Book Review – Contagious, Jonah Berger


I hate the word “viral” when used in a social media context. So I am going to write this book review without using the term again.

Now that is out of the way, Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious, looks at why some campaigns and content catch on and spread quickly and extensively through word of mouth and social media. It is quite entertaining with a lot of practical analysis into the nature of content that spreads. The practicality of it offers a framework for developing ideas into strong and successful marketing campaigns with messages that catch on.

The framework is broken down into 6 criteria that assist in predicting the success of a campaign or message and how to implement each.

Social Currency

Social Currency about how and why we share things that make us look good or better than our peers (personally and professionally). For example sharing enjoying a resort holiday, an opinion on a social issue, providing positive advice, or talking about an outstanding experience. The tip here is asking yourself, how does your product, service, content, or creativity give an opportunity for your market to show off!


Triggers are about what fires off associations on a daily basis. It is cue from our environment that causes us to recall something or to think of something or someone. What can you do to associate your product, service, or content with a memory. How can you create a trigger that is fired off for a generation? Like liquid gets into chalk.


What are all those social media emoticons for? Because when we are feeling something strongly, we like to tell people ? . When our emotions are raised in a certain way, we are compelled to share or to take some sort of action such as placing an order on a product, or at least deciding to buy yours instead of someone elses. Have you seen the famous Susan Boyle performance? The ideal is to find your way of using compelling emotion in your content and messaging.

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”I hate the word “viral” when used in a social media context. via @hyperwebcomms” style=”2″]


As people, we tend to like to associate with others and that association can express itself in clothing, product use, and other consumption manifestations. Related to social proof, if your product is demonstrable via conspicuous use or consumption, it is more likely to be picked up by others. This is why some businesses use influencers or social leaders to spread their brand. How can you provoke your customers to publicly use your product, service, or associate themselves with your message. Berger uses the Australian charitable organisation Movember as an example here.

Practical Value

Humans love a deal, part of loving a deal is an understanding of value. What do we do when we find a good deal? We seek to earn social currency by sharing it with our friends. Value is more than financial, Berger ensures that we need to know that there is value in providing advice & knowledge, as well as financial benefit. We need to understand the psychology of value in order to make our offering too good not to share.


Since the beginning of humanity, we have communicated in stories in explaining our world. These stories are like Trojan Horses that hold meaning and messages, and potentially brand and product/service information. We like to tell stories and in doing so, we pass on the Trojan Horse to another citadel. It is important to make sure in our marketing, that we communicate our stories in case studies, testimonials, marketing campaigns, and that they align with our business purpose.

Some of the above might seem fundamental but Berger provides challenging examples as well as entertaining ones, backed up with data, sociological, and psychological references that make it a compelling resource for your marketing strategy. It is a book I am happy to share.

If you are interested in how to apply this framework of thinking around your product or service presentation, marketing, or campaign requirements, get in touch with us for a free consultation.




Latest from HYPERWEB

See what’s been happening here at HYPERWEB HQ and explore news and insights on web development, digital marketing, SEO and more.

View all +

AI in Marketing: The Human Touch Remains Key

It is not an understatement that AI tools have revolutionised the way marketers approach tasks such as data analytics, customer interactions, and content creation. However, as we embrace the efficiency…