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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Herd – by Mark Earls

how to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature
The interview took place in March when the book was published. Finally posted October 2007

markhands11Buy the book
listen to the interview read the review

Welcome to the Creative Age Mark Earls 2007 Wiley Click on the title and you can order the book from Amazon.

  • We have an exclusive podcast with Mark Earls. See below.

  • And you can read my review of Herd How to change mass behaviour below that

Listen to the Mark Earls Interview
The following extracts come from an interview I conducted with Mark Earls on March 20th 2007 at his flat in Camden. There are two files of roughly 40-45 minutes apiece. We had a lot to talk about!

In the first part of the podcast we find out if
marketing is still doomed as Mark announced
in the last book. And he outlines herd theory.

mark1   mark3 mark4     mark5 mark5a mark6  
In this second podcast the interview covers the
main themes of the book. Just believe, relighting
the fire and co-creativity. mark7   mark8 mark9 mark10     mark13 mark14 mark15  

























Review of Herd – How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature

This book is the one which is leading the charge to persuade marketers that the whole basis on which they are approaching marketing is flawed. That marketing shouldn’t start with the individual but should start with the herd because human beings are herd animals. There are other titles out there like Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds and Gladwell’s Tipping point. And very specific books about viral marketing and social marketing. But Herd is ambitious in that it is trying to challenge the establishment head on and to introduce a radically different way to think about commercial communications. The difficulty of doing so is compounded by Western individualism. Consumerism is a very selfish business and these days we’re more inclined to keep away from the Jones rather than bother to keep up with them.

So in the first section of the book there is an extensive introduction to the thesis with a chapter on the evidence for humans being herd animals. Why individual decision making is so embedded in the human psyched and why western individualism isn’t the only way to look at the world, Earls draws from a huge variety of sources. The effect is to add more and more to the rolling snowball to create mass and momentum so that by the end of the book you are convinced that there’s something in this herd businessm But the book falls short of laying out a formal theory of mass behaviour which would allow the practitioner to hit the ground running by the time you have got to the end of it. But this is probably just as well. Individualism is embedded in marketing practice. It is going to take a lot of momentum to turn the ship around. At the end of every chapter there are a set of questions to help you work out the implications.

The main part of the book is a breakdown of the 6 elements of herd marketing. Interaction – how complex activity arises from a handful of rules which often those guided by them would struggle to articulate. Influence – and why it is a more useful concept than persuasion. Ustalk why we prefer to take recommendations from people like us. Just believe – the power of passion and conviction. Relight the fire – discovering the power of a shared vision at the heart of a company. And lastly co-creation: the power of collaborative behaviour and the pleasures of imitation as a form of participation Each chapter is packed with examples of marketing campaigns which have drawn on the principles. Again with questions at the end of each chapter to help you think through the implications for your own work.

mark12The book has to seen as a work in progress – it shows you where to look but it won’t give you the answers. Which can be frustrating. In the chapter on Us talk – Mark lays into the WOM agencies who try who try to achieve marketing objectives by using Exogenous paying people to pose as ordinary members of the public and to steer the conversation around to the products they are promoting. Endogenous word of mouth is about asking a friend for some unbiassed advice and getting it. But the dangeris that marketers charge in and do exactly the wrong thing.

Sony can offer a masterclass in how NOT to do herd marketing with a string of proprietary formats, restrictive practices, faked film reviews and fake customer blogs. Integrity is absolutely central. Are you one of the herd or not? It is interesting how many corporate CSR programmes have recruited NGOs to keep them honest because they are outsiders so need someone trustworthy to accredit their efforts. You would have thought that integrity would have prevented British broadcasters from running fraudulent phone-ins competitions. But apparently not – marketing to the herd isn’t the same thing as keeping the rules in order to stay part of it. And this is the challenge Can marketing ever be other than an exogenous activity? The first rule of belonging to the herd is not to promote your own interests ahead of those of the herd. At the time of writing – Facebook has just hired its first UK employee as head of sales. Doesn’t sound a lot like social networking to me.

This is an important book. The drawbacks of old style broadcast command and control marketing are too numerous, and the growth of web 2.0 interaction and mobile marketing is for the moment unstoppabble. IS this book going to provide you with the answers to transform your marketing so groups become more important than individuals – yes it is – it won’t get you there but its a great place to start.


babeRoadside Shrines

This is a herd habit that Mark started. In the book he muses on where the roadside shrines came from and asked a few people to photograph them. Now I can’t stop! This was the most recent in Romford . This was was the most recent in Romford. Babe/Bruv/Dad.bruv















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