Transcript for Episode 19 – Dr. Jonah Berger – Contagious: Why Things Catch On

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strangers thank you for listening the

human experience is traversing the

marketing troposphere and we’re speaking

with viral marketing expert professor

and author of The New York Times

bestselling book contagious why things

catch on dr. Jonah Berger my co-host dr.

G’s in the studio Jono welcome to hxp

thanks so much Radley so Jonah if we

could briefly go into your background

how did you find yourself in a position

to be studying the effects of social

currency and and marketing well I grew

up actually setting the hard sciences

math science computer science today what

we might call stem and i love that way

of understanding why things happen but i

always wondered about human why we do

the things that we do and i really got

interested in the social sciences and

and started the interested in why things

catch on why products become popular and

why people behave the way they do and i

started a PhD and started doing research

and eventually with teaching a framework

in my course that i thought would make a

great book to me you know there’s a lot

of sort of schools out there around

social media there’s a lot of thoughts

and theories but there hasn’t been a lot

of data the one thing that’s really fun

about contagious is the first time when

people really bring in data to answer

these questions right i love i love the

wit that you say that word of mouth is

the greatest form of advertising because

i think that one of the things that i do

the most is talk to other people why why

do you say that why is word of mouth

more important than advertising i think

they’re two key reasons the course very

simply is trust we trust our friends

much more than we trust abs we chance

our colleagues much more than we trust

ed we don’t add to trying to sell us

something so because of that we sort of

push back and we’re not as persuaded for

the first benefit is choice the second

benefit is surely target

and you know the targeting benefit of

word of mouth means that we only here

for me to my friends and colleagues that

we might be interested in they don’t

tell us everything is it possible the

tell us of stuff we might find most

relevant hey each other dr. G here so I

really enjoyed the book it super

entertaining and I barely have a book

that’s as practical at entertaining one

thing I wanted to kind of break down for

the listeners is what is what exactly is

social currency and for the real heavy

hitting power brokers and this social

currency or how do you become one the

idea of social currency is very simple

just like the car we drive or the

clothes we wear things we say or the

things we share States what amount for

the content online effects have other

people see it just like if someone

drives a minivan you might think they’re

a soccer mom or someone you know wear

certain clothes you might think their

hipster someone talks a lot about

restaurants used in their footings

someone talks a lot about travel you

assume they’re into that domain what we

talk about is a signal of who we are and

very simply social science we have the

idea that Sam or something less those

look good or signal a desired identity

the more likely our capital something

makes us smart for special in the no

different from everybody else we’re more

likely to share so in the book for

example I talked about a great example

of a bar in New York City that’s hidden

inside a hot dog restaurant you know

they don’t average how they don’t even

have a sign up on the street but people

love talking about it when they go there

because they look cool to their friends

when they talk about having been to this

place it’s a signal of being smart and

then the know but it’s not just them

think about simple thing you know even

knowing a lot about a domain you’re not

necessarily knowing secret knowing just

what happens in sports or you know what

happens in athletics what happened in

even recreational stuff I’m gonna into

no more like it it turned to them let’s

say we wanted to have something go viral

by the end of this week we had some kind

of business or some opportunity or video

outside of say a world you know we’ll

start hip hop fight what would we have

to do what are some of the main things

we have to expound upon in order to have

something go viral yeah so we just

talked about one of the factors that

make speed

share things there are six in total so

there are a lot of different dimensions

but you know I would say the first thing

is stop thinking it’s random or a long

and to stop focusing so much on the

technology people love to jump on the

bandwagon what’s the newest technology

that’s going on and think more about the

psychology not well I have a whole bunch

of friends or followers on Facebook or

Twitter but why do people share in the

first place the understanding that

underlying the human behavior and that’s

the first thing and that’s really what

contagious and the steps in it are all

about so what what makes something

contagious I mean it’s a million-dollar

billion-dollar question but how does

something become contagious it sells yes

I mentioned oh those six factors social

currency is one triggers is a second

emotion is the third public is afford

the actual value is the fifth and

stories are the sixth I put them in our

contagious i put them in a framework

called steps but sort of an acronym that

stands for those six things and each of

them is a driver of why people should so

we should talked about social currency

people talk about things that make them

look good emotion is another big one you

know the more emotionally connected we

are more we care about something the

more likely we are to share but it’s

actually not all emotions that drive

sharing it’s really about emotions that

activate us to pass something on so on

the positive side for example emotions

like excitement or humor activating

motions worth contentment is a more

deactivating motion on the negative side

anger and arousal much more activating

than sadness so we feel these activating

emotions when content makes us feel them

when we feel I angry or even when we

