Monday, April 16, 2007

The Butterfly Effect

The New York Times had an interesting article this weekend about how Hollywood and the music industry figures out if they have a hit in the early stages of its career. They don't. In a study that seems like it would be a great case study for the Tipping Point, the author, a Columbia professor, talks about a study that he conducted that talked about rating music. In it, he subjected one group to simply the names of songs and bands, and the other group also had the number of downloads on it. As you can slowly see, the one group with the download number had markedly skewed results than the other one. Turns out that the subjects were not only influenced by the music but also by the number of downloads. The Butterfly / Snowball Effect in play here, where people are influenced also by what they perceive others to like. He goes on to site examples of Harry Potter being turned down by eight other publishers, the Beatles, Star Wars, etc.

Well how does that affect your marketing plan? Very interestingly, this comes back around to social networks and the Tipping Point. People have the herd mentality which is why even a stock price falls or rises higher when perceived news comes out that is bad or good, respectively. We are all Lemmings to one extent or the other. We are social creatures, and we don't want to be left out. So, in this case, we need to find those influentials, those people willing to take a risk and endorse something (even if its as simple as putting it on a blog, MySpace page, or creating a YouTube video about how great something is).
They're taking this risk, knowing that if all doesn't go according to plan, their reputation is on the line. But who are these people? I think that while mainstream media is the easy answer, you can find blogs that are certainly influential to a certain community (TechCrunch for techies for example). Tila Tequila, the infamous, most "friended" MySpacer. Perhaps you have to "game" a system to even be noticed. I know that when I go to YouTube, there is so much content, that I just want to view the videos with the most hits. People have figured out how to game these systems to appear just there (although their rating reveals what the content really is). I'm hoping that this is helpful for those of you out there trying to market your products in this vast ocean of "stuff." (After all, MySpace definitely is not the cleanest or best social networking site, yet, they somehow caught). But if I could figure out the next hit, I would be doing so, and as William Goldman once mentioned - "No one knows anything." Very true not only in Hollywood, but when trying to figure out who will be the next YouTube.

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