Forget the A-List After All

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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 “accidential 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 Macintosh successful, and we could have not identified them in advance.

photo by Steve Pyke

By | 2016-10-24T14:17:01+00:00 January 27th, 2008|Categories: Marketing and Sales|8 Comments

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About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

8 Comments

  1. Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog January 28, 2008 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Forget the A-List After All

    by: Guy Kawasaki 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…

  2. Strategy Central January 28, 2008 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Is There a Tipping Point?

    Think you know how trends spread? One of the most influential books over the last few years has been Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Very interesting stuff. Based on the idea that trends are launched by a very few influential

  3. Johnnie Moore's Weblog January 29, 2008 at 6:24 am - Reply

    The anti-gladwell?

    Guy Kawasaki’s picks up on Duncan Watts’ very provocative research on network effects: Forget the A-list after all. (I wrote about Watts’ stuff here and here last year.) Watts is framed as some kind of anti-Gladwell, because his work challenges…

  4. Marketing Safari January 30, 2008 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    A-Listers and the Tipping Point

    Sometimes, I just love the Internet and the blogosphere. How ideas and debates sometimes spread like wildfire online. The most recent one is a debate on Gladwells theory of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Differencestarted

  5. ChaosScenario February 8, 2008 at 6:46 am - Reply

    Malcom Gladwell Under Fire: Marketers Miffed

    Witnessing the firestorm that erupted as a result of a Fast Company article, I’ve concluded that the quickest way to earn the ire of marketers is to trash Malcom Gladwell and his breakthrough hit book about influence, The Tipping Point.

  6. [ paul isakson ] February 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Duncan Watts vs. The Tipping Point

    Note: This post is a bit late coming. It has been sitting a draft since the second day of February waiting for a couple final thoughts. Sorry about that. I’m sure you’ve already read quite a bit on the article that spurred it, but rather than delete it…

  7. Member-to-Member February 12, 2008 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Social Media Press Release – Why stop there?

    I wrote at the end of January about the Social Media Press Release (SMPR) and how it provided a vehicle to exert some amount of “control” over a fundamentally uncontrollable business asset – our marketing messages – in the highly transparent Web 2.0 wo…

  8. Member-to-Member February 12, 2008 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Social Media Press Release – Why stop there?

    I wrote at the end of January about the Social Media Press Release (SMPR) and how it provided a vehicle to exert some amount of “control” over a fundamentally uncontrollable business asset – our marketing messages – in the highly transparent Web 2.0 wo…

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