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SXSW: Penn professor Jonah Berger on 'What Drives Word Of Mouth?'

Wharton prof break it down at SXSW Interactive.

Why do some things catch on, and others fail? That was the question at the heart of Wharton professor Jonah Berger's session 'What Drives Word Of Mouth?' on a drizzly Saturday morning in Austin during the second day of the South by Southwest Interactive conference.

Berger packed the ballroom at the Hilton hotel - pretty impressive since his talk was concurrent with a virtual conversation with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange across the street at the Austin Convention Center that had a line that seemed to go all the way to San Antonio.

Some of Berger's answers, and the data behind them are surprising. What percentage of all word of mouth is on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter? 7%, according to Berger's research. Even in our always-online digital universe, a much bigger share of the Interactions that make products succeed happen face to face.

Far too much emphasis is placed on number of hits that viral media gets, said the Penn prof, who began his presentation with the Jean Claude Van Damme Volvo TV commerical and included an analysis on the positive vibes generated by Geico's Camel-starring  "Hump Day" commercial. (Much more popular on Wednesdays, it turns out.) What's far more important is the number of people who are moved to share content, and understanding the emotional triggers that make them want to spread the word.

"We spend far too much time thinking about technology," said the 32 year old author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, "And not enough time thinking about psychology."

Previously: Roots Picnic lineup announced Follow In The Mix on Twitter