Memories of the future (5) Things or people?

 People 2

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.


  1. Armando Alves
    January 20, 2010

    Almost forgot to share one of the latest episodes of Dan Ariely’s podcast, related to contagiousness:
    “I’ll have what she’s having: Gavan Fitzsimons, Fuqua School of Business”
    iTunes URL:

  2. pompa
    January 27, 2010

    What is it. The more human. That people need to organize an event there to collect large.

  3. Geoff Brown
    January 31, 2010

    Thanks Mark
    Trying to get a local community group (sustainability) to embrace this messiness … and let them see that they too assume control over outcomes (eg. impact of the information they communicate to the community)

  4. Geoff Brown
    January 31, 2010

    Thanks Mark
    Currently seeing the ‘control mindset’ and ‘avoidance of messiness’ play out in my local community with a sustainability group.
    That begs the question … what can I do to expose them to this type of thinking. Big blind spots exist here!

  5. Tom Asacker
    February 3, 2010

    Keep preaching, Brother!

  6. Renaissance Clothing
    March 7, 2010

    Nothing beats the face to face encounter

  7. Air Conditioning Installers
    March 9, 2010

    Great level of well needed thinking, can see why you do keynote so influential

  8. afrodisiace
    March 18, 2010

    wow. interesting blog you set up here. indeed nothing beats face2face

    March 30, 2010

    I like that you think. Thank you for share very much.

  10. tom
    April 7, 2010

    mate, put a date on this post. it’s been the first post for ages and ages. it’s time for it to move down the chain.