Jonah Berger: Professor, Consultant, Author
Jonah Berger is a Marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Also, he is a bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. He’s published dozens of articles in top-tier academic journals, consulted for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, and popular outlets like the New York Times and Harvard Business Review often cover his work. His research has also been featured in the New York Times Magazine’s “Year in Ideas.” As a speaker, he has spoken at a number of international conferences like SWSX. In our prive interview, he tells us
We all know Social Media have changed our lives, but not so many people actually understand why things catch on and we behave in a certain way. To have your own life in the 21st century, we need to know more about what human being is.
-----For those who are not familiar with you, please tell us the essence/core concept of your theory.
Whether you’re selling a product, pitching a service, or just trying to get people to adopt your ideas within your organization, we all want our stuff to catch on. But how can we do that? We’ve analyzed at thousands of pieces of online content, tens of thousands of brands, and millions of purchases and again and again we see the same patterns. As I talk about inContagious: Why Things Catch On it’s not random or luck. There’s a science behind why things catch on. Six key factors that drive all sorts of products and ideas to become popular.
-----Why is it important to increase the chance that people talk about and share your idea?
People look to others to decide what to do. We don’t trust ads, but we trust our peers. If someone says they like a product, we’re much more likely to purchase it. And if someone else vouches for our idea, the company is much more likely to adopt it. Word of mouth is over 10 times as effective as traditional advertising. But to make word of mouth work for you, you have to understand why people talk and share. Why people pass along some things rather than others.
-----How did you get interested in the human behavior? Are you genetically disposed to analyze things surrounding you or did you have a specific moment to get interested in it?
I’ve always been interested in why people do what they do. Why we buy some things, make certain decisions, or pass certain things along. But this interest really behavior. crystallized in college. I realized that we didn’t just have to guess, we could use rigorous science and experimentation to gain insight into human
Jonah Berger: Why Things Catch On
-----Why do you empower people through teaching, speaking, and writing books and articles? For example, why did you accept this interview offer even though it is not as big as the media you normally appear on?
Doing academic research is interesting, but it’s much more fulfilling if you know that research is helping people. And that’s why I wrote Contagious. There’s lots of hype out there around social media, but much less actual data to help separate right and wrong. I wrote the book to share all the great academic research with people so that they could use it to help their own lives
-----The majority of people tend to follow the common sense regardless of the fact indicated by the data. When you convince people to apply your method, what are important factors to make people open their eyes and experience a paradigm shift in their way of thinking?
We all think we know more than we do. So to change people’s minds, to convince to learn something new, it’s important to show them, not just tell them. To open up a curiosity gap or highlight gaps in their knowledge. Take word of mouth. When we think about word of mouth, most people think of social media. Facebook, Twitter, etc. But if you had to guess, what percent of all word of mouth would you guess is online? Is on things like social media, blogs, etc.? Most people would say 50% even 60%. But the answer is only 7%. Only 7% of all word of mouth is online. Most people are really surprised the number is so low. But that encourages them to pay more attention. If I was wrong about that, what else might I be wrong about?
-----For most of people, it is extremely difficult to find connections and meanings out of an enormous amount of information. Can you verbalize what happens in your mind/thoughts when you analyze the data and experience an epiphany?
Few things are more exciting than glimpsing a solution to something you’ve been working on for a while. When everything suddenly clicks, it seems so simple, but that simplicity is part of the beauty. Good answers are often simple once you understand them, but difficult to guess in advance.
-----You have a unique life style. You look truly energized. For you, what is the meaning of your work and life?
Doing what you love and loving what you do. If you like what you do, work isn’t just a means to an end, you enjoy doing it for your own sake. There are so many interesting puzzles out there, it’s exciting to be able to try to understand them.
-----If you could make a call to 20-year-old Jonah Berger, what kind of advices would you give to him?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.