Posted by: nickgerlich | July 1, 2008

Crowd Surfing

It’s amazing how many of our cues we take from other people. We see a line forming, and we get in it (and we have no idea why). Traffic is stacked up for miles, and we see the other lane start to move…so we try to cut in. A new restaurant comes to town (Rudy’s comes to mind), and everyone needs to try it…right now.

Ah yes, the wisdom of crowds. We need not even know these people. But their wisdom is profound and enticing, begging us to get in their lane to see what all the excitement is about.

It may be an over-used (and misappropriated) metaphor, but I cannot get the picture of lemmings out of my head.

CrowdI suppose there really is safety in numbers. It allows us to spread the blame if decisions don’t turn out quite right, and it allows us to likewise spread the risk. Human nature being what it is, our pack behavior reveals that we are not that far removed from the critters with whom we share this planet.

So what’s a marketer to do? Try to build crowds, that’s what. Crowds buy things, and when we see others doing it, we begin to lose our inhibitions. And open up our pocketbook.

You see, these crowds help determine what is cool, and what is not. And when something becomes cool, watch out, because the growth curve can go exponential before your very eyes. The iPhone took three months to hit the 1 million sales mark, but now Steve Jobs has his sites on 10 million…and will probably hit the target quite handily. Before the iPhone, though, the the real success story was the Motorola Razr, which now has sold over 100 million units. When it debuted, its price was the same as the first 8gb iPhone: $600.

From my lofty perch in the ivory towers of academe, I find it quite intriguing to watch the crowd scenes play out. It’s a lot like standing atop the Sears Tower in Chicago and viewing all the ant-like people below scurrying about. But since I am also one of them when I descend from my perch, I often act like everyone else. I take my cues from other people, especially fellow tribe members.

Because it sure beats getting stuck in traffic and watching the other lane move.

Dr “Can I Cut In?” Gerlich

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