New study suggests a passionate minority can sway the majority

by Mack Collier

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have concluded that it only takes 10 percent of a population holding an unshakable belief in order to convince the majority to adopt that same belief.  In fact, the scientists found that this will always be the case.

“When the number of committed  holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

This study ties into an idea I’ve been thinking about recently; the difference between how companies market themselves versus how rockstars do.  And while my graphical skills on the computer suck, I am a bit better at freehand, so I drew a graph to demonstrate what the customer base for the average company looks like:

Obviously, the size of the market for New Customers will always be bigger than the others.  After that you get Existing Customers, then customers with Some Brand Affinity and finally, Brand Advocates.  Note also that New Customers have the least amount of Brand Loyalty, and that increases for each group with Brand Advocates having the highest levels of loyalty.

But note the disconnect between which group most companies target, versus the group that most rockstars target:

At first glance, this can seem like the smart play for companies, because they are targeting the group that’s the largest.  The problem is, this group also has the lowest levels of loyalty to the brand.  So the company may be gaining New Customers, but it’s probably losing them just as quickly, again due to a lack of brand affinity.

But note what Rockstars do;  They focus on the people that already love them.  Unlike the New Customers, this group has a strong degree of loyalty for the rockstar.  So much so, that they will go out and actively recruit people from the OTHER groups to the left to come join them.  And yes, we have stats to back that up as well:

Note that evangelists refer business equal to 45% of the money they spend.  That means that the Brand Advocates that the Rockstars target, and also going out and finding new business for the Rockstar from the OTHER groups.

Remember also the study I referenced at the start of the post: Scientists have discovered that if 10% of a population have an unshakable belief in an idea, they will eventually convince the majority to adopt their stance.  The ’10-Percenters’ are your Brand Advocates.

So let’s compare and contrast the two approaches:

Company – Targets New Customers. Loses them just as quickly as it gains them, so constantly having to reinvest in getting more New Customers to replace the ones it lost yesterday.

Rockstar – Targets Brand Advocates (Fans). Brand Advocates have a strong sense of loyalty for the Rockstar, so they not only stay as customers, they go out and actively recruit New Customers, Existing Customers, and customers with Some Brand Affinity to buy from the Rockstar.

See the difference?  While the company is engaged in an almost constant zero-sum game, the Rockstar isn’t focusing so much on expanding its customer base, but rather on delighting the people that are already delighted with the Rockstar.  Because the Rockstar understands that its next sale is just as likely to come from the efforts of its EXISTING fans as it is their own.

This also is why Steve Knox said this:

Said in terms of the above graph, that quote would be ‘Victory in marketing doesn’t happen when you get New Customers, but when you connect with your Brand Advocates.”  Because your Brand Advocates are the people that are bringing you the New Customers anyway.

Companies, y’all make this marketing stuff too hard.  It’s not about spending a lot of money trying to convince strangers to buy from you, it’s about delighting the people that already love you.

Previous post:

Next post: