Unruly / Blog / Jonah Berger: 6 Key STEPPS To Creating Contagious Content

Jonah Berger: 6 Key STEPPS To Creating Contagious Content

Why does some content spread like wildfire across the internet? This is a topic that we have been passionate about at Unruly since inception back in 2006.

We’ve collaborated with the world’s leading academics, dug deep into our unique data set and carried out our own research into why some videos get shared in their millions while others are a flop.

So, why is sharing important? Because Nielsen studies have shown that consumers trust WOM more than any other medium, and word of mouth creates advocacy, which is 50x more likely to trigger a purchase (McKinsey).

It’s a topic also covered by Dr Jonah Berger in his New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

Jonah has spent over 15 years studying how to get more word of mouth, how social influence works and how it drives products and makes ideas catch on.

Unruly recently hosted a research breakfast with Jonah, who is also a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he outlined his 6 key STEPPS that will enable advertisers to craft contagious content.


1. Social Currency

People care about how they look to others. They want to seem smart, cool, and in-the-know. So be sure to find the inner-remarkability (e.g. Will it Blend?) and make people feel like insiders.



Top-of-mind means tip-of-tongue. So consider the context and grow your habitat so that people are frequently triggered to think about your product or idea. Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ music video is a great example of this.



When we care, we share. Emotional content often goes viral, so focus on feelings rather than function. And kindle the fire using high arousal emotions. Learn more about why emotional videos work better in our E for Emotions post.



Built to show, built to grow. The more public something is, the more likely people will imitate it. Design products and initiatives that advertise themselves (e.g. red bottom shoes) and create some visible behavioural residue.


5.Practical Value

News you can use. Useful things get shared. So highlight incredible value and expertise so that people can easily pass it on.



Information travels under what seems like idle chatter. Stories are vessels – so build a Trojan Horse. Create a narrative or story that people want to tell which carries your idea along for the ride.


To find out more about Jonah’s research on how things catch on, you can buy his book ‘Contagious’ from Amazon or any major retailer.

So you now know what makes a video shareable, but how long should it be? Click here to read our latest article on Small but mighty: making sense of 6 second video.