Saturday, September 12, 2009

Network science and why it will change what we do

En route to the US to attend the PAICR conference I watched a documentary about network science. It helped explain why financial services (and many other) marketing and PR efforts are seemingly unpredictably successful or unsuccessful. And why measurment remains a challenge.

In short, my takeout is that relying on opinion leaders or influencers is an unproven and probably unsuccessful way to change opinions and behaviour.

The implications for marketing and PR are huge.

If I have it right, it means:

- Average people are just as likely to start a trend as the more connected among a population
- A product, service or idea won't be successful unless it's time is right
- If the time is right an idea, product or service will spread incredibly rapidly

Our job as marketers or communators then is to do what I was taught at uni - make stuff people want. I beleive it was more appropriately called "the marketing concept" and it followed on from what was taught in high school economics - consumer sovereignty.

More appropriately to the finance sector, only sell services or ideas when they will add value and the conditions are right for clients or investors to take them up.

This Fast Company article about Duncan Watts' work talks more about why targetting opinion leaders is a waster of time.

PS In 1992, I dropped my 2/rds complete Honours thesis about Roger's diffusion of innovation framework and social change communication. Sounds like that was a better call than I realised at the time!

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