Nailing down the absolute proof of the bandwagon effect might appear to be an elusive pursuit. It can seem to be the same kind of conundrum as “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Is a brand popular because it’s growing, or is it growing because it’s popular?
But the bandwagon effect is not a puzzle, or a toy for philosophers to wrangle over. It is a proven method of increasing brand recognition and helping it grow. You have to look at it the right way in order to avoid making it some kind of vacillating bugaboo.
A LITTLE SOCIAL INFLUENCE GOES A LONG WAY.
One of the most important aspects of understanding and using the bandwagon effect is the concept of social influence. I’ve made a serious study of this concept, and used it quite successfully in conjunction with the bandwagon effect, so let me just give you the cream of this fascinating concept.
Social influence breaks down into three main components:
· Compliance. When people agree on a common need or desire, such as “I need/want a quick and healthy breakfast” – which leads to such growing brands as Eggo Waffles and Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink.
· Identification. This is when people are influenced by others they perceive to be somehow inherently better than they are –such as a celebrity or author. That is why reverse mortgage companies hire Henry Winkler or Fred Thompson to explain their program to television audiences. After all, who doesn’t trust The Fonz?
· Internalization. This happens when a person accepts a belief or a behavior, and is willing to testify to such a belief both in private and in public. The belief of Tom Cruise in Scientology, although controversial and derided by many, has proven to be a godsend to that particular belief system; hundreds, if not thousands, of people have internalized Mr. Cruise’s beliefs and made them their own. You can argue with the theology of Scientology, but you can’t argue with the fact that Tom Cruise has been an effective spokesperson for them. Brand recognition for Scientology has skyrocketed, and, as I have already told you, when brand recognition goes up, so does brand sales.
I sense that at this point in my narrative some of you are growing impatient. “Enough with the lists and the theory, already; show me how all this is going to improve my bottom line!” you are saying to your computer screen.
Have patience, please. As I wrote earlier, I want to make sure you have a firm foundation in understanding the bandwagon effect, so that when I get specific with you, you’ll be able to understand it all without having to refer back to sections of my ebook, and can start using it right away. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a firm grasp of the bandwagon effect isn’t going to come to you in a burst of light and harp music. Study this ebook and put on your thinking cap, and you’ll soon arrive at that happy destination some call Prosperity and others call Profitability.
A BUSINESS STORY WITH A HAPPY ENDING.
Before I get too deep into how YOU are going to make more money with the bandwagon effect, I’d like to tell you the story of another person who intuitively grasped the importance of it and used it to make millions of dollars. He never studied the subject in college – in fact, he never went to college. It’s unlikely he ever even HEARD about social influence, although I’m pretty sure he heard a lot about bandwagons.
He’s a personal hero to my dad, who told us kids countless stories about him as we were growing up.
His name is Irvin Feld. In the media he was labeled “The Man Who Saved the Circus”.
I’m not going to give you his complete background and story. Instead, I want to highlight some of the things he did that complement what I have been telling you about so far.
Irvin Feld began his adult business career as a drug store owner in Washington, D.C. in the late 1940’s. Besides having licensed pharmacists to fill prescriptions, his main concern was the bottom line, how to grow his drug store into a sales powerhouse. So he listened to his customers. What was it they wanted, besides medicine, when they came in; what kinds of things were they looking for when they wandered down the aisles of his store? He quickly learned that his customer base was very interested in 45 records featuring the Top Ten songs of the moment. They were a very cosmopolitan, very young crowd. So Irvin opened up a small record department in his drug store. Bingo! Soon customers were flocking into his store to buy records, not medicine. He sold the pharmacy and opened a record shop.
Irvin Feld had intuitively grasped the concept of Compliance. He found something that people wanted/needed, and he filled that desire. It made him his first million dollars.
From selling records it was only natural that Feld would branch out into managing the singers who made the records. One of his first discoveries was Paul Anka, the sweet-voiced Canadian crooner whose recording of “Lonely Boy” in 1957 stayed at Number One on the charts for several weeks. Anka came from a very strict religious background, and Feld was able to persuade his parents that he, Feld, would personally watch over their son when he went on tour, to make sure he didn’t fall into any of the ‘sins of the flesh’ that a pop star is wont to experience. He was true to his promise, and along the way persuaded Anka to get some minor plastic surgery to give him a profile that Hollywood wanted to use in teen movies.
