Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger
  • Associate Professor of Marketing

Contact Information

Research Interests: Word of mouth, social influence, why things catch on, viral marketing, and natural language processing

Links: CV, Personal Website


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Jonah Berger is an expert on word of mouth, social influence, consumer behavior, and how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on. He has published dozens of articles in top-tier academic journals, and popular accounts of his work often appear in places like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review. Berger’ is an internationally bestselling author of both Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior and Contagious: Why Things Catch On and hundreds of thousands of copies are in print in over 35 languages.  Berger is a popular speaker at major conferences and events, serves of a variety of advisory boards for early stage companies, often consults for organizations like Google, Coca-Cola, GE, Vanguard, Unilever, General Motors, 3M, Kaiser Permanente, and The Gates Foundation.

His most recent work uses automated textual analysis and 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 is co-organizing a conference on behavioral insight from text.

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  • Jonah Berger and Grant Packard (2018), Are Atypical Songs More Popular?, Psychological Science.

    Abstract: Why do some cultural items become popular?  While some have argued that success is random, we suggest that how similar items are to their peers plays an important role.  Natural language processing of thousands of songs examines the relationship between lyrical differentiation (i.e., atypicality) and song popularity.  Results indicate that the more different a song’s lyrics are from its genre, the more popular it becomes.  This relationship is weaker in genres where lyrics matter less (i.e., dance) or where differentiation matters less (i.e., pop) and occurs for lyrical topics but not style.  The results shed light on cultural dynamics, why things become popular, and the psychological foundations of culture more broadly.

  • Grant Packard and Jonah Berger (2017), How Language Shapes Word of Mouth’s Impact, Journal of Marketing Research.

  • Ezgi Akpinar and Jonah Berger (2017), Valuable Virality, Journal of Marketing Research.

  • Aner Sela, Jonah Berger, Joshua Kim (2017), How Self-Control Shapes the Meaning of Choice, Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Evan Weingarten and Jonah Berger (2017), Fired Up for the Future: How Time Shapes Sharing, Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Jonah Berger and Alixandra Barasch (2017), A Candid Advantage? The Social Benefits of Candid Photos, Social Psychological and Personality Science.

  • Evan Weingarten and Jonah Berger (Working), Discussing Proximal Pasts and Far Futures: When Do People Talk About and Why?.

  • Gregory Park, Andrew Schwartz, Maarten Sap, Margaret L Kern, Evan Weingarten, Johannes C Echstaedt, Jonah Berger, David J Stillwell, Michael Kosinski, Lyle Ungar, Martin E Seligman (2016), Living in the Past, Present, and Future: Measuring Temporal Orientation with Language, Journal of Personality.

  • Minsu Park, Mor Naaman, Jonah Berger (2016), A Data-driven Study of View Duration on YouTube, 10th International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.

  • Jonah Berger (2016), Does Presentation Order Impact Choice After Delay?, Topics in Cognitive Science.


Past Courses


    This course is concerned with how and why people behave as consumers. Its goals are to: (1) provide conceptual understanding of consumer behavior, (2) provide experience in the application of buyer behavior concepts to marketing management decisions and social policy decision-making; and (3) to develop analytical capability in using behavioral research.


    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.


    Why do some products catch on and achieve huge popularity while others fail? Why do some behaviors spread like wildfire while others languish? How do certain ideas seem to stick in memory while others disappear the minute you hear them? More broadly, what factors lead to trends, social contagion, and social epidemics? Interactive media, word of mouth, and viral marketing are important issues for companies, brands, and organizations. This course looks at these and other topics as it examines how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on and become popular. 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 will touch on four main aspects: (1) Characteristics of products, ideas, and behaviors that lead them to be successful. (2) Aspects of individual psychology that influence what things are successful. (3) Interpersonal processes, or how interactions between individuals drive success. (4) Social networks, or how patterns of social ties influence success.


    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

  • 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 @ Wharton


Latest Research

Jonah Berger and Grant Packard (2018), Are Atypical Songs More Popular?, Psychological Science.
All Research

In the News

Words Matter: How Lyrics Help Songs Top the Charts

Wharton research uses natural language processing to study why some songs catch on while others fail to climb the charts.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2018/06/1
All News

Awards and Honors

Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Research 2016
All Awards