May 4th, 2015
Most people are followers: they crave to blend in, to be accepted. They believe speaking out with opinions that differ from the “consensus” of a social group, business, professional organization, university, or political party will engender discord, even rejection.
Fear of ostracization, for many, outweighs any desire to excel, to outperform, to be unique, or to shine a light on the truth. Feelings trump facts.
Grasping this reality is critical to successful branding: it affects the behaviors of your customers, investors, and employees — who will do what’s perceived to be popular and safe, not what’s right.
The Antithesis of Thinking
Let’s look at the focus group, a market-research method, typically conducted face-to-face in a conference room with 10 or so potential or actual consumers or voters. Corporations and political candidates hire focus-group facilitators to discern attitudes about products, people, and trends. A major drawback of the focus group is a behavior commonly called groupthink: one strong personality will influence the opinions of the anodyne participants, resulting in a false group opinion. This is the antithesis of thinking and the basis for political correctness.
Newsflash: groups don’t think; they feel. Groupthink is a misnomer; it doesn’t exist. Instead, collective, follower-based, emotion-driven behavior is groupfeel. Accordingly, herd mentality, a synonym for groupthink, is actually herd psychology.
Mark V. Cannice, department chairman of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of San Francisco School of Management, remarked thusly about venture capitalists: “When they’re feeling good, they invest more.” Really? I’ll bet you thought VC investing is purely about spreadsheets, IRR, stellar executive teams, and proven products. Not so.
Such irrational groupfeel begets technology bubbles.
Inexplicable hype is emerging over the so-called driverless car. Not to spoil the technogasm with critical thinking, but I must ask: Have you not experienced a computer crash, a hacker invasion, or a malware infection? Would you like to experience any of those maladies while your computer-on-wheels enters a busy intersection? How’s that groupfeel now?
Parting Advice to CEOs
Groupfeel exists. Groupthink doesn’t exist. You can’t eliminate groupfeel, but you can use it for your gain, as politicians do, and diligently avoid it inside your company.
When trying to get customers, investors, and reporters jazzed about your product and/or company, as Steve Jobs masterfully did, groupfeel works to your advantage. But, you must understand how it works — and how to work it.
If you assemble a branding committee, expecting to extract valuable thinking from it, you are hallucinating (read Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding to learn more about the farcical branding committee).
Group and thinking are oxymoronic. Ignoring this axiom is moronic.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Groupfeel Causes Whole Foods CEO to Misjudge Millennial Wealth
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2015 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.