Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger

Why is it that some things become viral and others don’t? To Jonah Berger, Professor at Wharton Business School, there are 6 principles that make something contagious. In order for something to become contagious, it needs to meet the STEPPS (Social currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical value, and Stories) principles. Points from the book:


1. We are all social creatures and we love to socialize. In our social interactions, we love to share our stories and feelings with others. We love to express our thoughts on how much we enjoy or loathe something that’s been on our mind. Through this, we learn about what to try and what to avoid. Social influence and word of mouth. People love to share stories, news, and information with those around them. We tell our friends about great vacation destinations, chat with our neighbors about good deals, and gossip with coworkers about potential layoffs. We write online reviews about movies, share rumors on Facebook, and tweet about recipes we just tried. People share more than 16,000 words per day and every hour there are more than 100 million conversations about brands. But word of mouth is not just frequent, it’s also important. The things others tell us, e-mail us, and text us have a significant impact on what we think, read, buy, and do. We try websites our neighbors recommend, read books our relatives praise, and vote for candidates our friends endorse. Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 percent to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.


2. You may be consciously or subconsciously be bombarded with triggers that evoke an emotion for you to act on the trigger’s objective. When Kit Kat released a commercial associating it with coffee, their sales went up as the associated trigger (coffee) increased the frequency of which their audience thought of Kit Kat. 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.



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3. In our brains, we have something called “mirror neurons”which essentially get us to observe others on how to behave appropriately. This can be a good thing in certain situations such as a group of people running and screaming towards your way. In other situations, it can be bad as you can just get sucked into a consumerism race of buying unnecessary things. Can people see when others are using our product or engaging in our desired behavior? The famous phrase ‘Monkey see, monkey do’ captures more than just the human tendency to imitate.”


4. We love stories; stories are what captivates us. Read a book to any child and they’ll give you their full attention, especially books with pictures. To become better socially upon meeting others for the first time, learn to tell good stories as it will not only grab their attention but it will also make you a more interesting person. Narratives are inherently more engrossing than basic facts. They have a beginning, middle, and end. If people get sucked in early, they’ll stay for the conclusion. When you hear people tell a good story you hang on every word. You want to find out whether they missed the plane or what they did with a house full of screaming nine year olds. You started down a path and you want to know how it ends. Until it does, they’ve captured your attention.


By Ryan Lee


My rating:
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  1. Hi Ryan, loved the article. Only bit that left me puzzled was joining your group – was it a group or page you wanted us to interact on? I have shared your article across my Fb biz page and in a small group I facilitate who are doing micro-experiments with organic reach on their Fb biz pages. The information has been very useful, and thank you for that. Cheers, Adaire

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Adaire, thanks for the positive feedback! Feedback like yours is what fuels me to keep running this website 🙂


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