feel angry for an unrelated reason the

Tyrells emotions can drive us to share

how would you how would you define

something that goes viral yes I actually

don’t think that the idea of viral

itself is really interesting I think

there’s a lot of type around it but

there’s no you know one cut off from

something goes viral not like playing

file is a million views and nine hundred

thousand views is not and actually even

if you think about it Jesus a bad

measure these measures how many times

something has been she doesn’t matter

how many people see it once those people

actually shared it and so a lot of what

you know I help companies do you think

about the right metrics we talk about

viral uses a lot of people come in

contact that it actually talked at all

and so will I think a better measure is

to think about what i call the share

rate or the shares per he had about 100

people to see a piece of content do

people share it that content may not

even be that popular may not have

millions and millions of weeds but

that’s so valuable for the companies or

individuals that created it if they can

get that share a higher and so while

viral encouraging us to focus on flashes

in the pan things that are here today

and gone tomorrow so what does the fox

say for example really funny when they

came out a couple years ago not a few

hundred million do we have never heard

from them again I don’t think those guys

are doing very much today and so whether

you’re a brand trying to get your

products your ideas to catch on well

you’re just a person trying to get your

personal plan to catch on at work or get

your message out there you don’t need a

hundred million huge are you living 10

billion which 19 views you want more

people to share your ideas for that’s

really what these steps are all about

getting that batting average up and

getting people really more likely to

share whether they share with 10 people

or whether they share the laundry so it

seems to me that the weight business is

the way the business economy is working

right now is you pretty much have to

showcase that you’re an expert in

something or have some kind of a depth

knowledge at a particular subject but

how does one go about doing that without

looking like complete braggart prick in

the process because I know that the

intention can make a huge difference but

what are some things that someone can do

say in a professional capacity ensure

that that doesn’t happen I think there’s

a difference between bragging and

sharing useful information so for

example you think about what content

marketing in and one brand new content

marketing it’s really sharing useful

information that’s not about them I hey

hey look at me follow me pay attention

to me but keeping someone else something

but it’s not talking about you it’s

talking about the information I think

the more we can give others useful

information want to build expertise in a

safe don’t say hey I’m an expert am

great at this giving someone something

that shows you’re an expert and that’s

one thing I really talk a lot about in

the book that they do have showing

rather than telling I think too often we

think to get a message across we need to

tell people hey you know I’m an expert

on this well let me tell you how great I

am rather than telling people how great

you are why don’t you show them

giving them useful information or

somebody help their lives out that they

want to pass on to others and along the

way they’ll remember you in the process

and excuse them something useful they

share it with someone else so definitely

seemed was an expert than they would

ever walk this is the the practical

value that you mentioned in the book is

that was very referring to right now

definitely both the practical value and

the idea of building a Trojan horse

story right rather making yourself part

of a message rather than just giving

information I really liked your Trojan

horse concept and I I did read your book

and there’s can you go into that a

little bit more how does someone build a

Trojan horse story yes um take for

example a statistic you know many people

think that most word of mouth is online

but it actually turns out that only

about seven percent of all word of mouth

is online most would amount is offline

now that’s a really surprising statistic

I often hold that statistic when I give

talks and I mentioned in the book that’s

useful information for people working in

the word of mouth face one thing you

want to make sure is well i’m sharing

useful information i’m telling a story

how do i make sure i come along for the

ride that I’m part of that for my

messages is part of that story there’s a

great example I use in a book from a

company called Blendtec they make these

great videos or will it blend where they

stick everything from an iphone the

marble anything you can imagine a

blender so who really imagined a marble

getting caught up in a blender and

Washington getting cut to shreds it’s an

amazing piece of content you can’t help

but watch it and be impressed and feel

those emotions but it’s not just that at

the end of the day when you’re watching

that video you can’t help realize that

wow they make a really tough blender and

so it’s not just a great story or a

great piece of content it brings their

attribute along for the ride and the

reason I like the phrase explosion horse

story I think about a Trojan horse it’s

a carrier or a metal in a chosen horse

case it brought men inside the stories

are the same thing they carry message

your ideas with them you think about the

boy who cried wolf encourages people not

to lie it’s a story it’s rose you’re

more story that carries an underlying

message right so then how would how

would a grassroots someone who doesn’t

necessarily have the money

to spend on advertising campaign how

would someone build a Trojan horse type

story around a product that they have or

how what would you suggest to someone

who wants to succeed marketing their

product but I think the first thing is

to understand your customer base or your

users you know what in particular they

interested in and how can you create a

story that appeals to their interest we

think about building that story those

