Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger
  • Associate Professor of Marketing

Contact Information

Research Interests: Growth Strategy, Influence, Word of Mouth, Change, Natural Language Processing, Viral Marketing

Links: CV, Personal Website


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Professor Jonah Berger is an internationally bestselling author, and a world-renowned expert on change, influence, word of mouth, natural language processing, consumer behavior, and how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on.  He has published over 75 articles in top‐tier academic journals, teaches one of the world’s most popular online courses, and accounts of his work often appear in places like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review. Millions of copies of his books, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way are in print in over 35 countries around the world. Berger often keynotes major conferences and events like SXSW and Cannes Lions, advises various early stage companies, and consults for organizations like Apple, Google, Nike, Amazon, GE, Moderna, and The Gates Foundation.

His recent work uses natural language processing to pull behavioral insights from text data (e.g., predicting song success from lyrics, movie success from scripts, and customer satisfaction from service calls).  He co-founded the Technology and Behavioral Science Initiative and helps host an interdisciplinary conference on Behavioral Insights from Text.

Continue Reading


  • Grant Packard and Jonah Berger (2024), The Emergence and Evolution of Consumer Language Research, Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Grant Packard, Yang Li, Jonah Berger (2024), When Language Matters, Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Jacqueline Pan, Jordan Etkin, Jonah Berger, Time Cost Consideration.

  • Giovanni Luca Cascio-Rizzo and Jonah Berger, How Speaking Rate Shapes Consumer Response.

  • Giovanni Luca Cascio-Rizzo and Jonah Berger, Melodic Repetition Shapes Success.

  • Grant Packard and Jonah Berger (2023), How Verb Tense Shapes Persuasion, Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Reihane Boghrati and Jonah Berger (2023), Quantifying Cultural Change: Gender Bias in Music, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

  • Giovanni Luca Cascio-Rizzo, Jonah Berger, Rumen Pozharliev, Matteo De Angelis (2023), How Sensory Language Shapes Consumer Responses to Influencer-Sponsored Content, Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Jonah Berger, Wendy Moe, David Schweidel (2023), What Holds Attention? Linguistic Drivers of Engagement, Journal of Marketing.

    Abstract: From advertisers and marketers to salespeople and leaders, everyone wants to hold attention. They want to make ads, pitches, presentations, and content that captivates audiences and keeps them engaged. But not all content has that effect.  What makes some content more engaging? A multi-method investigation combines controlled experiments with  natural language processing of 600,000 reading sessions from over 35,000 pieces of content to examine what types of language hold attention and why. Results demonstrate that linguistic features associated with processing ease (e.g., concrete or familiar words) and emotion both play an important role. Rather than simply being driven by valence, though, the effects of emotional language are driven by the degree to which different discrete emotions evoke arousal and uncertainty. Consistent with this, anxious, exciting, and hopeful language holds attention while sad language discourages it. Experimental evidence underscores emotional language’s causal impact and demonstrates the mediating role of uncertainty and arousal. The findings shed light on what holds attention, illustrates how content creators can generate more impactful content, and, as shown in a stylized simulation, have important societal implications for content recommendation algorithms.

  • Grant Packard and Jonah Berger (2023), Wisdom from Words: The Psychology of Consumer Language, Consumer Psychology Review.


All Courses

  • MKTG0001 - Viral Marketing

    Why do some products catch on and become popular while others fail? Why do apps and services take off while others languish? And why do certain ads, messages, or ideas stick in memory while others disappear the minute you hear them? Diffusion, social media, word of mouth, and viral marketing have become important topics for companies, brands, and organizations. Marketers want their product to be popular, organizations want their social change initiative to catch on, and entrepreneurs want their ideas to stick. This course investigates these and other topics as it explains how things catch on and become popular.

  • MKTG6110 - Marketing Management

    This course addresses how to design and implement the best combination of marketing efforts to carry out a firm's strategy in its target markets. Specifically, this course seeks to develop the student's (1) understanding of how the firm can benefit by creating and delivering value to its customers, and stakeholders, and (2) skills in applying the analytical concepts and tools of marketing to such decisions as segmentation and targeting, branding, pricing, distribution, and promotion. The course uses lectures and case discussions, case write-ups, student presentations, and a comprehensive final examination to achieve these objectives.

