Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to an exclusive opportunity to delve into the mind of one of today’s most brilliant minds in marketing and social influence. Today, we are honored to have the privilege of interviewing Jonah Berger, renowned expert in viral marketing and author of the best-selling book “Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age.”
Jonah Berger is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he has dedicated his career to understanding why certain products, ideas, or behaviors catch on while others languish in obscurity. With a deep passion for unraveling the mysteries of contagiousness, Berger has brought invaluable insights to businesses, organizations, and individuals seeking to spark word-of-mouth and create lasting impact.
Throughout his illustrious career, Berger has been widely recognized for his groundbreaking research on social influence and persuasion. His work has earned accolades including being named one of the “40 Best Business Professors Under 40” by Fortune Magazine, and his TED Talk on the science behind making ideas go viral has garnered millions of views worldwide.
Berger’s distinctive approach blends cutting-edge academic research with real-world examples, providing practical strategies that anyone can employ to increase the likelihood of their ideas gaining traction. By unlocking the secrets behind contagiousness, he has empowered marketers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to amplify their messages and achieve unparalleled success.
So, join us on this enlightening journey as we sit down with Jonah Berger to gain a deeper understanding of what makes ideas contagious and how we can use this knowledge to make an impactful difference in our own lives and businesses.
Who is Jonah Berger?
Jonah Berger is a highly respected and influential social scientist specializing in the fields of marketing, consumer behavior, and social influence. With his extensive research and expertise, he has made significant contributions to understanding why certain ideas, products, or behaviors catch on and become popular, while others fail to gain traction.
One of Berger’s notable contributions is the concept of “social contagion,” which explores how ideas and behaviors diffuse through social networks. His research sheds light on why some messages go viral, while others remain unnoticed, and uncovers the underlying psychological mechanisms that drive social transmission.
Berger is also known for his best-selling book, “Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age.” In this widely acclaimed publication, he unveils six principles that make ideas contagious, offering practical strategies for marketers and individuals alike to craft messages that are more likely to be shared and adopted by others.
Beyond academia, Jonah Berger has consulted for various prominent companies, governments, and organizations, helping them understand and leverage the power of social influence to drive their objectives. His expertise has been sought after by Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, Coca-Cola, and Nike, to improve their marketing strategies and achieve greater success in reaching their target audiences.
Driven by a passion for unraveling the mysteries of human behavior and sharing his findings with the world, Jonah Berger continues to be an influential figure in the field of social science. His research and insights have not only advanced our understanding of consumer behavior but also provided valuable guidance for businesses and individuals seeking to gain a competitive edge in today’s interconnected world.
Here you can get more information about him by clicking Jonah Berger’s official website.
20 Thought-Provoking Questions With Jonah Berger
1.Can you share ten Contagious quotes which can represent the theme of the book?
1.People don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.
2. Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular.
3. Virality isn’t born, it’s made.
4. Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 percent to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.
5. People don’t need to be paid to be motivated.
6. Marketing is about spreading the love.
7. Why does it matter if particular thoughts or ideas are top of mind? Because accessible thoughts and ideas lead to action.
8. When we care, we share.
9. Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online.
10. If something is built to show, it’s built to grow.
2. What inspired you to explore the topic of word-of-mouth marketing in the digital age?
Evolving consumer behavior: With the rise of social media and online platforms, consumers now have more power and influence than ever before. They can easily share their opinions, recommendations, and experiences with a wide audience. Understanding how this shift in consumer behavior impacts word-of-mouth marketing is crucial for businesses to succeed in the digital age.
Amplification of word-of-mouth: In the digital age, traditional word-of-mouth can reach a significantly larger audience through online platforms. Social media networks, review sites, and blogs allow information to spread rapidly, leading to both positive and negative consequences for brands. Studying this amplification effect helps us understand the dynamics of online word-of-mouth and its impact on consumer decision-making.
New communication channels: The digital age has introduced various new communication channels that affect the way information is shared. From social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, these channels offer unique opportunities for brands to engage with consumers and encourage them to share positive experiences. Exploring the strategies that work best on these platforms is essential for marketers.
