Influential – or not?

3 Feb

We’re talking in class this week about persuasion and influentials. I’ve assigned the class to read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, and so I plan to discuss the concept of Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen, and how this theory impacts the way we approach the research phase of a PR campaign.

I mentioned this discussion at brunch with a friend today, and she pulled out her copy of Fast Company, which this month has a contrarian view of the Influential theory. It explores Duncan Watts’s theory that the average Joe is more likely to set off a trend than an Influential. Watts believes that for a trend to be a success, what matters more is whether society is susceptible to it.

I think this contradiction gets at the heart of the larger issue we’ll be discussing: How do we incorporate Watts’s and Gladwell’s theories into our campaign strategy? What do we need to learn from our research to construct a successful campaign? Is it more effective to target the many or the few?

Ultimately, the article says, Watts says the best way to influence others is to pitch your idea as widely as possible, given that you don’t know who is really going to start the trend. Thus, mass marketing still works.

The irony that I’m pondering this conundrum tonight is not lost on me, as I settle down to watch the premier mass marketing event of the year – the Super Bowl.

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