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Contagious by Jonah Berger | Book Review

contagious jonah berger
contagious jonah berger
contagious jonah berger


Highlights: Published by Simon & Schuster, 2013. 200 pages. Audiobook also available from Simon & Schuster Audio.



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An easy, interesting read that will give thought-provoking information for anyone with a casual interest in marketing.


Though Jonah Berger is a professor in the Wharton MBA program, the book in not a dense, research-heavy instruction manual for business professionals.

Bottom Line

Contagious by Jonah Berger explains why ideas, memes, videos, and products catch on and go viral.

Posted April 8, 2013 by

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Contagious by Jonah Berger is the perfect book for anyone asking the question, “What makes a good idea contagious?” What makes a hidden bar in New York fill its tables every night? Why will people pay $100 for a cheesesteak? How did a video selling a blender get millions of hits on YouTube?

Contagious by Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Berger, a Wharton professor, has done a lot of research on the topic. He introduces the STEPPS model for contagious products: Social currency, triggers, emotions, public, practical value, and stories. Each of these factors, when understood and harnessed in the right way, can push an idea from “meh” to millions. Millions of shares, millions of viewers, millions of dollars, millions of products. Each chapter includes examples and stories of real-life products that succeeded, exemplifying an element of the STEPPS model.

Fans of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point will either love or hate Contagious. Berger’s book shares many similarities to Gladwell’s, so the comparison is inevitable — Berger even notes his interest in Gladwell’s work early in the book. Reader’s expecting Contagious to be exactly like The Tipping Point may be disappointed that Contagious is not as innovative, well-researched, or well-written. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It’s just a little lighter, geared more toward non-business people. Anyone who majored in business or marketing might not find anything new here.

I, however, found the book delightful. I listened to the audiobook, and I highly recommend it. Berger’s writing is interesting and entertaining without being too dense. It’s easy to follow while driving or going about daily life, and I felt like I learned a few things to boot. As a blogger, some of the tips might even be useful in writing posts or utilizing social media.

So, in short, this is a book for anyone who’s ever cried during a Google commercial or gasped that a frumpy British woman really could sing. More than that, it’s a book for anyone who wants to know why these moments are now part of the national conversation…and how those results can be replicated.

Have you read Contagious or The Tipping Point? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Contagious by Jonah Berger on Goodreads | Amazon

Full disclosure: I received this audio book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Former middle school teacher and school librarian, current doctoral student in education. Reader of all things young adult. I'm particularly fond of dystopian societies, sassy female protagonists, and clever dialogue. I can often be found asleep with a book on my face.


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