Sunday, December 23, 2012

G17 Contagious: Why Things Catch on

Title of the book: Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Author: Jonah Berger

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Publishing Date: 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8657-9

(from goodreads)

Why do certain products and ideas go viral? Dynamic young Wharton professor Jonah Berger draws on his research to explain the six steps that make products or ideas contagious.Why do some products get more word of mouth than others? Why does some online content go viral? Word of mouth makes products, ideas, and behaviors catch on. It’s more influential than advertising and far more effective.

Can you create word of mouth for your product or idea? According to Berger, you can. Whether you operate a neighborhood restaurant, a corporation with hundreds of employees, or are running for a local office for the first time, the steps that can help your product or idea become viral are the same.

Contagious is filled with fascinating information drawn from Berger’s research. You will be surprised to learn, for example, just how little word of mouth is generated online versus elsewhere. Already praised by Dan Ariely and Dan Gilbert, and sold in nine countries, this book is a must-read for people who want their projects and ideas to succeed

Other Works:

The other works, according to goodreads that Jonah wrote are simply Contagious and a story titled He Walks Like a Cowboy: One Man's Journey Through Life with a Disability


Jonah Berger is the James G. Campbell Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at teh University of Pennsylvania. His research has been published in top-tier academic journals, and popular accounts of his work have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Science, Harvard Business Review, and more. His research has also been featured in The New York Times Magazine's "Year in Ideas." Berger has been recognized with a number of awards for both scholarship and teaching. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Apparently for no reason at all, certain things become well known and viral while others die away. In this book, the author uses six principles to try to explain why some things become viral.

Addressed problems:

What things, if any, causes for something to become popular or well liked? Is popularity  random or can it be explained?

Summary of content:

The author believes that there are six major elements that go into making something popular: these are social currency, triggers, emotions, public, practical value and stories. He also summarizes the content in epilogue just to make his point clear.


"This book explains what makes content contagious. By 'content', I mean stories, news, and information. Products and ideas, messages and videos. Everything from fund-raising at the local public radio station to the safe-sex messages we're trying to teach our kids. By 'contagious', I mean likely to spread. To diffuse from person to person via word of mouth and social influence. To be talked about, shared, or imitated by consumers, coworkers, and constituents." (18)

Main points: 

"These are the six principles of contagiousness: products or ideas that contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable, and wrapped into Stories. Each chapter focuses on one of these principles. These chapters bring together research and examples to show the science behind each principle and how individuals, companies, and organizations have applied the principles to help their products, ideas, and behaviors catch on." (21)

Why its informative:

This isn't a typical business book where one will grow bored by page five and wonder the point. Its very lively, vibrant writing that anyone can understand. This book is a mixture of business and psychology as well as some real life examples of how things have succeeded. A lot of what he writes makes sense and creates a fascinating study. I'm not a business major, but am a history major and I wondered if I would grow bored reading the book. Nope, not once have I found it boring. Its short and sweet and to the point.

Support thesis: 

From the examples that the author used, I have to say that yes, the thesis was supported because he dedicates each chapter to a principle and talks about how companies used it to become viral. (At this point, I wish he could study why Gangnam Style by Psy became so popular...or why Twilight and Fifty of Shades Gray are so popular...)

Address issues:

The issues that are being addressed in this book are whether or not popularity of certain products is popular or if there are causes to it. The author theorizes that six principles determine the popularity of a project which causes the product to become extremely popular.

Ideas in book vs larger ideas:

Using the six principles, perhaps a struggling business or an enterpreneur can become more successful, or else perhaps it will give people more awareness of themselves and what they talk about.


I have to agree with the author opinions because what he does say make sense and its difficult to find things to argue with him about.


In the notes section, he does list sources by chapter. Most of the sources come from the Internet, although I hadn't checked out whether or not they're valid.


I would highly recommend checking this book out because its easy reading, very psychological and will give new insights as to why things are popular and why they aren't.

Quick notes: I won this book on thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. This is a good book for an Entrepreneurship student because it is an easy read but also what they say makes sense (I do not want to give it all away). I learned / relearned many things & I know many other students can do the same.


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