The Long Tail and the Big Idea

futurelab default header

by: Iqbal Mohammed

In a recent post, Seth Godin clarifies one of the most common misunderstandings about the long tail. He emphasises, "Given the choice, it’s better to make a hit." But you don’t have a say in making something a hit – you can only try. On the other hand a Long Tail approach – collecting many many products among the tail – "permits you to amalgamate a market that may be just as big or bigger than the short head."

I can vouch for the wide prevalence of the misunderstanding. When people read my whitepaper on the long tail of brand-building, their first reaction is to wonder if I am suggesting that the Big Idea is dead.

"We’ll always have Big Ideas" is their usual response – reassuring themselves and dismissing my thesis in one go.

What I have not been suggesting is the demise the one big idea for the brand. Given the choice – and inclination – go for the big idea every time.

But if your brand already has a big idea – or if you are still groping for one – also consider amalgamating a wagging tail of smaller ideas that each appeals to its own smaller and focussed audience. These audiences when added up can rival the reach of the one big idea – and effectively double your audience.

The key here is to realise a brand can – and should – have more than one proposition for itself. As I wrote in the paper:

"In effect, the communication for every brand represents an individual market in which different messages for that brand compete for consumer attention and time."

If you haven’t already read it, here’s a ChangeThis Manifesto of the paper – or if you prefer, the complete paper itself. A discussion of the paper is ongoing (and archived) here.

PS: In addition, I cannot agree more Seth Godin about the poky professor who missed the point about the long tail. For me, the Long Tail has never been about numbers, hard data and proof – it’s an axiom that unveils a simple, fundamental and overlooked truth about the world around us.

[Original pic by WTL photos]

Original Post: