How to Make Your Ideas Catch On with New York Times Best-selling Author and Wharton Marketing Professor Jonah Berger

Show Notes

Word of mouth is powerful in the world of business, but why do some people talk about and share some things more than others? New York Times best-selling author and Wharton Marketing Professor Jonah Berger shares the 6 Key S.T.E.P.P.S to creating contagious content.

  • Thrive Nation, welcome back to the Thrivetime Show on your radio and Podcast download, today, I’m honored to introduce you to our next guest.


  • Jonah, today you’ve achieved massive success throughout your career, but I’m really curious about your life before you earned your Ph.D. in marketing from Stanford, before you became a Wharton Business School Professor and New York Times Best-selling Author, what was life like growing up?
      1. I grew up studying math and always found it interesting but always felt a pull from the social sciences. As I got more into it I decided to start studying to find out why branding works and much more about business.
  • Jonah, so many entrepreneurs struggle to get their product or service to stand out in a crowded marketplace, yet love it or hate it, Rebecca Black’s song Friday was a massive hit that stood out and that most of us can’t get out of our head, can you explain why?
      1. We all hate hit but it hits a trigger. If I say peanut butter and you would say “jelly”. Her song spikes on Fridays. The Geico camel “hump day” commercial spikes on Wednesdays.
      2. You have to find what it is that will make people think of you? When KitKat linked itself with coffee their sales spike because people want now think of KitKat when they drink coffee every day.
  • How have you been able to stand out as an author?
      1. I spend a lot of time thinking about it. When I am writing a book I am thinking “not only is the research good but how can I make the bok actionable and make sure the customer can understand it?.”.
  • Jonah, when you’ve previously said, “People don’t need to be paid to be motivated,” what do you mean by this?
      1. People have the notion that word of mouth means referral bonuses. Paying people to talk. Social incentives are much more valuable than monetary incentives.
      2. Think about how the customer looks when they talk about your brand.
  • Jonah, in your book Contagious you wrote the controversial observation, “Going viral isn’t random, magic, or luck. It’s a science.” break down what this means to you.”
      1. We always think it is luck or chance. That is not the case. Again and again, we see the same factors come up. You can read about them in my book Contagious.
      2. More than going viral you should think of the concept of “each one reach one”.
  • So what is the big project you are working on now?
      1. I am working on a new book all about changing people’s minds. Not by pushing more but by making it easier for change to happen.
  • If our listeners want to learn more about you and your most current projects where do you suggest they visit you online?
      1. Find me online at or at @j1berger on twitter.  
  • What was your process in writing your book?
    1. I wish it was easy and genius poured out. It was difficult and very hard. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to convey these ideas.  I learned a lot form the process and I hope it will make me stronger.

Want to learn more?

Jonah Berger’s 6 Key STEPPS to Creating Contagious Content

  1. Social Currency

People really do care about how they look to other people. Most people have a desire to look like they are in-the-know, thus they tend to want to share things that make them look good. As an example watch BlendTec’s social media commercials –


In the world of business marketers are all fighting to be top of mind and tip-of-tongue as a result of relentless marketing. In his book Contagious, Jonah encourages us to think deeply about concepts, patterns, cultural phenomenon and parades that already exist and to then think about how we can create products, and ideas that take advantage of these concepts that are already commonly known. Jonah explains the mechanics of this concept and how it allowed Rebecca Black’s song Friday to become a smash hit despite the fact that many people report not liking the song. Click here to view Rebecca Black’s song Friday –


Jonah explains to readers, how we tend to share when we care. Jonah encourages us to create content that connects with people emotionally. Jonah encourages marketers to focus on feelings rather than function when marketing to increase the likelihood that your marketing will be more effective.


Jonah teaches that ideas that are built to show, are actually built to grow. He breaks down his research that shows the more public something is, the more people are likely to imitate it. Jonah encourages marketers to design products that tend to advertise themselves such as red bottom shoes.

5.Practical Value

Jonah teaches that people tend to share the news that they can practically use. Jonah shares that useful and practical things tend to get shared which is why practical and powerful expertise gets shared so frequently.


Jesus knew that people tend to learn best through stories, and Jonah Berger’s research shows that marketing messages travel faster and farther when they are connected to a story. Jonah teaches readers how to create a narrative and a story so that people will want to share your marketing ideas with others.

