A conversation last night with my new client (very late indeed even by Spanish standards) and a prompt from my chum Johnnie today (go here for Derren Brown's note on self-control and influence) brought this idea into focus again:
it's all to easy for us to get distracted by character of the things we make – by their stickiness and the contagiousness – and imagine that it's these kind of qualities (and thus ultimately our efforts) that determines the success of the things (i.e. how far and fast they spread through a given population).
While that is true in some cases – and it's not completely irrelevant in most (terrible products don't tend to win) – assuming it as a default setting, merely encourages you & me to ignore the underlying mechanism by which the things themselves spread: that is, through people.
And in particular largely through people following ("pulling") what others around them are doing (and not as is all-too-often suggested (e.g. by the diagram at the top of this page or this famous one)
Two obvious reasons why we tend to go this way: 1. it plays to what we want to believe about ourselves as masters of persuasion and manipulation of the masses 2. it helps us avoid all that messy human stuff that can so bog brilliance down & (last but not least) 3. because everyone else does it, too.
The future of marketing and related disciplines is really about getting better at the people stuff and embracing the messiness of it and our lack of real control over the outcomes.