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Contagious: Why Things Catch On Summary

Contagious: Why Things Catch On Summary

Whether you're opening a gym, inventing a state of the art supplement or founding a cat cafe these days advertising just doesn't cut it.
Businesses both big and small spend stacks on stacks of cash on their advertising campaigns, and very few see that money come back to them...

Jonah Berger's book, 'Contagious: Why Things Catch On' breaks down the ingredients that makes stuff spread.
Consider the STEPPS to be ingredients in your recipe (business or product idea) you don't necessarily need to have every ingredient in place, as there are many products and services that've spread like wildfire with only a couple... but the more you have the greater chance it becomes contagious.

What Are The STEPPS?

Social Currency

People love to share "secrets" as it gives the appearance that they're in the know.

In downtown New York, a hot dog bar by the name of 'Please Don't Tell' has never spent money on advertising their little-known downstairs bar that requires entry through an old phone booth. They let their customers do that for them - as secrets don't remain secrets for very long. We're hardwired to want to share our thoughts and experiences with others.

“Just as people use money to buy products or services, they use social currency to achieve desired positive impressions among their families, friends, and colleagues.” - Jonah Berger
The more exclusive, attractive and interesting the product or service is, the more we're going to spread word to our friends like wildfire.

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The association between your product or brand and an everyday stimuli.
The more often you can get people think and associating with your product the better.

Thinking about peanut butter triggers many people to think about jelly.

Each Friday searches for Rebecca Black's music peaks, why? The day of the week, Friday triggers individuals to search and listen to her song, 'Friday'. Google Analytics confirms this.

Many big brands have been using colours and words as triggers for years - Coke uses the colour red as a trigger. The Kit Kat chocolate triggers customers with the phrase 'have a break'.


“Rather than harping on features or facts, we need to focus on feelings; the underlying emotions that motivate people to action.” - Jonah Berger

When we care about something, we discuss and share it.

Invoke happiness, joy & awe to get people caring and sharing from a positive standpoint.

Anger and anxiety also give individuals the emotion to share.

Sadness does not.

You must ask the 3 whys.

You must define WHY the product is important.

Then you must define WHY that reasoning is important.

Then you must define WHY that is important again.

This will get to the core of your reasoning.


Social proof.

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We see what others do and we want to imitate them.

Whether they're wearing a Livestrong wristband or growing a moustache in support of Movember...

We want to be a apart of what others are doing.

Businesses recognise this and use it to their advantage, many cafes will go as far as to partially fill the tip jar on their counter with money from the cash register to encourage others to tip them.
It appears the people before you did and you want to be a part of what others are doing...

It's no coincidence that the Apple logo your Macbook Pro is facing AWAY from you - this is to show other people that you're using an Apple product and is designed to encourage them to jump on the bandwagon, monkey see monkey do.

The more out in public you can get your product, and the more people that can be seen using or engaging with it the greater the chance it grows viral - people want to queue at restaurants with long lines because they KNOW others must be onto something good.

Practical Value

Keep it simple and people will respond.

Do not convelute your product or offer.

Limited variations (which can be used to create scarcity and increase demand) is a great strategy to increase practical value.

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This also applies to pricing, there is no need for ridiculously complicated savings or offers as this can make people skeptical.

Things that're simple and help people are far more likely to be shared and thus, become contagious.

You'll find on YouTube that the most viewed and shared 'how to' and 'quick tip' videos are often extremely short, as they do just that - keep it simple and add practical value... your far less likely to share a convoluted 10 minute video as opposed to a useful 30 second clip. Keep this in mind.


“We need to build our own Trojan Horse — a carrier narrative that people will share, while talking about our product or idea along the way.” - Jonah Berger

Your product or service must be relatable to a story, the sandwich store, Subway can thank the story of Jared Fogle who went from a 60" waist all the way down to 34" eating their sandwiches.
This is the ultimate trojan horse story as it's a remarkable story that (clearly) caught on like wildfire, with Subway's range of sandwiches being disguised in plain sight in the middle of the story.

A story about the nutritional value of Subway's sandwiches would not have caught on, they needed an intriguing storythat sparked emotion.

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What's Your Take On Contagious: Why Things Catch On?

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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