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The Brainy Business | Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy | Behavioral Economics

Jun 29, 2023

The power of language is paramount in any form of communication. How one utilizes language can significantly impact the outcome of conversations and the ability to persuade others. By understanding the intricacies of language and the psychology behind it, communicators can craft more effective messages that resonate with their target audience. With a focus on desired identities, motivations, and subtle shifts in language that can encourage or discourage behavior, communicators can directly influence the consumption and sharing of content. 

During Jonah Berger's discussion with Melina Palmer, he stressed the importance of language and provided insights from his book, Magic Words. Dr. Berger highlighted the difference between nouns and verbs and how a slight modification in language, such as changing from "help" to "helper," could significantly alter the perception of the task at hand. By diving into the psychology behind language, Jonah offers practical tips to enhance communication, ensuring messages are better received and understood. He also briefly discusses one of his other books, Contagious (a favorite of Melina's!), and the SPEACC framework in Magic Words.

  • Hone your ability to communicate powerfully through thoughtful language choices.
  • Explore the influence of converting verbs into nouns in shaping personal and professional identities.
  • Recognize the effect linguistic similarity has on building rapport and attaining success.
  • Examine the role of cutting-edge technology in unbiased research and in-depth analysis.
  • Understand the vital importance of concrete language in creating compelling marketing and communication tactics.

Show Notes:

  • 00:00:00 - Introduction,
    Melina Palmer introduces Dr. Jonah Berger, Wharton professor and author of the new book Magic Words.
  • 00:05:24 - Tips for Making Content Viral,
    To make content stand out, communicators need to think less about the product or service they are selling and more about the audience and why they might want to share it. Understanding why people share is key to making word-of-mouth marketing effective.
  • 00:08:28 - The Power of Language,
    Subtle shifts in language can have a big impact on persuasion. For example, calling someone a "helper" instead of asking them to "help" can increase the likelihood of them taking the action you want. Turning actions into identities can make people more likely to claim desired identities.
  • 00:17:26 - The Power of Stories,
    Stories are powerful because they activate different parts of the brain and help people remember information better. To make a story more effective, focus on the emotions and how the story relates to the audience's experience.
  • 00:24:31 - The Power of Social Influence,
    Social influence is powerful because people are more likely to take action if they see others doing it. To make social influence work for you, focus on the early adopters and influencers and make it easy for them to share your message.
  • 00:12:52 - The Value of Metaphor and Concrete Language,
    Jonah discusses the importance of using concrete language to show others that we have heard them, and how this can lead to increased customer satisfaction. For example, saying “Your refund will be there soon” feels very different from “Your money will be in your account tomorrow.” The latter (which is more concrete) had increased customer satisfaction scores. He also explains the difference between concrete and abstract language and how it can be applied in different contexts.
  • 00:16:13 - The SPEACC Framework,
    Jonah breaks down the six key types of language covered in his book and provides an overview of each one. These include the language of Similarity and difference, Posing questions, Emotion, Agency and identity, Concreteness, and Confidence.
  • 00:18:12 - Linguistic Similarity,
    Jonah explains how linguistic similarity can be used to build relationships and connections in the workplace, and how it can even predict future outcomes such as promotions or employee turnover. He also discusses the benefits of being both similar and different in terms of content and language design.
  • 00:19:40 - When to Use Concrete Language,
    Jonah discusses the research that shows when it is beneficial to use more abstract language, such as in the case of entrepreneurs pitching a business idea. He also explains the importance of adapting to the linguistic culture of a workplace and how it can impact career success.
  • 00:21:34 - Language Similarity and Affiliation,
    Jonah provides examples of how linguistic similarity can impact personal relationships, such as speed dating or building friendships in the workplace. He also discusses the importance of linguistic cues like pauses and intonation in building trust and increasing positive perceptions.
  • 00:25:47 - Making Your Brand an Identity,
    The importance of making your brand an identity for your customers, highlighting the significance of transitioning from a verb to a noun. By finding opportunities for customers to be a part of the brand, or the brand to be a part of them, companies can create a stronger connection with their audience.
  • 00:27:13 - The Power of AI,
    Melina mentions how Jonah and his team use technology, including AI and machine learning, to analyze large amounts of data, which allows them to remove human bias and get results much faster. By using technology to their advantage, businesses can unlock valuable insights that may have been missed or too costly to produce.
  • 00:28:47 - Insights from Magic Words,
    Jonah's book, Magic Words, provides insight into how language affects business outcomes. From using concrete language in pitches to predicting employee retention based on the language used in emails, businesses can use language as a tool for success.
  • 00:29:31 - Finding Insights in Data,
    The insights found in Magic Words and Jonah's research demonstrate the power of analyzing data to uncover valuable insights. By asking great questions and using technology to analyze data, businesses can make informed decisions and achieve success.
  • 00:29:44 - Conclusion,
    Melina's top insights from the conversation. What stuck with you while listening to the episode? What are you going to try? Come share it with Melina on social media -- you'll find her as @thebrainybiz everywhere and as Melina Palmer on LinkedIn.

Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show. 

I hope you love everything recommended via The Brainy Business! Everything was independently reviewed and selected by me, Melina Palmer. So you know, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means if you decide to shop from the links on this page (via Amazon or others), The Brainy Business may collect a share of sales or other compensation.

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