Tag Archives: Jonah Berger

Why Social Influence is Important in Business: Q&A with Jonah Berger

We were lucky enough to recently catch up with one of our
favorite conference speakers Jonah Berger, who is well-known as a Wharton
Professor and Bestselling Author of Invisible
and Contagious:
Why Things Catch On
Berger shared some key insights about why social
influence is key to business from his new book Invisible Influence.

Here’s what Jonah had to say:
What is ‘social
Berger: Social
influence is the impact people have on others around them. We vote if our
spouse is voting, run faster if someone else is watching us, or switch our entr??e
if someone at the table orders the same thing.  In each instance, others’
behavior influences or affects our own. Those others can be spouses and
friends, but also people we never even talk to, like the stranger sitting next
to us on the plane.  Social influence effects small things, like the food
we eat, but also big things like the career we choose or whether we save money
for retirement. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of all decisions are shaped by
others. It’s hard to find a decision or behavior that isn’t affected by other
Why is social
influence important in business?
Berger: If we
understand how influence works, we can harness its power. We can convince
a client, change the boss’ mind, and motivate employees to take action.  One section of the book, for example, talks
about how being a chameleon can make you more successful. Researchers looked at
what makes someone a good negotiator. 
What makes them more likely to reach a deal when all looks
lost. And they found that one simple trick led negotiators to be 5x as
successful. That trick?  Imitating or mimicking the language,
behavior, or facial expressions of their negotiating partner. If their partner
crossed their legs, they did the same.  And if their partner leaned back
in the chair, they did so as well. Not obviously, but subtly mirroring
their partner.  Turns out the same trick works in a range of
contexts. Waiters or waitresses that mimic their patrons’ orders get 70%
higher tips.  Mimicry increases liking, trust, and affiliation.  It
deepens social bond and makes people feel a kinship that turns strangers into
friends and acquaintances into allies.
Why is social
influence key to reaching the right customers?
Berger: Word of
mouth is 10x as effective as traditional advertising. People trust it more and
its more targeted.  So, to reach the right customers, we have to turn our
existing customers into advocates. Use social influence to get them to
talk about and share our message and bring new converts in along the way. 
How can individuals
harness the power of social influence to make better decisions in their
personal lives?  
Berger: If we
understand how influence works, we can take advantage of its benefits and avoid
its downsides. Following others can provide a useful shortcut that saves
time and effort. If lots of people chose or did something, it’s probably pretty
good. So, others can be a valuable source of information, a heuristic that
simplifies decision making. Other times, however, following others can
lead us astray.  So, simple tricks like considering whether others have
the same preferences as we do can help us avoid going the wrong way.
Have you ever been personally affected by the power of
social influence? What is an example?
Certainly. I was telling lawyer friend of mine from DC about
the book and he was lamenting the effect of social influence on his
colleagues. He said the first thing new lawyers in DC do when they make
partner is go out and buy a BMW.  I said that was interesting, but then
pointed out that he himself was a DC lawyer and drove a BMW. He said yes, but
they all drive grey BMWs. I bought a blue one.
What I love about this story is that it perfectly
encapsulates the tension inherent in social influence.  People often think
being influenced means doing the same thing as others, but it’s more complex
than that.  There’s more than one flavor of influence. Sure, sometimes we
imitate those around us, but we also care about standing out and being
unique.  So, when do we do the same thing as others and when do we do
something different. 
In your book, you
share an experiment about cockroaches and how their behavior changed when they
had an audience.  What insights can you share about how we behave when our
actions are observed?
Berger: It makes
sense that people and animals might work harder when there is a
competition.  If two pigeons are racing to get the last piece of bread, or
two people are competing to win a golf tournament, the desire to achieve the
reward or win the competition might lead people and animals to work harder.
Even the mere presence of others though, can have similar effects. 
Cockroaches, for example, ran faster through a maze when
other cockroaches were watching them, even though those others weren’t directly
competing.  People behave similarly.  The mere fact that someone is
watching us can increase motivation and performance.  But for new or
difficult tasks, others can sometimes have the opposite effect.  Having
someone else in the car when we’re trying to parallel park, for example, makes
it harder for most of us to fit in the spot.  So, whether others presence
helps or hurts depends on the nature of the task.

