In his book, Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature, Mark Earl explores 2 sides of our decision making nature. On one side we have what we largely believe to be ‘individual choice’ where our own views are used to decide our courses of action; on the other side, we are so influenced by mass behaviour that our own beliefs are largely only shadows or flavours of the views of the collective whole.
And the arguments Earl presents are compelling. He provides many examples where individuals tend to follow the crowd view both socially and in the commercial world. Our views and prejudices are, Earl believes constructs of the Herd and so there is value in both understanding what that Herd believes and in being able to influence it (if and where we can) for social and financial benefit.
Earl believes, as the subtitle to the book suggests, it is possible to change mass behaviour. Individual choice is secondary to the group consensus and everyone actually just copies others in their group or is influenced by some key people or ideas that garner common support. This idea reflects some of Seth Godin’s views on Tribes and other thoughts on Word of Mouth marketing and thought leadership and so the ideas Earl presents are very credible. Why else would ‘pet rocks’ have been so popular?
However, the ability to mobilise or direct the Herd or to alter mass behaviour is far from easy. That is why most marketers and governments struggle to generate large scale initiatives that create any kind of lasting change.
Herd explores precisely why we struggle to influence mass behaviour but does some insights into how we can influence small homogeneous groups which might be enough to start a small movement in the direction you want the herd to go. It was Margret Mead that stated, ‘A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has, and so there is merit in looking at the techniques that Earl explores to see where you can influence that small group.
Earl’s seven principles of Herd marketing are:
- Interaction – Be aware of the interaction between people and see where the emotional current flow.
- Influence – Think of who in the group are the key thought leaders and influencers?
- Us-talk – A person who talks in terms of Us other than I will have more influence and have effect from their word of mouth.
- Just believe – Stand for something (rather than fall for anything)
- Light (Relight) the fire – By restating the original idea . The more social meaning you can highlight in the idea, you more likely it is to engage the herd mentality and th frequency of restating further increases how pervasive the idea is amongst the crowd.
- Be Co-creative – Let others join in as involvement generates commitment. The best leaders are those that can stand back and listen to their team say ‘look what we have done’.
- Letting Go – Be aware that you aren’t in charge, your can only influence and hope that the herd goes in the direction you want.
Filled with examples, anecdotes and case studies, Earl makes a compelling case and no matter your belief on personal choice, this book will give you some pause for thought about how independent your thinking actually is and how much to are (or are not) independent of the herd.
Dare to Aspire