BCG Henderson Institute

Magic Words with Jonah Berger

"We spend a lot of time thinking about the ideas we want to communicate, but we think a lot less about the specific words we use to express those ideas – and that's a mistake, because subtle shifts in the language that we use can actually have a big effect on our impact."

In his latest book, Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way, Jonah Berger breaks down the science of language. The right words can influence actions and happiness, and reveal insights about those who say or write them.

Berger, an associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School, is an expert on change, social influence, and word-of-mouth communication. Together with Martin Reeves, Chairman of BCG Henderson Institute, Berger discusses how we can use the language of agency and identity to incite action, how to best balance concreteness and abstraction, and how to harness the power of emotions—drawing on decades of experimental research.

He also speculates how large language models will change the production and deployment of language. The book is a broad and practical guide to how we can use language more effectively.

Key topics discussed: 

[01:07] The power of language and six types of magic words
[03:57] Leveraging the language of agency and identity to spark action
[06:58] Balancing concreteness and abstraction
[10:53] Harnessing the power of emotions
[13:27] Limitations of magic words and the importance of authenticity
[17:41] The role of ChatGPT and other large language models
[21:00] Using magic words in your personal and professional life

Additional inspiration from Jonah Berger: 

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