Contagious: How to Make Products, Ideas, and Behaviors Catch On

TMRE Keynote Presentation
Contagious: How to Make Products, Ideas, and Behaviors Catch On
By Jonah Berger, Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School
at the University of Pennsylvania
Berger starts the keynote session by playing a game, Which
is Tastier
? Where two images are shown: broccoli and a cheeseburger.
The vote is cast: the majority vote, you guessed it, for the
cheeseburger. The point is simple. We all know we should eat more broccoli but
the cheeseburger beckons us.
The analogy of tasty then gets turned to ideas. Which ideas
are Tastier?
Some of the ideas are like broccoli’they are good for us,
but not desired, not catching on.
The curse of knowledge plagues the researcher.  We have to overcome what we know and
communicate in a way people will try and spread it. 
As an overview, we will explore these three, key points:
How we make ideas tastier
How we craft our insights that make people more
likely to listen
How we can use word-of-mouth to spread the idea
He asks the audience: What is the science of why people
share? Let’s tour the main points. Let’s learn about the science of social
transmission through storytelling.
Berger showed a slide proving that word-of-mouth is at least
twice as effective as advertising, according to a McKinsey study.
The first hack he shared was based on his experience in
academia. Two copies of the same book were sent to him; the second had a note
encouraging him to pass along to a colleague who may enjoy it. Berger’s point:
find the influencers and give them something to spread, and it comes across as
a recommendation.
So, why do people
? Here are the top driving six factors:
Social currency
Practical Value
One way to get others to share our ideas is to make them
look good, look smarter’this is the basis of social currency.
We share things that send desired signals of who we are, our
ideal self. So do brands. How can you make your brand tribe feel smart and
in-the-know, on the inside track? If people feel special sharing our stuff,
they will.
One facet of social currency is finding the Inner
Remarkability’something surprising, novel, or interesting. Berger used the
Blendtec blending an iPhone example as the Will it Blend campaign. Blenders
sales went up 700% as a result.
The more you can show rather than tell, the more powerful.
So, what is a Trigger: something that is top-of-mind
because it is tip-of-tongue.
Consideration is 80% of purchase, and getting in the
consideration sphere is the most important part of the strategy.
Here are the four questions for getting value from triggers:
Who do we want to triggers?
When do they want to be triggered?
What is in the environment at that time?
How can we connect to the environment?
The last tactic discussed is Stories. Facts and data bore
everyone. Stories are vessels of information, a Trojan Horse, a carrier of
information. Stories imbue the emotional shorthand of a brand. Stories are the currency
of conversation.
Berger’s advice: first, find your kernel. What do you want
to pass on, to share? Then, how can you make others feel special about it,
in-the-know, and share.
Michael Graber is the
managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic
growth firm based in Memphis, TN. Visit
www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

Six Key Factors that Drive Word of Mouth: Podcast

Author Explains How to Make a Message Viral
By Marc
Dresner, Senior Editor, IIR
well understood that word-of-mouth is an extremely influential marketing
medium, but just how powerful may surprise you.

to Wharton Professor of Marketing Jonah Berger, $1 invested in WOM may actually
be worth up to 10 times that of a
conventional ad dollar

Jonah Berger

‘Word-of-mouth underlies most of the decisions people
‘Word-of-mouth underlies most of the decisions people
make,’ he told The Research Insighter.
As such,
a good read on WOM may be one of the most valuable forms of consumer
intelligence one could hope for, but are we really getting one?
and marketers have increasingly fixated on passive capture of WOM through
technology’social media analytics, NLP, etc.
despite all of the hype around Facebook, Twitter, etc., Berger’author of the
best-seller ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On”points
out only about 7% of WOM
happens online
isn’t to say that social media isn’t a good WOM proxy, but Berger advises not
to get too hung up on technology and media platforms’they come and go.
‘We need
to stop thinking in terms of technology and start thinking in terms of

‘We all understand word-of-mouth affects sales, but most businesses aren’t
being scientific about how to harness it and use those customer insights to
drive their sales,’ he explained.
‘We need
to stop thinking about WOM in terms of technology and start thinking in terms
of psychology,’ Berger said.
In this podcast for The
Research Insighter 
series, Jonah Berger
 shares his ‘STEPPS’ framework and the six
factors that prompt people to pass something on…
to the podcast!

the transcript!

Editor’s note: Jonah Berger will be speaking at TMRE 2015‘The Market Research Event’now
in its 13th year as the largest, most comprehensive research conference
in the world taking place November 2-4 in Orlando.
For information or to
register, please visit

Ps. SAVE $100 when you register with code TMRE15BL!

Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a publication for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

Seth Godin and Dan Ariely Help Shape Future of Insights Industry

We all get into ruts where we’re just going through the
motions. But in times of great change- times like the insights industry is
experiencing right now- going through the motions isn’t enough. You need to
challenge the norm, embrace change, and see new opportunity.
Here’s who will rekindle your insights fire at The Market
Research Event this Fall
TMRE 2015
November 2-4,
Rosen Shingle
Visit our
website: http://bit.ly/1MtInRJ
Seth Godin, Best-Selling Author & Marketing
Why Seth? As an industry, we need to push
the envelope to make research a difference maker. Seth helps us ‘poke the box’
and think like true market disruptors.
Dan Ariely, Best-Selling Author, Predictably
Irrational, Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University
Why Dan? He shows how human irrationalities help unlock common behaviors and
choices that directly impact our research decisions.
Hilary Mason, CEO & Founder, Fast Forward
Labs, Data Scientist in Residence, Accel Partner, Former Chief Scientist,
Why Hilary? Hilary explains practical tools
and techniques you can consider when thinking about how to use your own data.
Jonah Berger, Professor of Marketing, The
Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Author, Contagious: Why Things
Catch On
Why Jonah? Whether you’re gathering
insights for a mature product or introducing the next big thing, you’ll gain
valuable insights to drive your business forward.
Maxwell Luthy, Co-Author, Trend-Driven
Innovation, Director of Trends & Insights, TrendWatching
Why Maxwell? Maxwell rallies the industry
to consider the implications of each trend and seize the opportunities they
represent for their business (because just tracking trend without acting on
them is useless)
Kumar Mehta, Ph.D., CEO, Blueocean Market
Reed Cundiff, General Manager, Microsoft
Why Kumar and Reed? They put forth a call
to action to the research industry to step up and become leaders in the new age
of data-driven decision making.
Jane Gould, Senior Vice President, Consumer
Insights Research, MTV
Bill Hoffman, Chief Analytics Officer, US Bank, Former SVP of Insights, Best
BV Pradeep, Global Vice President, Consumer and Market Insights – Market
Clusters, Unilever (Singapore)
Why this Panel? You have the opportunity to
submit your questions or big ideas you’d like to see the panel address.
Download the brochure for keynote session descriptions and
the complete TMRE 2015 agenda: http://bit.ly/1MtInRJ
Mention code TMRE15LI
for $100 off the current rate. Register today: http://bit.ly/1MtInRJ
Join us and connect with the best in insights from around
the world.
The TMRE Team

The Secret Sauce Behind Word-Of-Mouth Advertising

It’s day 2 of the
Future of Consumer Intelligence conference and one big trend is forming: Word
of Mouth is important’ very important.
Several of the speakers have touched on
the relevance of Word of Mouth in today’s advertising playground. On day 1 we
had a panel of Millennials that discussed things they’re interested in and what
makes them tick. Almost all of them mentioned how they rely heavily upon Word of
Mouth platforms like Yelp and YouTube. The groundwork was set around this topic
and Jonah Berger drove it home in this morning’s keynote presentation.
Author of the book
Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Berger shared a few key points from his book. Here
are a few of the things that struck me:

Expand your Word of
Mouth advertising by focusing on the people who already love your product

Berger made the point that
people error in thinking that trying to reach out to a targeted group of
non-users is the best way to increase Word of Mouth. In other words, finding
people who match the profile of your current customer. Berger argues that the
best way to increase Word of Mouth is to let the people who already know and
love you do it. To explain this view, he used an example from his work as a
professor. Berger mentioned that publishers often send professors free books in
the mail, with the hope of including the book in the curriculum. One time he
received a package from a publisher with two copies of the same book. The books
came with a note, ‘We think you’ll know someone who will love this book too’. This
publisher knew that Berger would be the best advocate for the book and would be
able to target and share the book with someone who would really enjoy it.

Being a ‘secret’ is

Berger gives two
examples of this concept. The first example was a bar in NY called Please Don’t
Tell. This bar has no advertising and requires people to go into a phone booth
and use a rotary dial phone in order to enter. The bar is so popular that to
get in you must have a reservation. This bar leverages the element of secrecy
to grow its Word of Mouth advertising. People enjoy being able to be the first
person to introduce someone to the bar.
The other example he
gave was the McRib at McDonalds. Berger states that the McRib was introduced to
help defuse the demand for chicken nuggets. Over time McDonalds has kept the
McRib on the menu but never at the same time in each region. By strategically
altering when and where the McRib is featured has created a rather humorous
following. There is actually a website designed to help people know when and
where the McRib is on the menu.

