Forget the A-List After All

You’ve got to read “Is the Tipping Point Toast?” by Clive Thompson in FastCompany. The gist of Thompson’s piece, based on the work of Duncan Watts of Yahoo Research, is that the theory that a select few “key influencers” matter more than “the rest of us” when it comes to viral and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns is flawed. Said Watts:

“It [achieving marketing success through influentials] just doesn’t work. A rare bunch of cool people just don’t have that power. And when you test the way marketers say the world works, it falls apart. There’s no there there.”

In contrast to influential marketing, Watt’s believes the key factor is the readiness of the market: “If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one—and if it isn’t, then almost no one can.” There will be first movers, but almost anyone can be this first mover—and therefore what Watts calls an “accidental Influential.”

My money is on Watts. If you agree, it should change your perspective on marketing:

  • Spend less time and effort on industry events and other focused PR and marketing that involves sucking up to journalists, analysts, and experts. Spend more time and effort pressing the flesh of real customers. Typically, you won’t meet too many customers at a Ritz Carlton.
  • Try mass marketing because you never know who will be your “accidental Influential.” Or, as the saying goes, “Let a hundred flowers blossom” to determine who “gets” your product. Admittedly, the challenge is to find a cost-effective way to do mass marketing.
  • Forget A-list bloggers. Lousy reviews by them cannot tank your product. Great reviews cannot make it successful. Focus on big numbers—any Technorati 1,000,000 blogger can be a channel to reach people. If enough people like your product, the A-list bloggers will have to write about you.

How does Watts’ thinking square with evangelism? I don’t see a conflict because evangelism is about “bringing the good news” to everyone and then supporting the people who “get it.” Evangelism is not about sucking up to only people who are famous and self-important. To wit, few Fortune 500 CIOs helped make Macintosh successful. It was unknown artists, designers, hobbyists, and user-group members who made the Macintosh successful, and we could not have identified them in advance.

Man learns to read after 17 years of teaching high school

John Corcoran graduated from college and taught high school for 17 years without being able to read, write or spell. Pretty amazing story.

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Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

On one thing, the experts seem to agree. The differences between and can be summed up this way: Barack Obama is a Mac, and Hillary Clinton is a PC.

That is, Mr. Obama’s site is more harmonious, with plenty of white space and a soft blue palette. Its task bar is reminiscent of the one used at Apple’s iTunes site. It signals in myriad ways that it was designed with a younger, more tech-savvy audience in mind — using branding techniques similar to the ones that have made the iPod so popular.

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Microsoft succumbs to Apple envy, buys Danger

Microsoft was too busy to read its rejection letter from Yahoo this morning, as it announced its intention to buy Danger, the maker of the popular Sidekick smart phone. The move suggests that the Redmond Giant plans to compete with its partners in the handset business.

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Seattle Taps Its Inner Silicon Valley

Many communities dream of becoming the next Silicon Valley. But Seattle is actually doing it. The influx of entrepreneurs and of venture capitalists to bankroll them is slowly reshaping this city and a regional economy long buffeted by the booms and busts of the aerospace and timber industries. A start-up ecosystem needs social networks, support businesses and a business culture that views failure as a badge of honor, not shame. All of that is in place in Seattle.

Money is pouring in. During the last 12 years, venture capital investment here has more than tripled, to about $1 billion annually. Last year Washington tied with Texas as the third-largest destination for venture capital money nationwide, behind California and Massachusetts.

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