higher relative emotions I talked about

that idea of social currency stories

that surprise people or even make people

angry or excited will encourage people

to share but then make sure at the end

of the day that the moral of that story

has eyes are something to do with you

your brand your products or the

attribute care about too often companies

create content particularly now with the

web and social media you know everyone’s

trying to be a content creator everyone

wants to try to fit amazing engaging

content but the end of the day if

someone watches or engages with your

content but they can’t remember who it’s

for it’s not going to be very useful and

so I talked about the check you have

valuable morality we don’t only want

someone to share something you want to

make sure it’s valuable for the person

that creates it so how can the moral the

story that you create be your brand is

very trust worthy of trust is the

attributes you can about will build the

story that shows how trustworthy you are

it’s an engaging forward so at the end

of the day that idea trust comes along

for the ride so let’s get let’s get

practical for a moment and kind of do a

case study so to speak for listeners so

Jonah take our take our podcast for

instance what you just mentioned what

are some things we could do to kind of

maximize the chances of save light

reality of what we’re kind of doing here

are human experience okay well so I need

some better sense that’s sort of what a

factoid would be a piece of information

or a story so for example what’s a story

of someone who listen to your podcast

that did something amazing with that

information if one of our shows really

helped someone figure something out or

chains or change their life in some way

like for example I got an email from

someone in the military who is suffering

from PTSD they heard one of our episodes

the episode really helped them decide

how to treat their PTSD

listening to us talk about it neat and

so I think that’s a good place to start

I might have you know we were working

together I might encourage you to dig

into some of the details of that story

so the more concretely make them the

more we tell about the person for

example who was this specific person how

did they get the disorder some concrete

details about their life helps us get a

sense of who that person is and and more

emotionally engaged with them as a

character but then I think that story is

you talked about is a great examples of

power of your contact right now we need

to think about how to make that story

engaging emotional but it sounds like

the story itself is a good chosen force

for the message you’re trying to get

outfits podcast can change people’s

lives for the better well then so it’s

really thinking about you know one

what’s an engaging story but to what is

it engaging stories at the end of it as

a moral shows the product or idea that

you’re trying to get people excited

about right so it sounds like emotional

triggers where you’re kind of harping on

here so what’s the secret of getting

people to care enough to share the

content emotionally or what are some of

these stratifications that you mentioned

as far as these benchmarks very positive

and negative triggers that you mentioned

the book can you kind of talk about that

yeah and emotion and trigger to things

that are different emotion is really how

much we feel connected to something we

can talk about emotions like anger

anxiety or excitement humor inspiration

inspiration for example in the story we

just talked about the more inspired

people are the things that others have

accomplished or achieved or even how

much someone is overcome something and

inspiration or all as a high arousal

notion that drives people to share but

triggers are a little different so

triggers are about whether or not you

remember to think about something are

you triggered to think about it or

trigger it’s them to mention that idea

to someone else and I think too often

you know we think about well how much

does someone like us or how much does

someone like our products or idea but if

someone likes us but they never think

about them it doesn’t matter very much

so take a great example of them video

floating around recently from the

company Geico and they have a great ad

with a camel in it where he’s walking

around the office going what day is it

today what day is it he finds out a

tough day gets very excited and the ABS

there’s something on lines of you know

how happier people save money with geico

Oh happier than a camel on hump day now

that ad is sort of funny it has a little

bit of emotion so she doesn’t have that

much emotion so what’s interesting about

it because that’s the second most share

to add of last year of all acts period

not just of insurance but any add it all

and so you could say well if it’s not

that funny and if they didn’t spend that

much money advertising it why did it do

so well you look at the data you dig a

little deeper you see an interesting

pattern there’s a spike in shares and

then it goes down and then another spike

and then it goes down at another spike

and then it goes down and if you look

closer those spikes aren’t random there

seven days apart you look even close

you’ll notice there is every one day or

is it closely known hump day and so that

content equally emotional every day of

the week right it’s emotional on Mondays

motion on Tuesday most on Wednesday but

Wednesday rolls around it provides

already reminder or a trigger sort of

thing in people’s mind to encourage them

to think about it from share that

information is it something top of mind

it’s much more likely be careful tom and

so one thing I encourage people to think

about it what can you link yourself to

in the environment that’s every time

people see that thing or hear that thing

they think of you if I said peanut

butter and for example what’s what word

might you can does uh just jelly right

peanut butter and jelly yeah right or if

I said romance what’s what words much

rum and coke you might think about well

Jenelle’s might think of coke rise rum

and coke and so the idea here is you

know peanut butter makes people think

about Joey you have jellies not around

