I swear I’m a Seth Godin fan. I don’t mean to take issue with everything he writes about, because I think his posts are thought provoking and almost always on target.
Did you catch the “Apple’s Next Problem” post? Walking into a Starbucks, the author notes that out of five people observed, all five use Mac notebooks. This is pronounced a trend and thus portends a future problem for Apple: they are too popular and can’t be “think different” any longer.
Do we expect to see Mac notebooks in an urban location where they serve $5 coffee? Especially Starbucks? Yes, I think we do. Does this make it a trend? No, probably not.
Do we expect that most Podcasts available through iTunes in News and Politics are (heavily) leaning to the left? Yes, given the flavor of portable audio consumers and demo/psychographics, Apple, and iTunes in general. Do we therefore conclude that the political landscape is dominated by liberal thinking? No, not if you read the news and travel a bit.
If more red cars are in accidents than any other color, is it because drivers of red cars are reckless? Or is it because there are more red cars on the road?
Correlation and causality — not to mention statistical bias — occasionally make fools of us all.
PS: I’d hate to lose the opportunity, however, of looking at this as the reversal of the Aikido strategy: where you can effectively use your opponent’s market size and popularity against them, you can also lose credibility if and when you, yourself lose underdog status and become the “overdog.”
This industry is replete with post hoc fallacies and hasty generalizations.
Thank you for your insight here.
On a broader scale, without applying it to any particular instance, I will say that growth presents unique challenges, but no moreso than stagnation or devolution.
If I gave the impression that I was reporting a statistical insight, I sure didn’t mean to.
My point was pretty anecdotal: I used to sit in those very starbucks, probably three years ago, feeling smug and superior. Now, I’m one of the crowd (and yes, that crowd is apple’s core market… of course).
So, my point: when you succeed, as Apple is succeeding, it’s sometimes hard to stay the insurgent, and to sell the idea of superiority to the minority.
Thanks for reading!
Seth: thanks for your note — your post inadvertantly provoked a few thoughts that illustrate a common blind spot in many marketers, namely the “I saw this last weekend” school of research. You know what happens: Q-scores show that Dennis Leary is the right spokesperson for your brand (or your ad, or whatever) but the CEO/CMO/VP of Something says, “great, love it, just change Leary to Frankie Valley and let’s go! Good work!” (True story, unfortunately).
(I’ve just been told by a colleague that this is called, “the Recency Fallacy,” by those to name such things. It’s also a strong example of Contrast Theory, for those of you with Psy textbooks in hand).
The Mac/Starbucks anecdote is a great example — and I fully understand you weren’t presenting this as statistics — because many would not exercise as much judgment. The presentation, however, could cause one to assume that four Macs equals a mob equals a majority. And that’s where the lesson comes in.
Thanks again — and yes, I’m a reader and a fan. If a post or two end up pushing me into a fit of some sort, please accept them as riffs on a theme.
Ha, the correlation <-> causation scenario reminds me of Steven Johnson’s “The Ghost Map”.
For me, it’s interesting to note Apple’s hardware/software centralized control since its early days helped to create a premium brand as PCs gradually became commodities.