Forget influentials, herd-like copying is how brands spread

Dr Alex Bentley and Mark Earls

Rather than focus on the motivations of individual consumers – the 'needs' that classical marketing approaches encourage us to identify and satisfy – more and more marketers are turning their attention to how ideas, opinions and behaviour spread through populations.

To explore this new territory, many of us use a heady brew of old diffusion models from the 1920s and newer network and information theory (as for example, articulated in the bestselling Tipping Point (1)). Until recently, though, few of us have really checked whether this mix reflects contemporary behavioural science or even how things really spread through populations.