Spear B: the birth of the first brand

May 30, 2011

Most probably, the first brand must have appeared long before human beings were able to speak. It could well have happened on a moment as the one I’ll describe here …

For long, this tribe in Northern America has been hunting and staying close to a herd of buffalos. But due to a cold period, the herd has migrated towards the south, leaving our tribe with a food problem. Their hunting techniques and equipment have been finetuned during the last decades to attack buffalos. Spear A has been proven very useful in penetrating the buffalo’s skin. Erik, the blacksmith (avant la lettre) who invented this spear A, has spent his entire live developing and refining his innovation. His son, Björn, learned a lot from his father but developed his own technique in crafting spears. Despite his father’s instructions, he focussed on a sharper spear, less secure when thrown at the animal, but able to penetrate a thicker type of skin. Björn has practiced this new spear on different kinds of wood, improved it, and tested it over and over. Björn even argued that it would allow them to hunt down the biggest animal of them all … the mammoth. Unfortunately, noone would care to listen to his fantasies, not for the least his own father.

Johan, who is very aware of the problems his tribe is facing, is willing to take a risk. As a trusted opinion leader, he believes in Björn’s spear. He asks some of his blacksmith friends to have a look at it, to change the grip of the spear and to lighten the weight so it can be thrown from further away. When he considers spear B to be ready to give it a try, the tribe assembles some of its best hunters and equips them with Spear B. The hunting of mammoth had begun …

I may hope this story illustrates how the first brand could have been born, making use of only word-of-mouth (actually, the first form of WOM must have been sound-of-mouth or gesture-by-hand :-)) and the SAM (social adoption mechanism). Spear B was the perfect answer to a changing environment and consequently an emerging need within the social system … Björn had the answer, Johan linked the innovation with the emerging need. The SAM did its job … it’s some plain and simple marketing.

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Self-monitoring: the difference between innovators and gatekeepers

July 14, 2010

Our sociometer gives us signals. It warns us if our behavior is not appreciated by significant others … Relationships that are for some reason valuable to us, undergo a certain degree of pressure and devaluation. On the other hand, the sociometer gives us social joy when we feel more appreciated than normal.

The sociometer indicates a state self-esteem below or above our regular level. Pain as well as joy urge us to react. We want that pain to go away, or find a recepy for that joy to stay. The manner in which we react to that pain or joy largely depends on the situation and the personality of the subject.

One personality variable that explains a lot of the variability in the way we react to social pain is self-monitoring. Self-monitoring is a term proposed by Marc Snyder in 1972. It differentiates people based on the degree in which they adjust their behavior on the social context they’re in. People low in self-monitoring are relative consistent in the way the behave, the opinions they ventilate, etc. Those high in self-monitoring change their behavior depending on the social context of the moment. Their behavior is less consistent.

Innovators are generally people who score low on self-monitoring. They are passionate about their domains, and don’t let their opinions be influenced by the social context of the moment. They follow their own beliefs within the domain and prefer to share their ideas with people with the same passion. They get their positive social feedback from being consistent, trustworthy an potentially valuable because of their knowledge and expertise in their domain.

Gatekeepers on the other hand must be attentive for what’s relevant at this very moment in this very social context. They score high on self-monitoring. This makes their behavior much more inconsistent in time and in social context. They get their positive social feedback from linking novelties with a relevant need in the social context.


Winning the soccer / marketing game? Manage the team, not the players!

July 5, 2010

If we have learned one thing from this world cup soccer in South Africa … it’s the best team that wins, not the best selection of individual players. ‘Best’ in this context is than referred to by soccer analysts as well-balanced, working for each other, complementary, etc.

In contrast, psychologists have for long considered low self-esteem as the shortcoming of the individual players themselves. However, curing a player’s low self-esteem can only be done by taking into account the context of the team and the position of the player in that team. He will only feel better if the context in which he plays is better suited to expose his qualities.

Likewise, marketers have been trying to manage consumers as individual players, not teams. By pushing the message to a mass of individuals, they did improve their sales. However, if you pull the right strings of each of the diverse players of the team, the same goal will be reached far more efficiently. The SAM (social adoption mechanism) helps us to understand how such a team of players/consumers collaborates, following the rules of the game.


Gatekeepers: the radars of the SAM

July 5, 2010

In a previous post, I described the innovator and his usefulness in the SAM (social adoption mechanism). I like to see the innovator as a sort of R&D center cut loose from the daily relevance of a social system. They are said to have an ‘unhealthy’ interest in one or a couple of domains while having a lack of interest in more common domains. The innovator builds knowledge and sharpens his skills that might come in very handy for his tribe one day. When that day comes, his knowledge will become highly relevant and, following the SAM philosophy, will be picked up by the gatekeepers of his tribe.

While the innovator can be seen as the R&D center of the social system, the gatekeeper serves as the radar that links an innovation to a social opportunity. Unlike the innovator, he is very sensitive for the social cues he gets from his social system. The gatekeeper is very early in scanning the environment, detecting social opportunities and matching them with an innovation.

While the sociometer of the innovator is triggered by passion for a domain, the gatekeeper’s sociometer is sensitive for social opportunities. In the end, both types will receive their social acceptance, but the difference in how they obtain this acceptance, defines the working of the SAM.

This is why innovation makes much more sense when looking at it from a social point of view.