Intro:The book I am reviewing is – Herd: How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature byMark Earls.Before we start I just wanted to show you what some experts said in relation to this book,"Bold in its conception and engaging in execution, offers the most radical new theory of consumerbehaviour in a generation"(Gulf Business, March 2007)"…brain–stretching stuff, looking at economic patterns, investment history and behavioural psychologyto help the reader become a shrewder investigator."(Securities and Investment Review, March 2007)"It will change the way you think about marketing. It will also change the way you thinkabout yourself."(Marketing Direct, November 2007)So a first a bit about the author - Mark Earls.He is a marketer andlifelong advertising man, he spent 20 years of his working life as an account plannerat agencies like St. Lukes, BMP and later in his lifeOgilvey.Hehas since quit his day job and now spendshis time speaking at conferences and writing books (mainly about the subject we will explore today)Herd nature.
Ok so enough about the author as we are here to learn about the Book – Herd. This book is in essence arebuttal to how the marketing and advertising community view mass consumer behaviour. Mark tries toexplain to us that we need to stop looking at consumers as individuals but as a collective entity. i.e HerdHe explains to us the errors of our way by pointing out every day examples of how mass behaviouraffects us allExamples such as Mexican waves, football chants or how the arctic monkeys became so popular so fastHe looks at the how we in the western world are so obsessed with being individuals while we in fact areintrinsically influenced by one another.(he deliberately points out that this is only a Western trait and explains how in the East they are broughtup in a more collective environment)This book is broken out in to two sections. 1. A ‘We-Species’ with an illusion of ‘I’In where Mark trys to explain to us the reasoning behind his theory 2. The Seven Principles of Herd MarketingHe then gives us seven principles to consider when trying to view the Mass Behaviour as similar to Herdbehaviour
‘We Species’ with an Illusion of ‘I’So where does he begin to explain his theory,We are all Monkeys!Or How Mark describes it Super social apes,This chapter explains to us how we are similar to apes in that are mindsimprove and are shaped throughinteractions with oneanother from an early age.It also showshow similar to apes, we band together for security to improve our living standard and forcompanionship.In the wild social animals such as chimpanzees band together for two reasons –1. Protection - They are able to divide responsibilities for watching out for predators, more eyes andears mean better alarm systems2. it provides each individual with a great deal of active support. Chimpanzees have been known to bandtogether and chase lions and leopards away from the group.So being a social animal is core to our species and both human and chimps are both very good at it.He distinguishes from the differences between short term alliances (such as lions and Hyenas can show).Chimps develop close and long term relationships with each other (largely through grooming) in orderthat social bonds are strong enough to protect each other. (obviously you want to know who is standingbeside you when at war)Alliances are built and nurtured and sometimes abandoned too. Allies bring with them responsibilitiesand duties as well as benefits. However sometimes it is difficult to do what is expected of us, sometimeswe just do the wrong thing by mistake. This can result in social exclusion.Without a social group to protect and nurture it, both chimpanzees and humans feel distressed andshow it (our body chemistry is obviously very similar). They show changes in cortisol levels (the stresshormone) and are highly agitated. What worse punishment can any chimp/human impose on anotherthen separation from its peers (such as prison or in the extreme solitary confinement). The physicalresponse to being alone suggest how important are social nature is to us.How is it we find it cute when chimps act like us but we distance ourselves when they act brutish orviolent. The human species has been on the verge of destroying each other through world wars so Ihardly believe this is fair.