But Feld’s biggest coup with Paul Anka was undoubtedly the endorsement contracts he got for the young singer. Anka was one of the first teen pop stars to grow wealthy from endorsing everything from orange juice to Disneyland. Whatever he endorsed, Feld made sure it was always perceived by the American public to be wholesome and patriotic. That’s how Feld got his second and third million dollars. He pushed the concept of Identification on Anka. All those screaming teeny-boppers who came to Anka’s concerts were more than happy to drink the brand of orange juice he recommended and wash their hair with the brand of shampoo he liked to use.
When Anka felt he had outgrown Irvin Feld’s management style, Feld graciously bowed out of the superstar’s life to pursue his own life’s ambition. He began booking Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus into indoor arenas. Prior to that, Ringling Brothers had played exclusively inside their own tent on rented lots throughout the major cities of the United States. But an empty lot big enough to hold The Greatest Show on Earth was getting to be rare, and extremely expensive, during the 1950’s. Plus the expense of upkeep on the tent, and the hundreds of roustabouts needed to put up the tent and take it down, was a constant drain on the Ringling treasury. So Feld booked the circus into arenas, the same arenas where he had booked Paul Anka, and then, when he felt the time was ripe, he put together a finance package and went to the last surviving Ringling owner, offering to buy him out. His bid was accepted.
Irvin Feld loved the circus, and he felt that hundreds of thousands of other citizens also had the same nostalgic attraction to this uniquely American entertainment venue. He bet everything he had on that assumption, and he turned out to be right. The circus, refurbished and presented in the comfort of a climate-controlled building instead of a stuffy tent, grew so profitable that the Mattel Toy Company offered to buy it a few years later. This made Irvin Feld one of the Fortune Five Hundred.
Feld didn’t know the word, but he was practicing Internalization. He went after something he believed in deeply, believing that there was a vast pool of other people who had internalized a love for the circus as well, AND THAT IF HE PRESENTED THE CIRCUS IN A CLEAN AND COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT HE COULD CONVERT THOUSANDS MORE TO HIS OWN LOVE OF THE CIRCUS. And he was absolutely right. Today no grandparent worth their salt would miss the opportunity to take their grandkids to see the circus, whether in New York City or Salt Lake City.
Does your business have a Facebook page? I sincerely hope so! You can’t be a serious player in the business world today without plenty of social media connections, most of which are absolutely free or cost next to nothing.
You’ll need to use the bandwagon effect, with the social influence concepts I’ve outlined and demonstrated above, to get the most out of your social media – to make it an active participant in raising that ever-lovin’ bottom line. Once you pass a certain number of ‘likes’ on your page, you’ll find the Bandwagon take full effect, with a virtual landslide of hits on your page.
On Facebook how do you get people into Compliance, into thinking they want/need your product or service? Testimonials are one proven method, and they work like a charm on Facebook. Take a look at any professional nutritional supplement company’s Facebook page; there are dozens of brief stories from individuals who explain the benefits of the product to them. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that if it’s an effective Facebook page they will also have a celebrity and/or author of some kind associated with the product. This is Identification, as we’ve already discussed.
Finally, the running of an effective Facebook page will not be outsourced to some company overseas who has no personal stake in the product. Do it in-house or hire someone as local as possible and make sure they know you expect personal commitment and will be looking for personal attention to the page on a daily basis.
This is smart business, and it’s the bandwagon effect.
WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU THINK.
Are you taking notes, keeping all this information in order as I present it to you? I hope not! Throw away your notes, because this is not a college course and I am not your professor who may spring a pop quiz on you at any moment! I’m in business, just as you are, and I, too, struggle to keep the bottom line rising while trying to maintain my integrity and sanity.
It’s not easy, is it? In fact, at times I bet you think it’s impossible. So let’s take a moment to talk about impossible thinking as it relates to the Bandwagon effect.
The concept of ‘impossible thinking’ has been around for about ten years. It started as a high end ‘thinking out of the box’ strategy for the Big Boys, companies like FedEx and American Airlines. But in recent years I’m glad to say that I and some others have been able to take the end results and reapply them to medium and small business markets.
DO ALL GATES LEAD TO BILL?
Without quoting all the research and experiments done, I want you to just visualize a gate. You are on one side of the gate, with your service, product or brand. On the other side of the gate you can clearly see the kind of brand recognition and profitability you have dreamed of and strived for.