Top-of-mind means tip-of-tongue

Berger points out that
one of the key attributes of successful Word of Mouth advertising is getting
people to think about your product or service indirectly. He believes it’s
important to link yourself to things that are used frequently. A good example
is peanut butter and jelly. When people say peanut butter, most people begin to
think about jelly as well. Another is example is how Corona has tried to
position itself with the beach. The idea is to get people to think about Corona
when they visit the beach.

I think Berger did a
great job at trying to put a ‘formula’ behind a popular strategy. The bad news?
It’s only a matter of time before this strategy is diluted. Marketers are
famous for beating a strategy to death. Think of email’. When email first came
out, email open rates were ridiculously high. Now-a-days most people are happy
with an open rate in the single digits. How long will this strategy be
effective? It’s hard to put a number on it but don’t wait around because it won’t
be long.
Follow the conference on Twitter by tracking the hashtag #FOCI14


Isaiah Adams is the Manager of Social Media Development at Optimization Group, a marketing research and analytics firm that uses cutting edge technology to help clients make fact-based decisions. Optimization Group has a dedicated place on its site where agencies can learn how to use research to help their clients succeed called the Advertising Agency Hub.
Follow Optimization Group on Twitter @optimizationgrp

Top 10 Jonah Berger Inspirations at FOCI14

Jonah Berger, and his latest book, ‘Contagious:
Why Things Catch On
‘ was one of our keynotes today at FOCI14. Not to be too
much of a fangirl, but Jonah is the speaker I was most eager to see at FOCI14.  

Following are my top 10 quotes from his presentation (and picking
only ten was hard!):

How tasty are your messages? More like broccoli
or more like a cheeseburger? And can we make our messages tastier?

‘Word of mouth generates more than twice the
sales of advertising,’ a famous McKinsey & Company quote. And if we want to
understand WOM, we have to understand why things catch on (thus his book).

A book publisher sent him 2 copies of a book
that they wanted him to recommend to his students. They said, here is a copy for
you to review, and please share the second copy with another person you may know
who might enjoy it. So they basically enlisted him to help with WOM: they knew
he would be likely to be connected to other qualified people. Jonah describes
this (positively) as a marketing ‘hack.’

7% of all WOM is online. Yes, 7%. Most WOM is
offline. It’s more important to understand why people share, not how they

6 key attributes to getting things shared/spread/WOM:
Social Currency, Triggered, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories. 

‘Secrets’ knowing things others don’t know is a
form of social currency. People like to share inside information. Making people feel like insiders:
powerful motivator of preference, WOM Story of the ‘secret’ bar in NYC that is
always booked (I found an article about PDT: link).

How did a company get 200M views of a video
about blenders? They blended an iPhone. The key: Surprising, Novel, or Interesting.
(WillitBlend.com) A totally mundane product’a blender’and sales went up over
700%. (doing something crazy just for crazy is not effective/doing something
crazy that is on point, that is effective)

Kit Kat sales down, so they launch a campaign to
associate it with break time. Break time was a good choice to associate with
because break time happens frequently. It’s a trigger.

‘Social proof’: in a strange city, you pick a crowded
restaurant (not an empty one)’you see the other people as a signal of
information. If we can’t see what people are doing, we can’t use it as a
signal. So how do we make the private public? A restaurant can have a big window
so you can see the crowd.  (Apple made their
headphones white’it became a signal. Easier to see, easier to imitate.) What
can you do to make your private public?

Good stories are ‘Trojan horse stories’. They
have a hidden message.  Subway’s Jarrod
story: tells us you can eat their sandwiches and be healthy.

Thank you Jonah!!!!
This post was written by Kathryn Korostoff. Kathryn is currently the President of Research Rockstar, the only independent company dedicated to market research training (online and in-person).  Prior to Research Rockstar, Kathryn completed the transition of Sage Research’an agency that she led for 13 years’to its new parent company, Chadwick Martin Bailey. Over the past 25 years, she has directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in various magazines, including Quirk’s Marketing Research Review and the MRA’s Alert! Magazine. She also currently serves as President for the MRA’s New England chapter.   KKorostoff@ResearchRockstar.com, 508.691.6004 ext 705, @ResearchRocks. She offers a gift to her new FOCI friends here: LINK.