We see that we are not only social, like apes, but actually surpass them (ala super ape) Our populationgrowth has been phenomenal in a little over 10,000 years we have gone from around a million or so toseveral billion. If this doesn’t show how social we are I’m not sure what does.The Illusion of ‘I’Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist but you have ceased to live‘Mark Twain’The author seeks out to show us why we believe we are individuals and show us the error of ourthinking by showing us what we believe and what the reality is often differs.He opens the chapter with a clever story about ‘Peppers Ghost’. Back in the Victorian times plays +magic shows were the big entertainment. One day A Liverpudlian Engineer (who actually patented thesewing machine, fire escape among other inventions) came up with the design for a ghost machine. Heused a clever mix of lights + mirrors to project an illuminated human figure from below the stage ontothe stage itself.As this was an invention outside his usual line of work he was unsure of what to do with it. He went tovarious theatres and tried to sell his idea but there was one major flaw. While his invention could createa huge amount of special effects it required a complete reconstruction of the stage. It depended on twothings firstly a perfect plate of glass separating the audience and the stage and the audience would haveto be sat above the stage looking down.He eventually met John Henry Pepper of the Royal polytechnic Institution who loved the invention. Heimmediately bought the patent of him and went about setting it up. On Christmas Eve 1862 the first ofProfessor Peppers ghost appeared on stage in a scene from one of Charles Dickens Christmas tales ‘thehaunted Man’. A skeleton slowly appeared on the stage scaring the audience and actors alike. Soon theaudiences worldwide gave up the magic shows and flocked to see ghosts walk the stage.As we can see illusions can be very compelling. They work by giving us the impression that one thing ishappening when in fact something entirely different is going on. The Victorians really wanted to believein the ghosts so they were content to believe the illusion. This is similar to our own behaviours. We allwant to believe that we are each in control of our own actions.I do what I want I want to do because I chose to do it. The ‘I‘, I experience every day is the same I as itwas yesterday and the same as it was 10 years ago.
We all want to believe that the our memories are accurate – like informational polaroid’s. When werecall these memories we believe them to be exactly as we remember them independent of anyemotions (then or now). But unfortunately none of this is true.These illusions of ourselves get in the way of us seeing how we really are and thus prevent us fromdeveloping a sound model of mass behaviourThis is one of the reason why we have the statute of limitations especially when it comes to a sexualcrime there is a huge potential for suppressed memories being inaccurate.Another study shows how we only see what we are looking for (Monkey Basketball)‘I’ vs ‘Us’This chapter remarks on the differences between our culture in the West and the cultures of the rest ofthe world. Most cultures view the human-kind as a we-species and human behaviour as ‘us’. They viewourindividualist ideology to be strange and we must consider that perhaps it is our culture that is theodd one out.The author refers to one man who has done a vast amount of cross-cultural studies and gives us someinteresting evidence of how in the Western world we think in terms of individuals and causes; while theythink in terms of groups, relationships and systems. For example, Nibett reports a case of so-called mall-rat massacre (the type of circumstance when a teenager having some issues snaps, gets a gun and goeson a killing spree be it a in a school, mall or anywhere. This previously occurred with a Chinese-Americanstudent. Nisbett noticed the contrasting tone of voice of the papers in the days that followed. TheEnglish language papers talked of the evil sadistic nature of this individual and traced back his historypointing out he was always evil and a lose cannon. While the Chinese language papers despaired aboutthe community. What has gone wrong with us that such a terrible thing should happen, What have wedone to get to this terrible place!It is not only Asian cultures that challenge our western focus on individuals. Many African cultures alsobelieve we are wrong in out thinking. They are of the belief that humans are collective and a herdspecies by nature.Ubuntu is found in both Zulu and Xhosa and shapes much of Africa. Ubuntu means shared humanity orhumanity towards others .Or the phrase umuntungumutungabata which im sure we all understand, nah what means ( A person isonly a person through other people)
Of course there are many great benefits thatbeing an individual brings in our lives. From the individualhomes we live in to the choice of how to decorate it our consumer culture makes possible from themeans to shape our lives to maximise happiness. Be it through psychotherapy, divorce or the self-improvement manuals which advise us to get the lives we want; The question is has it made us happier?Sadly the evidence would suggest not, everywhere we look in the western world, as economicindividualism seems to have triumphed unhappiness continues to grow. Doctors in general, report thatthe single biggest cause of this depression is loneliness.One remarkable change happened in America in 2008, a hugely influential campaign seemed to take thisview and switched from its usual ‘I’ stance to a more collective ‘We’. It was a Junior Senator from Illinoiswho went away from corporate fundraising in search of smaller donations from ordinary Americans.Most of his campaigns had the sense of mutuality and collectiveness rather than outlandishpromisesthat he would deliver.Instead he talked again and again about what we can do, what we can achieve and if we pull together,what we can hope for, for our kids and our families. He epitomized this entire campaign with his slogan.“Yes We Can”So what we have learned so far is – we are all monkeys. Or super social apesWhat we remember of past eventsand what we think we have done is often a warped truth and ourdecisions are often predeterminedAlso we generally see only that we are looking forFinally west and the east have very different cultural views and we must give consideration that areviews are potentially wrong
