Buzz is a Finite Natural Resource

Once in a Blue Moon

Whenever something explodes into the zeitgeist, marketers, PR pros and advertisers give in to the temptation to reverse-engineer the success of the communication campaign to find what they can apply to their own projects.  This is going on right now with the success of Apple’s iPad release.

The problem is, I think there’s precious little we can glean from these successes because they come along because they’re “blue moon” examples.

  • First, the time, effort, resources and luck that went into building the Apple Brand is largely what gave the iPad its credibility and reach (which caused the buzz).  Only a tiny handful of organizations will ever wield that power no matter how hard they work.
  • Second, when something big like this happens – it mines and depletes the buzz.  The public’s attention span isn’t infinite.  Tunneling down with a second mine will won’t produce a second strike.
  • Third, the real trick often isn’t reducing a success to a set of maxims – it’s knowing when those maxims apply and when they don’t (because none are absolute).  Seth Godin observes that the iPad case study is a good example of the success that happens when one doesn’t try to please everyone – however there are situations (like customer service) where pleasing everyone is critical.

Doubtless there is value in examining them and trying to gain insight – but we need to be careful about leaning on those insights too heavily.  They very likely don’t apply beyond the “blue moon” example.  At the very least, they won’t be nearly as powerful the second time around.

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