March 30, 2022 By mandrews

Tips We Love from Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Categorized in:

As marketers, we are constantly spending time, money, and resources to figure out new ways to generate buzz. If you’re looking to spread brand awareness, communicate ideas, or expand your customer base, consider reading “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger. 

In the book, Berger, an associate marketing professor at Wharton University, explains what makes certain ideas and products popular.  After analyzing hundreds of ideas and products, Berger concludes that there are six principles that determine virality: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories. 

No time to read the full text right now? We’ve got you. Here are some of our favorite tips from “Contagious.” 

Social Currency

Make people feel like insiders. According to Berger, there are two factors that give people the feeling of being in the know: Scarcity and Exclusivity. Scarcity refers to how much of something is offered, whereas exclusivity refers to the availability of something in a certain category. When combined, they drive desirability and, in turn, boost word-of-mouth.


Consider the context, rather than relying on a catchy message. Triggers are specific versions of different actions that happen in response to an event, related idea, or concept.  When choosing a trigger, you should select one that occurs regularly and occurs near the area where the desired behavior takes place. By selecting the right trigger, you can cue people to talk about your brand or product. Remember, “Top of mind means tip of the tongue.”


Focus on feelings. Feelings are the underlying emotions that can motivate people to take action, and as marketers, we often need to think about how we can drive a certain emotional response. Berger talks about inciting high-arousal emotions (both positive and negative) which can drive us to act. High arousal emotions can include things like awe, excitement, amusement, anger, or even anxiety. How can you ignite a fire in your audience?


Create behavioral residue. We know that the more public a product or service is, the more likely it is to come up in conversation. Behavioral residue is the physical traces that stick around after people have used a brand or engaged with an idea. This strategy ensures that your product or idea remains visible to potential clients long-term, and won’t fade away. 

Practical Value

Consider the “Rule of 100.” The way a promotional offer is framed can significantly impact practical value. Some of these offers are posed as dollar-off amounts, while others are framed as percentage-off amounts. For bigger-ticket items, framing a price reduction in dollars may seem like a better offer to a potential client. If the product’s price is less than $100, the Rule of 100 states that percentage discounts will seem larger. 


Ensure what you’re offering is valuable, not just viral. Information can travel under the guise of what seems like chatter, but what is actually happening is storytelling. Stories have the power to elicit emotion and can motivate us to take action. If you’re hoping to get people talking about your brand, you could deploy a marketing strategy that’s entertaining, but if your brand is not intertwined in that strategy, people may talk about the concept, but won’t talk about your brand. 

We know that standing out in today’s market can be a difficult task. We’re here to help! Talk to the experts at Integrate Agency about how we can make your brand stand out today.