I recently wrote a post on the doubts that are being cast over the central proposition of Gladwell's Tipping Point. While I would love to write a bit more of how I would apply concepts from the field of complex adaptive systems to influence marketing, we should start from the beginning that is defining influence in as rigorous a manner as possible. According to Dictionary.com, influence (as a noun) is:
- the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on
or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others:
He used family influence to get the contract.
- the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others: Her mother's influence made her stay.
- a person or thing that exerts influence: He is an influence for the good.
These definitions of "influence" center around the process, power or energy that establishes a cause-and-effect relationship between a person or a phenomenon and the behavior of someone else. Therefore it does seem that "influence" is about someone or something whose existence in the more or less immediate environment of a sentient person will result in that person adopting a position, initiating an action of generally speaking having a behavior. So if I were to "demonstrate" that there has been influence from someone (let's call that person the influencer) on someone else (let's call that person the subject), I would need at least the following elements:
- proof that the influencer has been able to trigger a change in the subject's environment AND
- at least a strong indication that the subject has recorded the change in a conscious or unconscious manner AND
- a clear link between the recorded change and the subject's behavior AND
- a way to be certain that the subject's behavior would have been different or less deliberate without the change initiated by the influencer in their environment
For all the technology in the world, no matter how sophisticated the techniques of so-called behavioral-targeting or behavioral-marketing, nobody will ever really know for sure what is actually going on in the mind of the subject, let alone measure it. Furthermore, the actual dimensions of an influencer's behavior that will trigger changes in the decisions of the subject will largely remain unknown unless one decides to have an in-depth interview with the subject using advanced approaches derived from psychology and neuro-sciences. In short, influence marketing is as full of wishful thinking and imprecision as traditional marketing, but since the core of the matter seems to be influence, here's another definition of "influence" that may make practical obstacles easier to pass for influence marketeers even though they will need to change parts of their sales pitch:
a. the radiation of an ethereal fluid from the stars, regarded as affecting human actions and destinies.
b. the exercise of occult power by the stars, or such power as exercised.
Replace "stars" with "very influential people", an example of which would be my cat, and presto, you have a definition of influence marketing that comes very close to what the whole shebang is all about. That is until we figure out a way to model and replicate the phenomenon...