Data-driven insights: The digital age provides access to an abundance of data, enabling us to analyze and measure the effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing efforts. By examining user-generated content, social media analytics, and online conversations, we can gain valuable insights into the drivers of successful digital word-of-mouth campaigns. These insights can inform marketing strategies and help businesses optimize their word-of-mouth efforts.
3. In your research, did you find any significant differences in how word-of-mouth works offline versus online?
In my research on word-of-mouth, I have indeed found significant differences in how it operates offline versus online. While both offline and online word-of-mouth play crucial roles in influencing consumer behavior, they exhibit distinct characteristics and mechanisms.
Offline word-of-mouth typically occurs through face-to-face interactions, such as conversations between friends or family members. It relies heavily on personal relationships and relies on verbal communication. Offline word-of-mouth tends to have a more local and immediate impact, with information spreading within smaller social circles.
Online word-of-mouth, on the other hand, takes place through various digital channels and platforms like social media, review websites, forums, or blogs. It expands the reach of word-of-mouth by enabling information to travel quickly across large networks. Online word-of-mouth is often visible to a wider audience, which can amplify its impact significantly.
One key difference between offline and online word-of-mouth lies in the level of control individuals have over the spread of information. Offline, people have limited control over who hears their conversations, whereas online, individuals can choose to share information selectively or target specific audiences. The traceability and persistence of online word-of-mouth also allow for continuous engagement and potential amplification through likes, shares, comments, and reposts.
Additionally, online word-of-mouth provides consumers with easy access to a wealth of information and opinions from diverse sources. This accessibility can influence decision-making processes differently compared to offline word-of-mouth. Online platforms also enable the measurement and analysis of word-of-mouth effects on a larger scale, allowing researchers to examine patterns and trends more comprehensively.
4. Could you discuss some key principles or strategies that can help businesses create contagious content?
Social Currency: People tend to share content that makes them look good, knowledgeable, or part of an exclusive group. By creating content that provides social currency, businesses can increase its shareability. This could involve offering insider knowledge, exclusive offers, or unique experiences that make people feel special when sharing it.
Triggers: Associating your content with triggers, which are frequent reminders, can increase its top-of-mind presence. Aligning your content with existing triggers in people’s daily lives can help maintain its visibility and keep it in their conversations. For instance, certain holidays or events can serve as triggers that prompt people to share relevant content.
Emotional Appeal: Content that evokes emotions tends to be shared more frequently. Positive emotions like awe, inspiration, humor, or amusement often drive people to pass the content along. However, negative emotions like anger or anxiety can also be effective catalysts for sharing, although they should be used cautiously.
Practical Value: Providing practical value to your audience can greatly enhance the shareability of your content. Whether it’s educational information, useful tips, or actionable advice, content that offers immediate benefits will encourage people to share it with others who might find it helpful.
Stories and Narratives: Humans are wired to connect with stories. Crafting compelling narratives around your brand or products can make them more relatable and engaging. Stories have the power to generate emotional responses, inspire action, and increase content sharing.
5. How important is social currency in generating word-of-mouth, and what are some ways companies can leverage it effectively?
Social currency is incredibly important in generating word-of-mouth for companies. In today’s highly connected world, people are constantly sharing their experiences and opinions with others, both online and offline. This sharing behavior can greatly impact the success or failure of a product, service, or brand.
To understand the significance of social currency, we need to recognize that people use the things they talk about as a way to shape how others perceive them. When individuals share interesting or valuable information, they gain social currency—the perceived status, expertise, or uniqueness associated with that information. By leveraging social currency effectively, companies can encourage customers to talk positively about their products or services, leading to increased word-of-mouth.
Here are some ways companies can leverage social currency effectively:
Exclusive experiences: Providing exclusive access to events, early releases, or limited edition products can generate social currency. People love being part of something unique and having the opportunity to share such experiences with others.
Status enhancement: Companies can create products that allow their customers to feel special and superior. Whether it’s luxury goods, limited editions, or personalized offerings, these items can give customers a sense of enhanced social status when they share their ownership or experiences.
