared, as it sparks a deeper connection with the audience.

  1. Public: make your product or message visible

Increase the visibility of your product or message by ensuring it’s publicly accessible and easily seen. When people observe others using or talking about your product, it creates a “bandwagon effect” and encourages them to do the same.

  1. Practical value: offer practical value to your audience

Provide your audience with content or information that is immediately useful to them. People are more likely to share content that helps them solve problems or improves their lives in some way.

  1. Stories: craft compelling narratives

Humans are naturally drawn to stories. Create narratives that captivate your audience and make them emotionally invested in your content or product. A well-told story can not only engage your audience but also make your message more memorable and shareable.

Read also: Benefits of Start With Why and 15 Steps to Find Your Why


Contagious Jonah Berger summary brings a fresh perspective to the world of marketing, shedding light on the factors that propel ideas, products, and information into the realm of contagiousness. By dissecting the STEPPS framework, encompassing Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories, the book unravels the mysteries behind viral phenomena. In a landscape marked by information overload and competition, Berger offers actionable insights for those aiming to stand out and make their content and ideas catch on.

As marketers and business leaders navigate the intricacies of the digital age, “Contagious” provides a roadmap for success. It underscores that virality is not merely a product of luck but a science that can be understood and harnessed. By analyzing real-world examples and showcasing the power of storytelling, Jonah Berger equips readers with the knowledge and tools to create content and products that resonate with audiences and spread organically through word of mouth.

Much like how ‘Contagious’ by Jonah Berger unveils the psychology behind virality, Impact. gently redefines ERP solutions for Indonesian business leaders. Tailored for the dynamic Indonesian market, Impact. simplifies operations and encourages insightful decisions. 

It fosters a culture of innovation and meaningful connections, echoing the principles of authentic storytelling that resonate with today’s audiences. Consider Impact. as a partner in your journey, helping Indonesian businesses navigate change with confidence and ensuring that your processes run seamlessly.”

Read more: What is ERP?

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Impact Insight Team

Impact Insights Team is a group of professionals comprising individuals with expertise and experience in various aspects of business. Together, we are committed to providing in-depth insights and valuable understanding on a variety of business-related topics & industry trends to help companies achieve their goals.

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