Seth, Santa & the mob


Nice piece from Seth Godin today (HT peter_harrison about the importance of…I'll have what she's having and buying "the" christmas toy:

"…there's no [longer a] mad rush for the "it" gift, the safe, coveted gift that demonstrates the giver was able to finagle a favor or brave a crush of shoppers. The notion of the one, the it, the winner, the safe choice–this is about buying without taking responsibility.

Clearly, there are as many new and wonderful things this season as there are each year, all that's missing is an anointed toy of the year. The masses want to buy what the masses have chosen as the winner, because then the purchase isn't their fault.

And that's what happens every day in just about every market, business or consumer. A few people want to take responsibility, go first, lead the way, be choosy, inquire, find the remarkable, the magical and own the outcome. But most? They just don't want it to be their fault"

Just a couple of thoughts:

i. it's not the absence of mass TV that creates a fragmented and unpredictable marketplace – TV viewing is not as dead as folk like Seth are prone to suggest (though our relationship with it has changed) – but rather the increasing number of connections we have with each other (and the opportunities to see what other folk are having).

ii. it's always interesting to examine the choice of words that people use to describe the early adopters ("take responsibility, go first, lead the way, be choosy, inquire, find the remarkable, the magical and own the outcome…") and the rest of us ("the mass…isn't their fault").

It's not just Seth, we all do it. The lionising and fetishation of early adopters – like Apple's "the crazy ones" – is something we marketers could do with having less of next year, please. It's an unhelpful bit of extrapolation from poorly misunderstood social science. Early adopters vary by market and by occasion and by context; and most of what is chosen by the cool kids never gets anywhere – the legwarmer revival anyone?

Learning from each other is core to what makes our species successful – pretending it's not and that independent choice rules the world is just wrong. And shows how blinded we are by our cultural blinkers…

Happy Christmas, nonetheless, Seth. Hope you have what I'm having… 





  1. ebun
    December 17, 2011

    Hey Mark
    I enjoyed I ll have what she’s having, it was very informative and got me thinking about new ways to improve my business. In terms of directed copying and undirected copying, are there human beings incapable of copying? Are these the innovators or what? Last night I did a beer tour at the Brooklyn Brewery, looking at the girls, you could definitely see that the styles give or take a few variances all seemed to be the same, a non conforming crowd but even non conformers conform to a non conforming look. But there were some girls that did not seem to fit it, had no style and did not look good at all. The thought then occurred to me, who are they copying? I have to think they believe they looked good when they left the house (I don’t think most people say, god I look like shit), but yet I see people every day, lacking style and grace and I ask myself, who are they copying or are they incapable of copying? Or is there a point when you don’t care about copying? Fashion centered cause fashion is easy to study.
    not sure if my question was clear

  2. Mark Earls
    December 27, 2011

    Hi Ebun. Interesting questions – let me try to answer them as best I can.
    I think the first thing to focus on is our notion of “innovation” and “innovators”: we normally see “innovation” as a deliberate creative act (voluntarily doing something new and different) – this is probably why in our culture we allocate such high value to it.
    In fact, in diffusion science what we call innovation can often just be not-doing-what-those-around-you-are-doing. In, for example, the classic Rogers adoption curve only a small amount of individuals (c.2%) act independently; the rest all follow someone else’s lead.
    So this may be what you’re seeing in the “unstylish” girls you see – they could be just acting independently of the majority of those around them.
    Or, they could be acting according to their own group rules – think of the equivalent in musical tastes and how they can be quite local. Their group norms may not be as focused on fashion and appearance as other groups are.
    Alternatively, as you hint in the, it could be that they are not copying in the way – or to the same degree. While we tend to assume – as in Watts & Salganik’s famous music download experiments – that the tendency to copy is fixed across a population, we all know that some people are less susceptible to the influence of others in different behaviours. Their threshold to social influence in terms of fashion and how thy present themselves may just be higher.
    Sorry not to be able to give you a specific answer but the truth is we always see these variations within a population: to make sense of them, we need both a view of at the population level and a more detailed contextual – ethnographic -exploration such as you’ve started
    Hope that helps

  3. A Facebook User
    February 5, 2012

    Thank you for ‘Herd’ – very interesting to see a strong practical argument for value-driven behaviour – I’m looking forward to reading the new book.
    I came here interested to see what sort of community-building you had going on around your work, and intending to bookmark etc, which I’ve done…
    …but!… tiny white text on pink background? It’s literally making my eyes bleed (well, apart from the ‘literally’ bit). I reckon you’d have ten times the comments if you had nice, big, dark-on-light stuff going on. Please?…;-)