6. Building on that, what role does psychology play in shaping viral content?
Psychology plays a crucial role in shaping viral content. Understanding human psychology allows us to tap into the motivations, emotions, and behaviors that drive people to share content with others. One key psychological principle that influences virality is social currency. People often share content that makes them look good or enhances their social status. This could be by sharing unique or valuable information that positions them as knowledgeable or sharing content that aligns with their identity and values.
Another important psychological factor is emotion. Content that evokes strong emotions, whether positive or negative, tends to be more shareable. Emotions like awe, amusement, anger, or surprise trigger a response in individuals, compelling them to share the content with others to elicit similar reactions or express their own feelings.
Additionally, understanding the psychology of social influence can help shape viral content. People tend to rely on others for guidance and validation, especially in uncertain situations. By incorporating social proof in our content, such as testimonials or user-generated content, we leverage the power of social influence to encourage sharing.
Psychological principles like the scarcity effect, which creates a sense of urgency, and the framing effect, which highlights specific aspects of a message, can also be used strategically to make content more shareable. Ultimately, psychology provides valuable insights into human behavior and decision-making, enabling us to create and optimize content that resonates with individuals and increases its potential for viral success.
7. Are there specific emotions or triggers that tend to make content more shareable or contagious?
Yes, there are specific emotions and triggers that tend to make content more shareable or contagious. In my research on the science of virality, I have identified several factors that play a crucial role in driving content sharing.
Emotions: Certain emotions are more likely to evoke sharing than others. Positive emotions like awe, amusement, joy, and inspiration can motivate people to share content because they want to spread happiness or uplift others. On the other hand, negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, or sadness can also drive sharing if the content is related to causes people care about, like social injustices or environmental issues.
Social currency: People often share content that makes them look good or enhances their social status. Content that is seen as unique, valuable, or exclusive tends to be highly shareable. When individuals come across something that makes them feel knowledgeable or part of an “in-group,” they are more likely to share it to gain social currency among their peers.
Practical value: Content that provides practical tips, useful information, or solves a problem tends to be widely shared. When people find something helpful, they are inclined to share it with others who might benefit from it as well. Practical value can create a sense of reciprocity and encourage sharing.
8. Could you provide examples of brands or campaigns that have successfully utilized your principles for generating word-of-mouth?
Blendtec – Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” campaign became a huge success by demonstrating the power of their blenders through blending various unusual objects, such as iPhones and golf balls. This campaign generated significant word-of-mouth buzz due to its surprising and entertaining nature.
Dropbox – Dropbox utilized a referral program that rewarded both existing users and new sign-ups with additional storage space. By incentivizing their customers to refer others, Dropbox achieved remarkable growth through word-of-mouth recommendations.
Apple – Apple is well-known for creating products that generate strong word-of-mouth. Their innovative designs, intuitive user interfaces, and memorable advertising campaigns, like the “Get a Mac” series, have consistently ignited conversations among consumers.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a viral social media campaign that involved pouring a bucket of ice water over one’s head to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This campaign spread rapidly worldwide, engaging celebrities, influencers, and ordinary people alike, generating massive word-of-mouth participation.
9. What are some common mistakes that companies make when trying to build word-of-mouth online?
When it comes to building word-of-mouth online, many companies make some common mistakes that hinder their efforts. Here are a few of these missteps:
Focusing solely on paid advertising: One mistake companies often make is relying too heavily on traditional paid advertising instead of leveraging the power of organic word-of-mouth. While paid advertising has its benefits, it tends to be less effective when it comes to generating trust and credibility from consumers. Instead, companies should invest in strategies that encourage organic sharing and recommendations.
Neglecting the power of social proof: Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people rely on the actions and opinions of others to guide their own behavior. Companies often overlook the potential impact of social proof when trying to build word-of-mouth online. Incorporating customer testimonials, reviews, ratings, and endorsements can significantly boost credibility and encourage others to share their positive experiences.
