The evolution of ‘Relevance’

June 9, 2011

What is relevance really and why is it so important for marketeers?

Let’s use some evolutionary social psychology to explain relevance … When human social systems evolved, it was crucial to let through only those products or ideas that contributed significantly to the group.

If all new ideas could easily pass, every commonly held believe by the group would be attacked by any new idea. The social glue of the system would quickly fall apart and the group would quickly become an assembly of isolated individuals.

If on the other hand not one single idea would pass, you would get a hyper conservative social system, very stable indeed, but not flexible towards the environment. If such a system faced a changing environment, it was not able to change its course. Such a social system would soon be overruled by one more adapted to the environment.

Relevance is the perfect instrument to let a social system balance between stability and evolution. If relevant,  ideas or products are quickly adopted and diffused by the gatekeepers in a social context. They are the relevance specialists in a specific domain. Irrelevant topics are ignored by the gatekeepers and thereby stay banned for their social context.

Relevance and gatekeepers are crucial cogs in the social adoption mechanism. This ‘Social Adoption Mechanism’ was designed by evolution to allow the social system to react to its changing environment, while maintaining a high level of stability.