Full Review - Contagious. The 6 Principles of Social Influence, Jonah Berger

“Contagious” is a fascinating book by Jonah Berger about the factors that shape social influence. A valuable guide to understanding and stimulating word-of-mouth

“Contagious” is an exciting book that explores the hidden factors behind the viral success of certain products, ideas, and behaviors.

Jonah Berger, professor of marketing at the Wharton School, dissects the mechanisms of social influence and word-of-mouth.

Contagious books

Les central themes covered include:

  1. The 6 STEPPS principles : Social currency, Triggers, Emotion, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories. A framework for understanding and creating contagious content.
  2. The role of emotions in sharing : why content that elicits certain emotions (such as wonder or outrage) is more shared.
  3. The influence of social signals : how the public visibility of a product or behavior can lead to a mimicry effect.
  4. The importance of mental triggers : how to associate your message with elements of the daily environment to stimulate word-of-mouth.

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Critical analysis

“Contagious” is distinguished by its scientific rigor, its captivating style and its immediate applicability.

Jonah Berger turns years of academic research into an accessible and practical book, rich in striking examples and concrete advice.

The 6 STEPPS Principles

STEPPS framework contagious

One of the major assets of the book is the framework for analysing the 6 STEPPS principles:

  1. Social Currency
  2. Triggers
  3. Emotion
  4. Public
  5. Practical Value
  6. Stories

These principles offer a powerful tool for analyzing the success of viral campaigns and designing more contagious messages.

Berger illustrates each of these principles with concrete cases, from the Blendtec campaign to successful YouTube videos.

Role of Emotions

Berger shows that viral content elicits strong emotions, whether positive (wonder, joy, love) or negative (outrage, anxiety, anger). This idea has major implications for creating engaging content.

Some reservations:

  • Focus on the “How” : Berger focuses on the mechanisms of social contagion, sometimes leaving aside the root reasons for our propensity to share and imitate.
  • American examples : The majority of examples come from the American context. A diversity of international cases would have strengthened the universal reach of the book.

Despite these reservations, “Contagious” is a major work that sheds light on the mechanisms of social influence. Indispensable for marketers, entrepreneurs, content creators, or simple curious citizens, it offers a thorough understanding of the power of word-of-mouth.

Contagious book cover

Things to remember

Readers will learn:

  • The 6 STEPPS principles that govern social contagion: Social currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical value, Stories.
  • That viral content often plays on our emotions, especially wonder, enthusiasm, outrage, or anxiety.
  • That we are more likely to imitate behavior when it is public and visible.
  • That associating your message with triggers in the daily environment increases the chances of being talked about it.
  • That people share what makes them look good (social currency), what is useful (practical value), and what tells a story (stories).

Similar books

  • “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini
  • “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Author Background

Jonah Berger is a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2007.

Jonah Berger speaking cnference

With a doctorate in social psychology from Stanford University, her research focuses on social influence, including what makes products, ideas, and behaviors popular.

  • Publications and Research : Berger has published dozens of articles in academic journals in marketing, psychology and communication sciences.
  • Speaker and Consultant : He has worked with renowned companies and organizations like Google, the World Bank, Nike, and Apple to develop contagious messages and content.
  • “Contagious” : Berger's first book for the general public, translated into more than 35 languages and an international bestseller.
  • Other books : He also published “Invisible Influence,” which explores the hidden factors that influence our decisions.

With “Contagious”, Jonah Berger positions himself as an original and influential thinker on issues of social influence and virality.

By combining academic research and accessibility, it offers professionals and the general public valuable insight into these social phenomena.


Do you have to work in marketing to benefit from this book?

No This book is useful for anyone who wants to convey a message or influence behavior, whether professionally, associatively, or personally.

Do Berger's principles only apply to the digital world?

No The 6 STEPPS principles are also relevant for offline word-of-mouth. Face-to-face conversations remain a key driver of influence.

Does the book provide techniques for manipulating people?

No Berger explains the mechanisms of social influence and emphasizes the importance of creating authentic and valuable content. The ethics of use depends on each person.

Is there a magic recipe for creating viral content?

No The 6 STEPPS principles increase the chances of success, but there is no magic formula. Each message must be adapted to its context and audience.


In conclusion, Jonah Berger's “Contagious” is a fascinating and powerful book that sheds new light on the mysteries of social influence and viral success.

With its simple and effective framework for analysis, striking examples, and concrete advice, it is an indispensable book for anyone looking to understand and master the power of word-of-mouth.

Whether you are a marketer, entrepreneur, creator, activist or simply curious about the ins and outs of social life, “Contagious” will offer you valuable keys to create messages that stand out, generate engagement and spread like wildfire.