Lacking engagement and interaction: Many companies treat social media platforms as one-way communication channels, focusing only on broadcasting their messages rather than engaging with their audience. Building word-of-mouth requires active participation and fostering conversations with customers. Responding promptly to comments, addressing concerns, and encouraging user-generated content can help create a sense of community and increase brand advocacy.
10. In a world where attention spans are shrinking, how can businesses ensure their content stands out and captures people’s interest?
In today’s fast-paced world with shrinking attention spans, businesses face the challenge of capturing people’s interest amidst a sea of content. While it may be more difficult than before, there are several strategies that can help businesses ensure their content stands out and captures attention effectively:
Tell compelling stories: Human brains are wired for narratives. Crafting captivating stories around your brand or product helps create an emotional connection with your audience, making your content more memorable.
Emphasize relevance: In order to cut through the noise, it is crucial to make your content as relevant as possible to your target audience. Understand their needs, interests, and pain points, and tailor your message accordingly.
Provide value: People tend to engage with content that offers them something useful or entertaining. Create content that educates, entertains, or provides practical solutions to problems, making it worth their time.
Focus on simplicity: With shortened attention spans, simplicity is key. Make your content easy to consume, digest, and share. Use clear language, concise messaging, and engaging visuals to convey your message efficiently.
11. How do you see the balance between authenticity and strategic planning when creating contagious content?
Authenticity forms the foundation of any successful contagious content. It involves creating content that feels genuine, honest, and aligns with the values, beliefs, and experiences of the target audience. Authenticity helps build trust and credibility, compelling people to share the content because they feel a connection to it. Without authenticity, content may come across as forced or insincere, leading to disengagement and less likelihood of sharing.
On the other hand, strategic planning ensures that contagious content is designed to achieve specific goals. It involves understanding the target audience, their needs, preferences, and motivations. Strategic planning allows content creators to identify what makes their content unique, valuable, and shareable. It also helps in devising a clear message, selecting appropriate channels, and optimizing the timing for maximum impact.
In finding the balance between these two aspects, it’s important to note that authenticity should always be prioritized. Genuine content resonates more strongly with audiences and fosters deeper connections. However, strategic planning can enhance authenticity by refining the message, identifying the most effective delivery methods, and optimizing reach.
To strike this balance effectively, content creators should start by understanding their target audience and their preferences. By uncovering the core values and interests of the audience, one can create content that is both authentic and strategically aligned. This requires ongoing research, testing, and iteration to ensure that the content remains relevant and engaging.
12. With the rise of social media influencers, how can businesses collaborate with them to amplify word-of-mouth efforts?
I believe that businesses can effectively collaborate with social media influencers to amplify their word-of-mouth efforts. Here are a few strategies I would suggest:
Identify relevant influencers: Businesses should first identify influencers who align with their brand values, target audience, and industry. It’s crucial to select influencers whose content resonates with the desired customer segment.
Build authentic relationships: Establishing genuine connections is key. Businesses should focus on building long-term partnerships rather than one-off collaborations. Engage with influencers by liking, commenting, and sharing their content. Attend events or invite them to visit your business, fostering a sense of mutual understanding.
Set clear objectives and expectations: Clearly define the goals and desired outcomes of the influencer collaboration. Whether it’s raising awareness, driving sales, or improving brand perception, ensure both parties are aligned on the objectives and expected deliverables.
13. Are there any ethical considerations businesses should keep in mind while leveraging word-of-mouth marketing?
Yes, there are several ethical considerations that businesses should keep in mind while leveraging word-of-mouth marketing. Here are a few key points to consider:
Transparency and Honesty: Businesses should strive to be transparent and honest when utilizing word-of-mouth marketing. It is important to avoid deceptive practices such as fabricating testimonials or fake reviews, as these can damage trust and reputation.
Respect for Privacy: Respecting the privacy of customers is crucial. While encouraging customers to share their experiences, businesses should ensure they obtain informed consent and handle personal information responsibly. Sensitive customer data should be protected and not misused for marketing purposes without explicit permission.