The Seven Principles of Herd Marketing 1. Interaction 2. Influence 3. Us-Talk 4. Just Believe 5. (Re) Light the Fire 6. Co-Cretativity 7. Letting GoInteractionThe single most important principle to understand Mass Behaviour is Interaction. Why is this ?Well the thing to understand is most of our behaviour is conducted in the company of others andgenerally in reaction or because of others.To Paraphrase the Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Schelling‘Each of us responds to an environment consisting of other people responding to an environmentconsisting of other people, etc’Let me give you a basic example using British men. A man is out in a bar having a few drinks he gets upto go to the toilet, when he enters the bathroom he notices there are three urinals. Lets call them A, B,C.There are two unwritten rules in this situation. 1. The one space ruleIf A is occupied but none of the rest he will go to C, vice versa if C is occupied he will go to A and if twoare occupied he will go to the remaining urinal. 2. The one Metre ruleIf all urinals are occupied he will leave approx one metre distance from the guys at the urinals. Any moreand you could be considered loitering and more and you become intimidating.Obviously there are exceptions to the rule but this is a good example of how we all respond to anenvironment consisting of other people, etc.Other examples of this are how in 1986 at the World cup Mexican waves began or how all across theworld how peaceful protests often end up aggressive, violent and of mob mentality.
InfluenceThe extent to how much we influence each other has a huge bearing on Mass Behaviour. Influence is farmore effective the persuasion we don’t enjoy being told what to do or being manipulated however weare susceptible to influence (most of the time without even realising).Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, theirpassions a quotationGeorge Bernanrd ShawMark using an example of when he is playing in his band in a pub on a Saturday night, he notices thatgetting the crowd going is not all about the music or the band but is very much about encouraging themto use their influence on each other.He comments on how British crowds are generally quite shyat the start of a night. Either they are shy orto busy trying to act cool. They stand at the sides of the room’ glancing around; they don’t want to doanything stupid like enjoying themselves by dancing. Usually the people who will begin dancing arefriends or family and the occasionalintoxicated individual. He explains‘If you get enough people like thisearly in the night, their enjoyment seems to encourage others to dance, who in turn encourage othersall by example (rather by obvious persuasion)’.Another example is the studies that have been done regarding placebo. A doctor administers 10 testpatients a sugar pill and then tells them that they should feel better within the hour. There will alwaysbe a proportion of these subjects who subsequently claim they feel much improved. After all the doctorgave them medicine.While we like to believe we are individuals all with our unique tastes our clothes are a sure sign off howwe are influenced by others. Not unlike teenagers men off all ages will often check out the shoes of theirfriends and colleagues before going to purchase a new pair.Us-TalkUs-Talk what exactly is us-talk, It is talk amongs us or as whats usually known word of mouth. Now whileWord of mouth isn’t new. In fact it has been around pretty much since the dawn of man what is new isthe fact companies are starting to think they can replace traditional media with it. Now while the authordoesn’t exactly agree with this he acknowledges the power of word of mouth.
One of the examples he uses is a very simple but really effective and truly does show how global it canbecome. A couple of years ago a band was formed by four normal lads from the North of Britain. Theyplayed together for a couple of years and had a fairly decent cult following around the town. They oftenused to bring demos and recordings of their new material to concerts and hand them out for free. Soontheir music started appearing on My Space, music forums and all available to freely downloadGiving their music away for free ?? Surely doesn’t make sense does it ??Soon word spread of this band and their cult following started to grow, radio stations such as Radio 1and XFM started to play their music but still the band shunned the record labels. Their first album wasreleased on their own label and was limited to 1000 CDs and 500 seven inch vinyl copies, it was alsoavailable to download on i-tunes.Their attitude on the major record labels was‘We’ve got this far without them – why should we let themin now’By the summer of 2005 word had spread far beyond Northern England about this exciting up andcoming band and they were in demand at festivals up and down the country.The interesting fact was when they played at these major concerts that thousands of fans attended, thefans knew all the lyrics and sung along with the band even with the limited amount of exposure theyhad.Soon after the band signed to a small label’ domino Records and made their assault on the UK charts.Their first single ‘I bet you look good on the dancefloor’ sold almost 39,000 copies beating popular actsat the time such as Robbie Williams and McFly.Their second single ‘When the sun goes down’ repeated this amazing feat and there album ‘Whateverpeople say I am, that’s not what I am’ sold 365,735 copies in the first week alone.This made the Artic Monkeys album the fastest ever selling debut rock album in history.Just BelieveIn this chapter the author talks about business models and the vast number of text books which claim tohave easy solutions to most problems and simplistic systems to follow to grow your business. The truthis there are no easy methods to get your product or service bought or used by the mass public.We live in a world which is oversupplied and we are spoilt for choice be it a pub, club, shop,supermarket or something simple like a new pair of pants. So how do we differentiate ourselves in thissaturated marketplace?
