Contagious: Why Things Catch On


I read somewhere recently that our world is now all about marketing. So this seemed an interesting read, discussing why certain things go viral, while others don’t.

Berger breaks it down into six steps, with one or more required to turn something into a viral hit:

  • Social Currency (make people want to share to make themselves look good, or to look/feel like an insider)
  • Triggers (prompt or remind people by tying your product to familiar/common things)
  • Emotion (something that provokes a strong emotion is more likely to be shared)
  • Public (make potential customers aware of who is already using your product)
  • Practical Value (something useful is commonly shared)
  • Stories (human experience makes people want to share it, but make sure you can’t be left out)

He quotes plenty of examples, many you’ll have heard of as they circled the internet at their peak. It’s a thought -provoking book, a critical look at why people share (backed up with Berger’s own research).

Having said that, I still felt it lacked something. These ingredients, while a great list, don’t think guarantee success in my opinion. There are plenty of examples in the book supporting the author’s claims, but far fewer examples of campaigns that didn’t take off. Ironically, at least one of the examples used early doesn’t fit the topics discussed later.

It will make you look at marketing differently though, plus it’s a nice short read (or listen). If you’re a fan of books like Freakonomics or those by Malcolm Gladwell, I think you’d enjoy this. It doesn’t go particularly deep, it’s more of a skim through the ideas.

Keith Nobbs does such a good job reading it I assumed he was the author, so top marks for delivery.

All-in-all, I’d say this was worth your time. Even if you’re not that bothered about marketing, it’s an interesting look at why some of those YouTube videos you’ve seen took off. As with every book of this type (those offering to tell you the recipe of success), don’t think it guarantees anything though.

Browse books related by genre:
This was an copy of the book

Reviewed: 29th January 2014