by: John Winsor
As many others in marketing, I've been intrigued by Clive Thompson's article about Duncan Watt's entitled, "Is the Tipping Point Toast," which appeared in Issue 122 of Fast Company.
Grant McCracken does a great job of outlining the substance of the article.
Duncan Watts (a research scientist at Columbia and, for the moment, Yahoo) argues that "influencers" are less influential than Gladwell's Tipping Point model would have us believe. He argues that news travels as readily through ordinary people as influential ones. This means that our world is not "hub and spoke," with some individuals acting like O'Hare and the rest of us like Cleveland or, pause, Dayton. No, as Thompson put it, networks are democratic. We are just as likely to "get the news" from a friend as we are from an networking paragon.
I've been a firm believer in the power of diffusion and influencers. And, was passionate enough about it that it became the subject of my 2nd book, Beyond the Brand: Why Engaging the Right Customers is Essential to Winning in Business.
However, for the last few months my opinion has changed since being here at CP+B. The agency has always believed that it's more important to change culture around a brand than it is to change the brand to fit into a culture.
In the end, I believe it's an alchemy of cultural change and individual influence. As the cultural conditions change influencers become early detectors of this change and communicate it to the rest of the community.