The gate is closed. The gate is locked. The walls around it are high. Now since we are imagining this scenario, I want you to go ahead and try all the ridiculous things that you already know are not going to work. Go ahead, nobody else is watching. Try to crawl under the gate, to jump over the wall. Fish out a paper clip to see if you can pick the lock. Look around for a key; maybe it’s under that rock over there or the prickly bush next to the wall. Yell through the gate to see if anyone is over there who would be willing to let you in somehow. Okay, are you done? Exhausted all possibilities? Good. Now you’re ready to start the impossible thinking.
YOUR MENTAL MODEL HAS SET YOU UP TO FAIL!
How is that possible? Didn’t I give you permission to try anything your imagination could come up with? Yes I did, but you fell into the trap of agreeing with me, that you have ‘exhausted all possibilities.’ Wrongo, kemosabe. You need to change that mental model to “there is no end to the possibilities.” Once you’ve done that you can really start the thinking process. Blow up the wall. File through the bars of the gate. Here’s my favorite, from about a dozen different ‘locked door’ murder mysteries: lift the gate right off the pintles.
“NEVER MIND THE WHY AND WHEREFORE . . .”
I have taken this little detour with you for the explicit purpose of shoring up your self-confidence and eagerness to try out the plans I am outlining for you to use in your business. If your mental model remains “I can’t use any of this stuff, it’s for other people” you are trapped in a mental model that spells death not only to you finishing this little book of mine, but to finding ways and means of using the bandwagon method to improve your brand recognition. And, just as important, if not more so, when you use the bandwagon effect properly, you will be helping other people, all of them potential customers, to change their mental model to include you and your product.
When P.T. Barnum said “There’s one born every minute”, he was not referring to suckers – he was referring to people who can’t be bothered with changing their mental models and think it may be intrusive to try and change other people’s mental models.
Remember, it was P.T. Barnum who changed his client’s mental model one day when the crowds were too dilatory inside his museum. Desperate for a way to get the gawkers to move along faster, to make room for more paying customers, Mr. Barnum put up a sign reading “THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS!” People started pushing and shoving to go see the ‘egress’, only to find themselves standing outside the building, having walked through the ‘egress’, or, in plain English, the exit.
So I was chatting with my pal-cum-manager Nathan last night and he says “What are you gonna do next to mix things up?” Frankly, I hadn’t given it any thought up to that point. I was trying to take it easy on Sunday; relax with a thick book and a reheated rotisserie chicken and forget about fame and fortune. There was wet laundry in the washing machine, and I felt no qualms about leaving it in there until Monday. I am not a wrinkle bigot.
But Nathan’s question stung me. I’m supposed to be some hotshot social media sensation, ain’t I? So I better do something unconventional – get my mojo going – or is it Moxie going?
Be that as it may, Nathan and I threw a few ideas around and came up with me standing on a street corner with a sign reading “Will Work for Bitcoins.”
Seemed pretty good to me.
But this morning when I got to Riverview Plaza, where I was going to set up, the parking lot was lousy with cop cars. A new batch of donuts had just come out of the oven at the bakery at Macy’s.
I chickened out.
Instead of the Bitcoin sign, I bought a piece of lime green poster board and a black marker and wrote in big letters: “WHO IS TIM TORKILDSON?”
The police all eventually left, and not a one gave me or my sign a second glance. And neither did almost anyone else. But I persevered for 90 minutes, and here are my observations:
Most people look really homely on Monday mornings. Must be the kind of weekends they have. And anyone with an ounce of good looks was wearing large sunglasses.
Since I was next to a Chik-fil-A I noticed that it is impossible to drive gracefully while you are eating a breakfast burrito.
The only people to pay attention to my sign were well-dressed people in brand new cars; and most of them had a big “Y” on the windshield, indicating they worked at Brigham Young University, or were an alumni of said institution.
Poor people and middle class people averted their eyes in blind terror from me and my sign. I honestly have no idea what it was that paralyzed them with fear about what I was doing. Were they thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I’? I was dressed in a casual but neat manner; black pants, stripped polo shirt, and common place straw hat, the kind you can but at Walmart for $14.
Only one person, a man with a neatly trimmed beard on his bike, spoke to me – he said “Hello Tim!” as he passed me by.
Let me clarify that; the MAN had the beard, not the BIKE.
I may do this again sometime, but I can’t say it was a barnburner. More like a latex globe filled with plumbum.