Heard of a guy called Donald Trump? Sure you have – who hasn’t? Trump is a one-man promotional machine, a real phenomenon. I reckon he’s one of the greatest promoters of the modern age.
As I write he’s trying to pull off the biggest upset in American political history. First, he is the front runner as the Republican nominee and is likely to win the nomination. And second he has a reasonable chance of beating the Democrat nominee who is likely to be the flawed Hilary Clinton, for the Presidency.
The fascinating thing about his meteoric rise in the electoral race has been his ability to tap into alleged grievances of the underclass, and then attract them to his campaign like bees to a honey pot. This is despite the fact that most of his policies are nonsense and simply not deliverable.
So why do people suspend their powers of rational judgment and follow a leader in an almost zombie-like trance?
I’ll answer that question shortly but first up let’s deal with this issue of bandwagons.
I call it the bandwagon effect, because if used effectively, populists can persuade hoards of people to put aside sound judgment, and jump onto the train of good hope.
I find the bandwagon effect fascinating, but the purpose of this article is to show you how it works, how others have used it in business, and what you can do to make it happen in your business, even if only in a small way.
If you can understand group psychology and use it to create your mini bandwagon effect in your business, you’ll be very happy.
Hold tight and enjoy the ride.
What Is the Bandwagon Effect?
Human beings are inherently tribal and in every tribe there is a leader – the alpha leader. The leader’s followers must fall in behind the leader, or face the consequences. The leader is often charismatic and demonstrates a strength of purpose combined with enormous reserves of energy and clarity to pursue his goals.
In liberal democracies, there is less coercion – the leader needs to attract people with his/her leadership and persuasive qualities alone.
Some leaders have the ability to whip their supporters into a frenzy who in turn may do things that they would never do of their volition.
This can be a good thing sometimes. For instance, a sales manager who can motivate her team will extract more sales because she drives them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do by themselves – such as make more sales calls and aggressively follow up leads and clients.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
The Bandwagon Effect Throughout History
The topic is far too big to cover in any detail here, but suffice it to say that throughout history charismatic, forceful, ruthless and determined people have been immensely successful at marshaling people to their cause by prosecuting a case.
Sadly not all leaders attract people for noble purposes. History is full of examples of warped individuals who have attracted and marshalled their followers for evil purposes. For example:
- Think Lenin and Stalin and their murderous thugs in 1917.
- Think Hitler in the 1930’s and beyond.
I currently live in Cambodia. I’ve studied the history of the country, particularly the period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. As a result of massive dysfunction stemming from the effects of the Vietnam War as well as other factors, a leadership vacuum was created in the early seventies. This culminated in the murderous Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge taking control of the country by force in 1975.
In the lead up to this forceful takeover of the country ,Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge accumulated hundreds of thousands of followers and collaborators. Some of these deluded people were well educated and for a time suspended all powers of rationality and civility; they embraced the Khmer Rouge ground zero ideology with gusto.
Why do people do it?
It’s called the Bandwagon Effect – sane people doing insane things.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
“We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”
In 1841, Charles Mackay published his groundbreaking book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. This book has been called a ‘history of popular folly’. Fast forward to 2016 and it seems that nothing has fundamentally changed.
Here is Wikipedia’s summary:
“The subjects of Mackay’s debunking include alchemy, crusades, duels, economic bubbles, fortune-telling, haunted houses, the influence of politics and religion on the shapes of beards and hair, magnetisers (influence of imagination in curing disease.”
Do you see any parallels in the modern era?
Commercial Examples of the Bandwagon Effect in Action
Network Marketing and Get Rich Quick Schemes
I’ve led with this one because greed is a primary human motivator, therefore, ‘entrepreneurs of hope’ will always be with us. Some of these folk end up promoting networking marketing schemes and the like. If they’re good at it, they’ll attract a multitude of people seeking fame and particularly, fortune.
Twenty-five years ago I joined a network marketing program, Herbalife. I’ll be honest and tell you the primary reason I joined it was because they had recently experienced a sales explosion and loads of people were jumping on board in the hope (forlorn as it turned out) of making their fortune – the new Eldorado.
I remember attending meetings in large hotel rooms – packed to the rafters with people looking to make some easy money. The bandwagon effect in action. Alas, the good fortune didn’t last – not long after I joined the wheels fell off due to an investigation into the company by the US Senate.
But the point is that businesses that rely on recruitment to build their business – such as network marketing companies – always aim to create a bandwagon effect. They understand the psychology of crowds.