Disclosure of Relationships: In cases where businesses incentivize individuals to promote their products or services, it is essential to disclose any relationships or affiliations. This transparency helps maintain trust with consumers as they make more informed decisions based on unbiased information.
Authenticity and Quality: Encouraging genuine word-of-mouth requires delivering a high-quality product or service that genuinely satisfies customer needs. Focusing on authenticity, rather than artificially creating positive buzz, ensures long-term success and maintains ethical standards.
Monitoring and Moderation: Businesses should monitor conversations and interactions related to their brand, ensuring that discussions remain respectful, fair, and free from inappropriate content. Taking responsibility for managing online discussions promotes a positive environment and prevents potential harm.
14. In your opinion, what industries or types of businesses can benefit the most from implementing your strategies for building word-of-mouth?
Consumer Products: Industries that offer consumer products such as clothing, electronics, cosmetics, or food can greatly benefit from word-of-mouth strategies. Positive recommendations from friends, family, or online influencers can help generate buzz, increase brand awareness, and drive sales.
Technology Startups: In the tech industry, where competition is high, word-of-mouth can play a crucial role in gaining traction. By encouraging early adopters and influencers to talk about their innovative products or services, startups can create a ripple effect and attract more customers.
Hospitality and Tourism: Word-of-mouth is especially important for businesses in this sector. Hotels, resorts, restaurants, travel agencies, and tourist destinations can benefit from positive reviews and recommendations, as they significantly influence potential customers’ decision-making processes.
Service-based Businesses: Industries that rely on services, such as consulting firms, healthcare providers, financial institutions, or fitness studios, can leverage word-of-mouth to build trust and credibility. Satisfied clients sharing their positive experiences can help attract new customers and establish a strong reputation.
Entertainment and Media: The entertainment industry, including movies, music, books, and TV shows, heavily relies on word-of-mouth to generate interest and excitement. Encouraging fans to share their experiences and opinions can lead to increased viewership/readership and improved sales.
15. Has the landscape of word-of-mouth marketing changed significantly since the publication of your book? If so, in what ways?
Yes, the landscape of word-of-mouth marketing has indeed changed significantly since the publication of my book. The digital revolution and the proliferation of social media platforms have had a profound impact on how information is shared and recommendations are made. Here are some key ways in which the landscape has transformed:
Amplification and Speed: With the rise of social media, word-of-mouth messages can now spread faster and reach a much larger audience than ever before. Social networks allow individuals to easily share their experiences and opinions, potentially amplifying the reach of a recommendation exponentially.
Online Reviews and Ratings: Online platforms such as review websites, e-commerce sites, and social media platforms have provided consumers with an abundance of user-generated reviews and ratings. These online ratings play a significant role in shaping consumer perceptions, influencing purchasing decisions, and driving word-of-mouth conversations.
Influencer Marketing: The emergence of influencer marketing has added another layer to the word-of-mouth landscape. Influencers, who have established credibility and large followings within specific niches or industries, can now act as powerful word-of-mouth agents for brands, promoting products or services to their engaged audiences.
Mobile Connectivity: The widespread adoption of smartphones has made it easier for people to access information, share content, and engage in conversations about brands anytime and anywhere. Mobile devices have become essential tools for consumers to research, discuss, and recommend products and services, further enhancing the reach and speed of word-of-mouth communication.
16. Are there any specific technologies or platforms that you believe will have a profound impact on word-of-mouth marketing in the future?
Social media platforms: With billions of users worldwide, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have already demonstrated their power to amplify word-of-mouth messages. As these platforms continue to evolve, they will likely provide even more ways for individuals to share recommendations and engage with brands, enhancing the reach and impact of word-of-mouth marketing.
Messaging apps: Messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger have become increasingly popular for communication. These apps offer opportunities for people to share recommendations directly with their friends and family, creating a more personalized and trusted form of word-of-mouth marketing.
Influencer marketing: The rise of social media influencers has opened up new avenues for word-of-mouth marketing. Influencers can quickly spread positive word-of-mouth about products or services to their followers, who often trust their opinions. As technology advances, we may see more sophisticated influencer marketing strategies emerge, allowing brands to leverage influencers’ reach and credibility effectively.