  • MKTG7680 - Contagious

    Why do some products catch on and achieve huge popularity while others fail? Why do some services and apps spread like wildfire while others languish? And what makes certain ideas stick while others fail? This course looks at these and other topics as it examines why things catch on. Marketers want their product to be popular, organizations want their initiatives to catch on, and entrepreneurs want their ideas to stick. Building on research from psychology, sociology, marketing, and economics, the course explores characteristics of products, services, and ideas that lead them to catch on, what makes ideas stick, and how social dynamics shape success. We’ll talk about viral marketing, growth strategies, the role of social media, and influencers. Whether you have a product, service, or idea you want to catch on, or just want to better understand social epidemics, this course will shed light on what drives success.

  • MKTG8990 - Independent Study

    A student contemplating an independent study project must first find a faculty member who agrees to supervise and approve the student's written proposal as an independent study (MKTG 899). If a student wishes the proposed work to be used to meet the ASP requirement, he/she should then submit the approved proposal to the MBA adviser who will determine if it is an appropriate substitute. Such substitutions will only be approved prior to the beginning of the semester.

  • MKTG9520 - Consumer Research Topics - A

    The purpose of this seminar is to provide graduate students with an overview of contemporary topics in consumer research. Depending on faculty, areas addressed may include basic research on consumer knowledge (learning and memory), goals, persuasion, and emotions, with applications to branding. consumer finance, human-technology interaction, and social influence. The course draws from the literature in marketing, psychology and economics. The course will enable students to conceptualize, operationalize, and develop research ideas. Therefore, the focus is on understanding theoretical and methodological approaches to various aspects of consumer behavior, as well as advancing this knowledge by developing testable hypotheses and theoretical perspectives that build on the current knowledge base.

  • MKTG9730 - Research Sem Mktg Part A

    This course is taught collectively by the faculty members from the Marketing Department. It is designed to expose Doctoral students to the cutting-edge research in marketing models in order to help them to define and advance their research interests. This course will offer: in-depth discussions on some important topics in marketing by experts in respective areas; tools, and methodologies required for conducting research in those areas; broad exposure to our faculty members and their proven research styles.

Awards and Honors

  • William F. O’Dell Award, Journal of Marketing Research,, 2019
  • Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Research, 2016
  • Best 2012 Article Finalist, Journal of Consumer Research, 2015
  • Top 30 Leaders in Business, American Management Association, 2015
  • Berry-AMA Book Prize for Best Book in Marketing, 2014
  • Top 5 Most Productive Researchers in Marketing 2009-13, AMA DocSig, 2013
  • Paul Green Award, Journal of Marketing Research, Finalist, 2013
  • Most Creative People in Business, Fast Company, 2013
  • Early Career Award, Association for Consumer Research, 2012
  • Early Career Award, Society for Consumer Psychology, 2012
  • Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Research, 2011
  • Winner, Iron Professor Competition, The Wharton School, 2011
  • MBA Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Award, 2011
  • MSI – Young Scholars Program, 2011
  • Top 10 Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2011
  • JCR Best Paper in 2007 Award, Finalist, 2010

In the News

Knowledge at Wharton

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Latest Research

Grant Packard and Jonah Berger (2024), The Emergence and Evolution of Consumer Language Research, Journal of Consumer Research.
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In the News

Has Music Become Less Misogynistic?

If music reflects culture, what do misogynistic lyrics say about society? Wharton’s Jonah Berger uses AI to determine whether modern music has become less biased toward women over time.Read More

Knowledge at Wharton - 5/14/2024
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Wharton Magazine

Catching Eyes in the Attention Economy
Wharton Magazine - 04/19/2024

Wharton Stories

Orientation in IrvineThe Story Behind Wharton Convocation and 7 Pieces of Advice to Begin Your Academic Journey

Think of Convocation as a bookend to Commencement — you walk together as a class for the first time through the doors of Irvine Auditorium and in two years, you’ll process out of the Palestra as Wharton graduates….

Wharton Stories - 08/06/2018
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