Find Jonah Berger Online:

  1. Visit Jonah Berger online –
  2. Jonah Berger presenting at the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) –
  3. Jonah Berger in Fast Company –
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Audio Transcription

From the center of the universe alright, you welcome back to the drive time show on your radio and I’m fired up for today’s podcast and broadcast, because we are interviewing the man the myth. In the legend, the man who are really his success is 1 whale of a tale. It is jonah berger, the best selling author of contagious. Why things catch on marshall morris you or did he co-authored amazon best-selling book start here? Have you read contagious by jennifer guy I’ve read contagious. He talks about the steps and the different reasons or the six different principles for why things catch on which I think is just phenomenal. The book blew my mind and I are the reason why I was a little skeptical about reading business books to roy’s jesting, certain business books. But when I looked into this guy’s resume here’s the guy, he is a wharton business. School professor write his new york times bestselling author and he earned a phd, fromsanford and so I thought. Well, I’ll read the maybe it in his book again contagious. He talks about blendtec and all that count on and the song friday how that caught on, and he has so many great stories in this book. But now we have the myth, the man, the legend on the actual podcast. You are exclusive interview with jonah berger new york times bestselling, author of contagious.

Why things catch on alright, tribe, nation? Welcome back to another edition of the drive time show on your radio and your podcast download and dr. Z on today show I’m, so excited to have today’s guest jonah berger, because he wrote one of my favorite books contagious and don’t often catch a unicorn. We don’t often catch a unicorn. We have a unicorn on today show such a burger. How are you my friend I’m doing great thanks so much for having me what you know. You had a massive success throughout your career, but I’m curious, bro listeners out there with so many entrepreneurs, hundreds of thousands of people to download the podcast can I share with us. Your career before you became a wharton business school professor at a new york times bestselling author. What was life like for you growing up? You know:i grew up studying math science and computer science so that sort of the hard sciences the world I went to like one of those magnet schools and took at ap courses and in all the sort of more technical stuff and I found it. Interesting. No more of a pole from the social science I got to college I took some courses. I started to find psychology I started to find human behavior. Why do you seem hard, times techniques of you know, rigorous experiment works. Why?

Why things go viral and why some businesses are successful until I started, studying actually new york times articles and number of years ago did a paper on that and build from there, and so amazing journey I have lots of things along the way and it’s been so excited and honored to be able to share some of those things with his folks. Like your listeners, professor, there’s a lot of business professors, there’s a lot of business offers, but very few stand out, and so many entrepreneurs that we work with a struggle to get their product or service to stand out in a crowded market place. Yet love it or hate it. You wrote your book contagious. You didn’t end up the case study about it, but rebecca black song friday was a massive hit that stood out the most it was not get out of our head, even if we wanted to how. How was she able to get her song to stand out in and how have you been able to stand out as an author, rebecca black, everyone hates the song? What a great example of something we call it I trigger it! So I said peanut, butter and and I asked you what word came to mind most people. They know it’s shelly or, if I said rum and most people to fill in the blank with the work. Some things remind us of other things, movies and popcorn cookies and milk, and they trigger us there, like a little environmental reminders to cause us to think of something, love it or hate it. If you look at the data, every friday there’s a big spike and shares that song a couple years ago.

Geico has this message with a camel in it, where I know some walking around office going what day is it? What day is it super annoying camel and then, at the end of the day, remind you that piece of content and so you’re more likely to share it? That’s why I think the big idea for the right? What is your peanut butter? What’s the thing in the environment is going to remind people of you, even when you’re not around, don’t have to be a day of week. Time of day it could be something else. The environment, kitkat lick themselves coffee and saw a huge bike in sales, because I think about kitkat. Until what is that saying that you want to remind people of you what’s the when, when you want to come to mind to make sure the environment remind them so that, even if you don’t have a lot of resources, you come to mind and you’re. There are so many business professors to speak in a lot of forbes top of fortune 500 companies. That kind of thing when I speak at these events are so many authors and so many professors I’ve met, but you’ve been able to stand out with your career. Can you share with you how you been able to make your books stand out, because your book caught my attention? I read contagious. It blew my mind.