Mark gives us an explanation of what he believes. He proposes a way of thinking and running yourbusiness that is based on you.On what you believe!He explains this in three key principles. 1. Create something of social meaning above and beyond the product or serviceWhat brand can you think of that does this, one brand that instantly springs to mind is Apple, especiallylooking back at their 1984 ad. Apple fans believe in what they stand for, they believe in Applescommitment to personal and creative liberation. 2. The meaning must come from deep inside you. From your personal beliefs on what is right and wrong in the world.He points out that it can’t come from your customers; you must forget the usual customer and staffsatisfaction surveys if you hope to find the answer. People can see through lies but are drawn topassion. He makes an interesting point. The average man will work 100,000 hours in his life time.Doesn’t it make more sense to do something you believe in. 3. You must follow your beliefs and let them shape how your business worksYou must turn your basic vanilla business, what you looked at as just a means to make money into aliving breathing embodiment of your beliefs.Business that are prepared to stand for something get anddeserve the attention from the broader public.(Re) Light the fireThis chapter is quite similar to the last however it talks about how most mature brands have actually losttheir belief with time and have forgotten their original thoughts. It talks about why and how you shouldrelight the original belief andwhat the benefits or potential dangers of doing this are.One such example of this was Dove whenthey came out with their campaign for real beauty, movingaway from the stereotypical models and began using real women.(Co) CreativityIs the idea of how as humans we never (or very rarely come up with new ideas completely by ourselves.Be it Edison creating the light bulb to oasis creating a guitar rift we all have our inspirations and cocreaters that we can attribute some of the credit to.
Even further still he talks of how the psychologist Howard Garnder – makes it clear that most new waysof seeing things are the result of a group of people working togetherIn an essence his idea of originality is it is either borrowed, robbed or the effect of collaboration.Letting GoThe final principle of herd theory focuses on internal management - however these views can be usedexternally when thinking of how we should interact with consumers, etc.It speaks of how if we really want to understand Mass Behaviour we have to let go of our illusions ofcontrol. We must admit that we cannot control what our employees and colleagues do. Take theexample of a manager of a rugby team. He spends the entire week preparing his players for the match atthe weekend; he trains them, runs through tactics and drills but when it comes the day of the game andthe whistle blows he is not much more than a spectator. Yes he can make substitutions, change tacticsor give advice to a couple of players but he knows deep down all he can do when they get onto thatpitch is let go.It is much the same in business, a director does not direct but is best advised to co-create, a managerdoes not manage but advises and a supervisor is best off not to supervise but to help and get involved.As Mark sums up the best we can hope to do is cast a pebble on the water.First we must Chose the pebble wisely, chose how to throw it but once the stone leaves your hand wehave to let go. Watch its flight by all means but then sit back and watch the ripples that it creates rollacross the water.From our Learning’s we can see the 7 principles are:Interaction, Influence & Word of MouthJust being & relight my fire – which is differentiating ourselves being passionate and going for what webelieve in
& FinallyCo-Creativity and Letting GoUnlike most business or marketing books its not a set of case studies or a how to process guide Rather,its an analysis of the new thinking (and the forgotten old thinking) about how people act and behave.It doesnt give you answers or tell you what to do, but rather raises questions in your mind about theprinciples on which most communications thinking is built.