Conformity and uniqueness: A challenging marketing perspective

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invisible influence book

Jonah Berber’s book: Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, raises some intriguing marketing paradoxes.

These include (based on decades of social psychological research):

  1. Generally we like to conform, even though we generally suggest that “conformity is for others”;
  2. Marketing success results from differentiation: It is almost impossible to succeed in building market leadership by being better (objectively) than an existing incumbent — you need to be first in the mind-space of your potential clients; and
  3. There are distinctions and nuances within these rules: There are situations where (perhaps because of our values and perceptions) we absolutely don’t want to be associated with some groups or activities — so we will do anything we can to “not conform” if we would identify with that opposing identity.

So here is the challenge: You need to show that your potential clients’ peers like and engage and respect your product and service — while somehow also demonstrating that it is first, or unique or truly distinctive enough that it stands out from the crowd — and that distinctiveness of course must absolutely NOT reflect opposing values or identity to your potential clients.

Yeah, that’s a tough bill to fill, unless of course you are working primarily/exclusively from repeat and referral business channels, which of course don’t have any problems with the social conformity/value process.  And these points add to the evidence collection explaining why more than 70 per cent of virtually all construction businesses achieve most of their volume from repeat and referral clients.

Nevertheless, I’ll explore in the next few days some of Berger’s research/observations so we can add to the marketing science insights and figure out the best balance between uniqueness and conformity for effective business success.

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