zaterdag, juli 21, 2007

What's eating viral marketing?

Matthew Creamer offers his apoligies to Malcolm Gladwell because "the Tipping Point Might Be More Myth Than Math".

Since the term "viral marketing" snuck into vogue in the mid-1990s, the ad business has been sold on sickness as the way to describe how information, ideas and influence spread through.

But now a long-taken-for-granted central principle of viral marketing -- that large-scale changes in behavior can begin like disease epidemics, with just a few highly connected people -- is facing its toughest challenge yet. At the center of a growing fray is an unlikely figure: an Australian-born sociology professor at Columbia University named Duncan Watts, who comes armed with mathematical models that, he believes, unsettle much of what you think you know about viral marketing.

For a few years now, Mr. Watts looked at how big cascades of behavior begin, focusing most recently on the theory of influencers, those people disproportionately capable of triggering big change and featured in books such as 2003's "The Influentials." What he's found, through computer modeling as opposed to real-world research, is that they're not necessarily all that effective.

The crux of Mr. Watts' argument is that even if influentials are several times as influential as a normal person, they have little impact beyond their own immediate neighborhood -- not good when you're trying to create a cascade through a large network of people, as most big brands do. In those cases, he argues, it's best to skip the idea of targeting that treasured select group of plugged-in folks and instead think about that group's polar opposite: a large number of easily influenced people. He calls this big-seed marketing.

Sounds a lot like mass marketing, doesn't it?

Read the full article here.

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