Friday, October 17, 2008

Opinion Leaders

The world is overflowing with research. Most of these solemn studies by companies, scientific associations and academics elicit a yawn, sometimes a grin and on rare occasions a jolt of surprise. Recently I got the surprise response to a paper from the American Psychological Association. These are not guys I follow every day but their finding is so much in line with mainstream advertising commonsense that you really do have to wonder where they’ve been for the past 50 years. The past 50 years of TV advertising.

Their paper claims that repeating yourself is more effective than a number of people pitching the same idea individually. In fact, they put numbers around it. One person stating the same thing three times is almost as effective as three different members of a group expressing that same opinion (well 90 percent as effective anyway). Of course this is one of the reasons we don’t do focus groups much any more. The talkative person in a focus group who is prepared to keep saying the same thing sways the rest. The result? Group think and the loss of what can be most insightful from the perspectives of different people.

This is not And/And it’s and, and, and, and oh… did I mention and? I guess my surprise is that this rather depressing fact of human nature has to be proved yet again, but that surprise is surpassed by something more important. I'm convinced that diversity of people, opinion and ideas is absolutely critical to success in a world where every innovation is quickly copied. The lesson here is clear. When you are looking for people to work with, go for the ones who think saying anything three times and repeating what everyone else just said is boring.