Live from #MediaInsight: Highlights from this morning’s Keynotes

David Poltrack, Chief Research Officer, CBS explains how new platforms and new metrics impact broadcast TV and advertising 

We are in the “transitional” season of TV: more has changed in the past 2 years than the past 20.  
Programming offered on traditional TV only reaches on 33% of the potential audience – embracing other platforms is key. 
75% of broadband only subscribers have never had cable – they are younger, better educated, but lower income.
It’s important to understand the disconnect between intent to view and actual viewership – while an average of 40% of people say that they are likely to tune into the programming tested at CBS’s research facility, Television City, actual tune-in is significantly lower.  But now, with so many new platforms, tune-in numbers are on the rise.  
During primetime, the number one source of viewing is not any of the major networks, but DVR playback.  
“From adapt and survive to adapt and thrive” – this is TV’s new reality.  
Audience segmentation has seen a major shift – it’s no longer about straight demographics but shared viewing habits.  
Hit programs become hit programs because everyone is watching them – it’s not owning a single demo, but appealing to everyone no matter how they consume their content.  
For advertisers, media analytics have become much more important.  To truly understand ROI, it’s necessary to look at the full picture and understand a show’s performance across all platforms.  
Every segment of TV viewers streams more than ever before, but the devices they use are different.  
The future of advertising is interactive – now, advertisers can shout out a message and consumers can do something with it via the second screen devices they are already using.  
Contagious: How to Make Products, Ideas and Behaviors Catch On
Jonah Berger, Professor of Marketing, THE WHARTON SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, Author, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

“Word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones’ – McKinsey Quarterly
Only 7% of word of mouth is online.  It’s not that online isn’t important, but that offline is as if not more important.
Six “stepps” to making something contagious: Social Currency, Triggered, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories
Choices communicate information – if you see someone in a minivan, you automatically assume it’s a parent with kids who play soccer.  
McDonald’s McRib sandwich – maybe not the best sandwich, but a genius move by McDonald’s to limit availability and create demand.  
Finding the inner remarkability is key to driving word of mouth about a product.  See this example using a simple blender: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg1ckCkm8YI
It’s important to be top of mind.  Take Cheerios vs. Disney World.  While Disney World may be great, you forget about it a week after you get home.  But you eat Cheerios every morning, 365 days a year, keeping a boring cereal top of mind.  
“Think of things in the environment that will remind people of you.”  Find the right triggers to keep yourself (or your product) top of mind.  
When we care, we share.  An emotional response is what gets us to spread the word.  
It’s not just about revealing the facts, but telling the story.  You may not care that Subway has 5 sandwiches with 5 grams of fat or less, but you care about Jared.  
Live, Public, Conversational: Recent Learning from Twitter Research

Jeffrey Graham, Global Ad Research Director, TWITTER

Money Question #1: Does Twitter detract from TV advertising due to second screen usage?  In measuring ad recall, Twitter found that using Twitter while watching TV increased recall significantly.  Not only this, but using Twitter also increased brand favorability and purchase intent among TV viewers.  
Money Question #2: How does Twitter truly impact TV ROI?  Twitter used three different methodologies with three different vendors to get at the answer.  In both the US and UK, Twitter found ROI increases from 8% to 51% when Twitter is being used concurrently with TV ads.
Money Question #3: How does Twitter impact TV program selection?  It was found that TV ads in highly social shows drive higher incremental sales than shows that drive less conversation on Twitter.    
Money Question #4: Are TV commercials with hashtags more likely to drive conversation?  Yes!  Advertisers who provided a hashtag drove 42% more conversation within a 3-minute window surrounding the airing of the ad.  Also, these conversations tended to be more relevant and positive than the conversation surrounding ads without hashtags.  


Ben Proctor is Insights Strategist at Miner & Co. Studio, a New York-based consultancy

Could the environment affect consumer purchasing habits?

In a study done by Jonah Berger and Grainne Fitzsimons, a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, published a study on how consumers choices are affected by the subtle enviornmental factors they see every day. If companies can find a way to relate their products to things that are already in the environment, they can get an automatic boost.

One of the studies conducted showed that people who saw dogs on a daily basis were more likely to buy Puma shoes. This is a result of dogs relating to cats, and then consumers transferring this thought to seeing cougars on the shoes. Another study asked consumers to list types of candy both before the day of Halloween and then a week after. The day before Halloween, out of the 144 consumers questioned, they were half as likely to say candies that were colored orange. Read more about the survey here.

Have you seen results show up like this when it comes to selling your products? Are you more likely to sell more of something in the fall than the spring? Why?