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Contagious: Why Things Catch On Paperback – May 3, 2016
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“Jonah Berger is as creative and thoughtful as he is spunky and playful. Looking at his research, much like studying a masterpiece in a museum, provides the observer with new insights about life and also makes one aware of the creator's ingenuity and creativity. It is hard to come up with a better example of using social science to illuminate the ordinary and extraordinary in our daily lives.” (Dan Ariely, James B. Duke professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and bestselling author of Predictably Irrational)
“Why do some ideas seemingly spread overnight, while others disappear? How can some products become ubiquitous, while others never gain traction? Jonah Berger knows the answers, and, with Contagious, now we do, too." (Charles Duhigg, author of the bestselling The Power of Habit)
“If you are seeking a bigger impact, especially with a smaller budget, you need this book. Contagious will show you how to make your product spread like crazy.” (Chip Heath, co-author of Made to Stick and Decisive)
“Jonah Berger knows more about what makes information ‘go viral’ than anyone in the world.” (Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and author of Stumbling on Happiness)
“Jonah Berger is the rare sort who has studied the facts, parsed it from the fiction—and performed groundbreaking experiments that have changed the way the experts think. If there’s one book you’re going to read this year on how ideas spread, it’s this one.” (Dave Balter, CEO of BzzAgent and Co-founder of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association)
“Think of it as the practical companion to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.” (Tasha Eichenseher Discover)
“[Berger] sheds new light on phenomena that may seem familiar, showing with precision why things catch on. . . . As a playbook for marketers, Contagious is a success.” (Danielle Sacks Fast Company)
“Contagious contains arresting — and counterintuitive — facts and insights. . . . Most interesting of all are the examples Berger cites of successful and unsuccessful marketing campaigns.” (Glenn C. Altschuler The Boston Globe)
"For nonexperts who puzzle about the best way to make an impact in a world of social media addicts with short attention spans, it provides plenty to think about. . . . If there were a 'like' button underneath it, you'd probably find yourself clicking it." (Maija Palmer Los Angeles Times)
“An infectious treatise on viral marketing. . . . Berger writes in a sprightly, charming style that deftly delineates the intersection of cognitive psychology and social behavior with an eye toward helping businesspeople and others spread their messages. The result is a useful and entertaining primer that diagnoses countless baffling pop culture epidemics.” (Publishers Weekly)
About the Author
Jonah Berger is an associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the 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. The author of Contagious and Invisible Influence, he lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Interestingly, Berger's academic work cites Rogers' work. In addition, a podcast interview with Berger posted on influencerinc.co notes that one of Berger's "favorite five" is the book "Diffusion of Innovations." In another interview posted on thereadinglists.com, Berger states that "'Diffusion of Innovations' was one of the first books to examine the question of why some products succeed while others fail. The author looked at everything from hybrid corn to new computer technologies." The syllabus for the course taught by Berger for The Great Courses (How Ideas Spread) includes suggested readings; none other than Everett Rogers and his "Diffusion of Innovations" appears on the list.
I earned a PhD in marketing from the University of Washington and my dissertation focused on innovation adoption and diffusion. Before entering academia, I briefly worked as a consultant. I was fortunate enough to have worked along with Rogers on one of my consulting projects with a major packaged foods company. There are simply so many things stated in Berger's book that mirror concepts that Rogers wrote about and talked about in his own work. While "Contagious" is obviously a well written book, anyone interested in the topics Berger presents must read "Diffusion of Innovations," which is far more comprehensive (and interesting) than Berger's work. "Contagious," I believe, is nothing more than a "dumbed-down" version of Rogers' work presented in a way to sell to the masses. Other than the concept of persistence, nearly everything covered by Berger was written by Rogers in 1962.
These kind of books, where the author presents anecdotal evidence and real life stories to illustrate points, are fun to read for me as I enjoy when the author helps you relate with the "stories" presented to validate a point.
Jonah writes to inform us of why things catch on. We see this quite a bit with things going "viral" with social media, but he goes deeper than just the social media aspect of contagiousness.
He provides an easy to follow acronym for outlining what items can help something catch on. This acronym is STEPPS and the books is divided into 6 chapters describing each of the elements. They are as follows:
Social Currency - Being "in-the-know" on something and wanting to share it with others.
Triggers - How one thing will instantly trigger a thought of something else. Peanut butter makes you think of jelly. Coffee and donuts go together, etc.
Emotion - When something inspires us and evokes emotion, we are often inspired to share. Some feelings are more prone to sharing like humor, awe, excitement, and on the negative side, anger and anxiety.
Public - Summed up as social proof. Two restaurants with same cuisine and one has a line out the door and the other one is practically empty. Where would you like dine?
Practical Value - Information that is useful is far more likely to be shared.
Stories - When a good story is told, it will often suck us in, evoke emotion, and prompt us to want to share.
Amazon reviewers give this one a 4.5 after 676 reviews. Goodreads gives it a 3.87 after 11,603 ratings and 1,090 reviews. I thought the book was entertaining but didn't really feel like there was anything revolutionary about the content. Still, if you enjoy psychology and social behaviors along the same lines as Malcolm Gladwell, then you might want to pick it up.