I love that book. How have you been able to stand out and I try and i? Don’t always succeed, but I try a lot to think about my audience. It’s really easy to focus on what we’re good at right. So I’m, a researcher I’ve been a lot of time. Thinking about is the research. Any good journalist spend a lot of time. Thinking out of the writing. Any good on foreigners spend a lot of time. Thinking about is their product customer and in what that customer needs, and so, if you know what I mean the same thing is true for entrepreneurs. You know. Yes, your product needs to be good, but you also need to think about how to pitch that product. In a way, your customer can understand a lot of the features right when we think the features of a product or service are the benefits. Think the more we think about them tomorrow, customer-centric, the more effective will be sad or at least you’ve written that people don’t need to be paid to be motivated again, you said in your written people, don’t need to be paid to be motivated. What what do you mean by this? You know it’s funny. I was just teaching this afternoon to a bunch of execs at the wharton school I’m in this question came up as well and i. Think company and I want people to talk about it. So I need to pay people to talk about me. I’ll pay them $10 referral, new customer I’ll, get them half off, and certainly that’s one way to get people to talk, but it’s often very expensive, and when you stop paying people, they stop talking. Why people talk in the first place and inserting yourselves and in those conversation, let me give you an example from the other.

Steps from the book of currency is very simple. The better something makes us look the more like we are to talk anymore, like we are share water powers on social media. If your high status, you tell them people, because that’s the only way to wire this and platinum and gold at american, express, black card around your neck, so everybody can see it status is only good if it’s observable what that means. Is it one way to get people to talk about and share? Something is to make them look like I think we need to pay them i. Many people talk about things just because it makes them look good to talk about her new advertising. It makes you feel special, but you have to talk about it to get that social currency head of the curve. The more like an inside of them are smart and special. They look the more like they’ll, be to talk and share jonah. In your book contagious, you wrote that the you talked about this controversial observation about that. You said they going viral, isn’t random magic or luck. It’s a science when I first read that I thought what did not read it again, going viral, isn’t random magic or lock is a science? Could you break down for us and what you mean by that yeah? So we have this tendency to, just as you are taking me to think it’s random, but that’s not the case. We looked at that piece of online content in a social triggers emotion, public, practical value. Storage is an idea that the science almost a formula recipe for getting people to share that recipe, guarantee that more people will share your stuff and then actually think more than one other person. Each of your clients bought a new client with with them. For me with my business is because it really taught us specific systemic steps we can put into our work flow to help us create more word-of-mouth business, and that was it was powerful for us until the world wants to know what is the big project you’re working on now, my man that that book was sold as ever the book of such a game-changer?

What’s your what’s your new project, you’re working on right now, you know I’m actually working on a new book, it’s all about changing people, how you can change anyone’s mind about removing the barriers to change its called the catalyst. Think about catalyst in the chemical world, by pushing molecules together by raising the temperature, but they take place. They work not by pushing more, but my make it easier for nonprofits change the world. How can we make change happen not by pushing more but i, make it easier for her car now? If our listeners want to learn more about you and your most current projects, how do they find you where they get your book? Give us the give us the four-one-one? Oh thanks yeah, so you can find me. Online website is jonah jonah, burger, burger., com burger on on twitter and the books are available on amazon barnes & noble. You take your pick, they’re they’re. All there I’ve got a book inside me. What was your process in writing your book? How did you? How did you tackle that? What motivated you to do it give us a little insight into the the prewriting of your book? If you know I wish, I could say it was easy that I just sat down and just you know, genius or spores for every time. I sit in front of a blank computer screen. That’s couldn’t be further from the truth, was very difficult process. Very hard. I spent a lot of time, thinking about how to fast express the ideas. What are the right idea? You know I’d are some great science out there, but most people aren’t aware of it and could I do something that helps more people. Learn about that sign was a big challenge for me to do, but I’ve learned something from the from the process and you know I can challenge it.

Just make us stronger and some hoping the same tail is an unsolicited that idea for you. There, viral word of mouth stories, whale of a tale of jonah berger john I’m, going to go taser myself, because I’m I’m super excited about having on the show today. It’s been an honor to have you here in your book contagious for me is a book that sincerely made a big impact and in my businesses and I thank you for protecting the time to be here with the thrive nation and we’d love to have you on again to talk about your new book when it comes out here, but a deadline kind of picked out of where that books going to be released when you’re, probably early 2020, is that it’s a process, but it should be out in early 2024 brother. Thank you for being on the show today and again to thrive. Nation, we love, we love having you on here. I know, she’s excited to have you on there and I’ll. Wait cannot wait for your new release. What thank you so much guys appreciate it. Take care will chop that was jonah berger. It just happened. It blew my mind but still I cut a duct taped. My gray matter back into my cranium I was able to duct tape it back together and still wondering I still. We still need to be cognitively, president enough to, in the show, with a boom as a titan, so I think it deserves a big boom now mentally emotionally psychologically. Ready to get in the shower I’ll be ready. Okay, so here we go


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