sounds like jelly should pay peanut

butter a kickback or a referral fee

every time Peter goes around did it

makes people think about Joey and that’s

what we call a trigger and so you know

when people want to be thought of more

they want their ideas if you thought up

more I say well what’s your peanut

butter so Jonah can we just can we get

into I mean your story’s pretty

interesting because you you you know you

did your PhD and and then you’re kind of

teaching and now you have this new york

times bestseller what is something that

you think you did differently than maybe

other authors that put you in this sort

of sphere of succeeding yeah and i think

there are some some things from this

book per se and then there’s some more

general stuff for the book you know we

lied on the ideas from the books to

market book for triggers we created some

issues that are orange the book came out

during cold and flu season who wanted a

return before sneezing think about the

book and to think about ideas being

spread just like diseases are spread we

came out with some orange tissue that I

would give out during talk it said don’t

you wish your ideas or this contagious

thankful that you know a few thousand

hundred thousand copies in France 35

languages around the world show that you

know we’re doing okay we have to nail

this but we’ve learned something well

generally though you know I think one

important thing is just to find

something you love doing you know I

would be excited about this book and the

ideas in this book even if it sold ten

copies I’m just really proud of the

research and really excited to be able

to share with people and so if you find

something you love doing you know that

old phrase do what you love and love

what you do and you keep persisting at

it you can’t help but be somewhat

successful right so passion is

definitely one of those motivating

factors that’s huge i think that’s

really ingenious what you did to

advertise and market the book what are

so just what are some obstacles you guys

have seen as far as people implementing

these steps and what changes the

marketplace is changing so rapidly and

technology is constantly advancing what

you anticipate a horizon with these

advances technology and how can someone

adapt accordingly yeah you know people

love to say that technology is changing

and it is but most word of mouth is

offline most word of mouth is still face

to face if the original social media its

face to face word of mouth and you know

it’s really easy to jump on the

bandwagon and you know whether it’s

Pinterest or Instagram or all these

different technologies that may come and

go you know people thought 4 spreader is

going to be really big and then it

wasn’t and so rather than focusing on

what sort of technology it’s all about

you know skaters much live that behavior

and how you can take advantage of it you

know if you think only one thing from

these ideas how you turn customers and

advocates how do you turn people that

like you and get them to talk and share

your ideas your products your message

even your your movement so they’ve

become even bigger no after involve

technology though technology can help

doesn’t have to be online it’s really

simple about how do you build support

thing by getting one person that sell

just one other first about it and even

if you’ve got a small business you know

it’s just that you’re just starting out

there coffee customers are like you

figure out why they like is a really

good service you know show them that

personal attention and they’ll be more

likely to talk about you with others

make them feel special so often I think

it’s business owners they focus on

ourselves if they well let me let me

show you how great I am how can you let

your customers look really good you know

make your customers feel special make

them look good to others they’ll tell

everybody else because they want to get

that social currency so it’s less about

technology and more about psychology

yeah yeah Jonah I know your I know your

time is limited man if we could just

cover am awfully the love the same thing

that you kind of go into in the book

that would that would wrap things up

well I think perfect yeah I think that’s

sort of really interesting thing you

know we all think we’re very different

from those around all the water a little

but there’s an old idea in sociology

called immokalee which basically means

that people tend to be friends with

other people like them and there are two

key reasons for that one we tend to hang

out with other people that do the same

things that we do if you like movies you

tend to go to the movies a lot to meet

other people at luby’s you play

basketball that was engulfed you tend to

be more basketball players and buffers

and so we tend to meet other people that

have similar interests even within that

we tend to become friends with those

folks among the set of folks we need

there are more like us and so all

together this ends up meaning that we’re

friends without is like on assisted food

news for word of mouth because if you’re

a small business or an entrepreneur and

someone like you it’s like their friends

will love yourself officer very true

Jonah working where can people find your

work how can people get to your stuff

yeah so first of all the book is

contagious why things catch on its on

amazon as well as any other online

retailer and major booksellers you can

also find me at Jonah jail and aah

burger vbr GPRS com there’s a free

workbook there on the resource tab and

keep people interested in applying these

ideas it’s just I think the light most

tab on the set of button it’ll help me

download workbook to think about how sly

these ideas and then last but not least

if you likes it so

maybe of stuff and you want to chat with

me there people can find me at j one

burger on twitter very very cool Jonah

thanks so much for your time and really

appreciate a really intriguing work I

know you’re a busy guy so we’re going to

let you go this is the human experience

my co-host dr. G i’m xavier we’re out of

here thanks so much for listening we

will see you guys next week

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