Artificial intelligence (AI): AI-powered technologies can analyze vast amounts of data to understand consumer behavior and preferences better. By leveraging AI, companies can identify key influencers within their target audience and develop personalized word-of-mouth marketing campaigns based on individual preferences and interests.
17. What role does customer experience and satisfaction play in generating positive word-of-mouth?
Customer experience and satisfaction play a crucial role in generating positive word-of-mouth. When customers have a positive experience with a product or service, they are more likely to share their satisfaction with others in their social network. This can lead to increased brand awareness, customer acquisition, and ultimately, business growth.
Positive word-of-mouth occurs when customers voluntarily recommend a product or service to others based on their personal experiences. It serves as a powerful form of marketing because it carries more weight and credibility than traditional advertising. People tend to trust recommendations from friends, family, and acquaintances, making them more receptive to trying out a brand that has been positively endorsed.
A satisfying customer experience not only meets but exceeds customer expectations. It involves delivering exceptional quality, providing excellent customer service, and ensuring a seamless journey throughout the entire purchase process. When customers feel valued and cared for, they are more likely to become brand advocates and share their positive experiences with others.
Moreover, positive word-of-mouth is amplified through various channels such as social media, online reviews, and offline conversations. In today’s digital age, these platforms enable information to spread rapidly, reaching a larger audience. Each positive recommendation has the potential to reach numerous individuals who may be influenced by the experiences shared.
18. Are there any cultural or regional differences that businesses should consider when implementing your strategies in different markets?
Yes, businesses should definitely consider cultural and regional differences when implementing strategies in different markets. These differences can significantly impact the effectiveness of their approach and ultimately determine the success or failure of their efforts.
Culture plays a vital role in shaping people’s preferences, behaviors, and decision-making processes. What may be appealing or persuasive in one culture might not resonate with another. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to conduct thorough research on the target market’s cultural values, norms, beliefs, and traditions.
Regional differences also come into play, as different geographic areas often have distinct characteristics and preferences. For example, climate, language, economic factors, and historical context can all influence consumer behavior. Businesses should adapt their strategies accordingly to align with these regional variations.
To account for these cultural and regional differences, businesses should adopt a localized approach. This involves understanding the unique needs and aspirations of the target audience and tailoring marketing messages, product offerings, and communication channels accordingly. It may also involve partnering with local influencers or leveraging local events and festivals to enhance brand relevance and resonance.
19. What are some actionable steps that aspiring marketers or business owners can take after reading your book to start building contagious content?
For aspiring marketers or business owners looking to start building contagious content after reading my book, I would recommend the following actionable steps:
Understand the STEPPS framework: The STEPPS framework (Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories) forms the foundation of creating contagious content. Make sure to familiarize yourself with each principle and how they can be applied to your specific industry or target audience.
Start with your objectives: Clearly define your marketing objectives and understand what you want to achieve with your contagious content. Is it to increase brand awareness, drive sales, or engage with your audience? This clarity will guide your content creation process.
Identify your target audience: To create contagious content, you need to know your audience inside out. Conduct thorough research to understand their needs, motivations, preferences, and communication channels. This knowledge will help you tailor your content to resonate with them effectively.
Find your unique angle: Differentiate yourself from competitors by finding a unique angle or perspective that sets your content apart. Consider what makes your product, service, or brand remarkable and use that as a basis for crafting contagious content.
20. As a final question, can you recommend more books like Contagious to our readers?
“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini: This classic work examines the principles of persuasion and how they can be used in various contexts. It discusses six key factors that influence human behavior and offers insights into understanding the triggers that drive people to take action.
“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell: Similar to “Contagious,” this book focuses on the concept of contagiousness and how small changes can lead to significant outcomes. It explores the nature of social epidemics and identifies the factors that contribute to their rapid spread.
“Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal: While more specific to product design and consumer behavior, this book examines how companies create products that engage users and form habitual behaviors. It explores the psychology of habit formation and provides insights into building products that users keep coming back to.