Heidi Cohen Interviews Jonah Berger
New book: Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior
To be a successful marketer, you have to understand social influence. People don’t make their own choices. They make choices based on what the people around them are doing. So to succeed you have to understand how influence works.
Q: What was the inspiration for Invisible Influence?
A friend of mine is a lawyer in DC and had just bought a new BMW. He was complaining that DC lawyers all buy BMWs to show they’ve made it. When I pointed out that he had just bought one, and so was the just like the rest of them, he argued that he was different and hadn’t been influenced. When I asked why, he said that while they bought grey BMWS, he had bought a blue one.
What was so interesting is that he had been influenced, yet he was completely unaware. And he wasn’t just imitating others, he was being different at the same time. When do people act similarly to others and when do they act differently? And how does all this happen without us realizing it? I found all these contradictions intriguing and wanted to find out more.
Q: What is the key concept behind your book?
Others have a subtle, and often surprising impact on our behavior. We think social influence is all about imitation, but it’s more than that. Social influence is like a magnet. Sometimes it attracts, or leads us to do the same thing as others. Other times it repels, or leads us to do something different. Sometimes it motivates us to work harder and sometimes it demotivates us and causes us to give up. To harness its power, we have to understand how it works
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book
To notice influence in the world around them, and by understanding it, live happier and healthier lives. Use the concepts to be more influential, make better group decisions, and help motivate themselves and others.
Q: How do you describe yourself professionally?
I’m a marketing professor at the Wharton School and bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. In addition to doing academic research on word of mouth and social influence, I speak to and consult for companies like Google, Coca‐Cola, GE, and The Gates Foundation, helping them to get their product and ideas to be more successful
Q: What are 1-3 books that inspired your work/career?
- Diffusion of Innovations – classic text of why some new products succeed and others fail. Helped me see the various factors that shape diffusion.
- A Matter of Taste – amazing look into baby names, and why they wax and wane in popularity. Motivated me to want to apply the same tools to products and ideas
- Micromotives and Macrobehaviors – intriguing look into the relationship between our behavior and the world around us.
Q: What’s something unusual or fun that most people don’t know about you?
You know how some people take their kids to the mall to take pictures with the Easter Bunny. That was one of my first jobs. Being the Easter Bunny. You couldn’t talk and you had to communicate only through your gestures. Tough job!
- Name: Jonah Berger
- Blog: www.jonahberger.com
- Book(s): Invisible Influence, Contagious: Why Things Catch On
- LinkedIn: j1berger
- Twitter: @j1berger
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