Ideas That Spread 

“It’s the best thing since sliced bread!” 

How many times have you heard that expression? The humble invention of pre-sliced bread seems to have become the benchmark for good ideas in modern times. Perhaps you’d find it interesting to know that for the first 15 years in the life of sliced bread, no one bought it. It was, by definition, a complete failure. It actually took fifteen years for someone to figure out how to get that idea to spread [1].  

For generations, marketers have focused on the masses. They targeted their efforts at finding the average customer and making products for them. According to marketing guru Seth Godin, it was all about going for the centre. But that’s not a strategy he recommends anymore. Why? The average customer is getting better and better at ignoring those marketing messages. And why wouldn’t they? The sheer amount of product thrust at them through TV, radio and the internet on any given day is astronomical.  

So what does Godin recommend instead?

“The strategy we want to use is to not market to these people because they’re really good at ignoring you. But market to these [other] people because they care. These are the people who are obsessed with something. And when you talk to them, they’ll listen, because they like listening — it’s about them. And if you’re lucky, they’ll tell their friends on the rest of the curve, and it’ll spread. It’ll spread to the entire curve [1].”

This little concept is called idea diffusion, or the spread of an idea from person to person through a group. According to Godin, it comes right down to ‘remarkability.’

“The thing that’s going to decide what gets talked about, what gets done, what gets changed, what gets purchased, what gets built, is: ‘Is it remarkable?’ And ‘remarkable’ is a really cool word, because we think it just means ‘neat,’ but it also means ‘worth making a remark about.’ And that is the essence of where idea diffusion is going [1].”

This concept of ‘remarkability’ can apply to any industry: from hospitality, to manufacturing, to design and yes, even to health. If our offering is remarkable, it gets people talking. The key, according to Godin, is to “Find a group that really, desperately cares about what it is you have to say. Talk to them and make it easy for them to tell their friends.”

In a chiropractic context, this challenge contains two facets. The first is the patient’s own experience. Was it remarkable? Making it remarkable can be as individual as the practitioner. Is it the clinic, the adjustment, the atmosphere, the information they received or the way they felt post-adjustment? That all comes down to the individual practice or practitioner.

The second facet of this challenge rests on all of our shoulders: how do we make it easy for them to tell their friends? The science that backs chiropractic is growing, yet we face regular media campaigns that try to shout down our message. We could dump all of our science onto the patient in the hopes that they retain some of it to pass on to their friends, but we run the very real risk of overdoing it and making it too hard to pass on. Or we can take a different approach: making the patient more and more confident in the benefits of the adjustment at every visit, helping them articulate the difference it has made in their own life, and placing simplified research information into their hands when we can. These are just some of the ways we can vary our communication and make it easier to pass on.

If Godin’s wisdom gives us any encouragement, it is to ignore the detractors and to find our tribe. There are many people who are obsessed with chiropractic’s paradigm of health and wellness. These are the people who are listening. These are the people who matter. If we make it easy for them to articulate what chiropractic means to them, we have a captive audience we haven’t even set eyes on.

It could be easy to think ‘if only chiropractic was a beige, mainstream profession that attracted no opposition.’ But then it would lack one powerful advantage: it wouldn’t be remarkable. To Godin, mainstream isn’t safe anymore.

“The riskiest thing you can do now is be safe. The whole model of being [like one of the mass market companies] is always about average products for average people. That’s risky. The safe thing to do now is to be at the fringes, be remarkable.

And being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do. Very good is boring. Very good is average. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making a record album, or you’re an architect, or you have a tract on sociology. If it’s very good, it’s not going to work, because no one’s going to notice it.”

Our challenge is therefore simple: aim for remarkable, and make it easy for people to tell their friends. Our tribe is out there, and they have their own voice. All we need do is connect them with something worth saying.



[1] Godin, S (2003), “Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread,” Ted Talks  retrieved 2 May 2016

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