Post Xmas Sales
Another example of the bandwagon effect in action: post Christmas sales. These sales often resemble a feeding frenzy – not a pretty sight.
This statement neatly encapsulates it:
“Don’t stand in the way of a shopper at sale time – it can get ugly’
Stock Market Bubbles and Crashes
We’ve witnessed plenty of stock market bubbles over the years. One of them was the tech bubble in the late 1990’s when it seemed that all and sundry were jumping on board because they didn’t want to miss out. Predictably many of these naïve folk handed over their money, and did indeed miss out – the market collapsed in 2000.
Property Investment (and Speculation)
When I lived in London in the ‘80’s I was a beneficiary of a hot property market. It was a frenzy for sure. I was a mortgage broker at the time, and I all I did was run ads in mortgage magazines. For a time, the phones rang off the hook. In fact, my wife and I often fielded calls at 10 pm and later. Of course, the boom ended – a year later property values dropped by up to half overnight.
Examples are everywhere. But the most visible examples I’ve seen go back to the early days of Microsoft Windows when Windows fans would start queueing before midnight hoping they’d be one of the first customers for the new upgrade.
Rational people would say it’s crazy behavior. After all, it’s only a piece of software, and a boring operating system at that.
I’ve given you the example of Microsoft and Windows 95. It was a fad for sure. Now, when Microsoft announces a new update, no one sleeps on the street waiting for the shop to open the next morning. Today their attention has been directed elsewhere. Enter Apple and the iPhone and iPad. The last ten years has been a dream run for the tech giant. But as the mob’s passion cools they will jump onto the next big thing soon, no doubt about it.
Internet Marketing Frenzies
As an affiliate marketer, I was involved in the launch of a new program in 2013. Because the concept got a lot of people excited it took off like a rocket. That momentum helped me generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of commissions, in less than 12 months. Money for jam.
As a long standing online marketer, I’ve seen plenty of internet marketing product launches. The most successful launches happen when a savvy marketer creates a proposition that’s so irresistible people will gladly pull out their credit card and buy it on the spot.
But great marketers go one step further. They engineer the sales process to create a buying frenzy even before the product is launched. Or to put it another way, they create so much pent up demand before launch day that when the digital doors finally open big sales volumes get done. Some of them sell a million bucks or more, on launch day alone.
Gimme Some of That Irrational Exuberance
Former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, coined the term ‘irrational exuberance’ to describe the feeding frenzy that was apparent during the dot-com bubble of the 1990’s.
The phrase was given more prominence when Princeton University academic Professor Robert Shiller launched his book of the same name not long before the tech crash of 2000. This book went on to become a best-seller and somewhat of a classic. In 2005, he published the second edition which focused more on the property bubble. Once again his predictions proved accurate – the housing bubble burst two years later.
One of the common aspects of all bandwagon phenomena is the lack of objective assessment of downsides by participants. Shiller neatly made the point with this quote:
“People still place too much confidence in the markets and have too strong a belief that paying attention to the gyrations in their investments will someday make them rich, and so they do not make conservative preparations for possible bad outcomes.”
Using Fear to Create Bandwagons
In the commercial context, fear can be effectively used to almost compel customers to buy now. Fear of missing out and fear of loss can sometimes create a customer stampede as already discussed in this post – post-Xmas sales, hot tech product launches etc.
As an aside fear can be used to manipulate people to support a particular cause.
Enter stage left the moral entrepreneur. In the modern era, we see so called moral entrepreneurs promoting their favorite cause and enlisting others to follow them en masse.
One of the techniques they use is to create a moral panic. Working in cahoots with a compliant media, and also effectively leveraging social media sites like Twitter, these people can quickly whip up a firestorm of moral outrage.
Examples abound – the ice scourge, pedophiles in the community, trafficking (women as victims), global warming panics, the uncontrolled spread of AIDS, and so on.
The New Gold Rush For You
Even if you start small, you can create your own bandwagon effect. While it may take many months of diligent effort to get momentum, the payoff can ultimately be significant.
Prerequisites For Success
Here are some of the attributes or ‘assets’ you need to bring to the table:
- Dedicated Commitment. Look at this as a 12-month project, minimum.
- Passion and Vision. Nothing succeeds like excess – people will coalesce around a leader who has a clear vision for the future and the desire to promote it with relish and gusto.
- Excellent Communication Skills. It goes without saying that integral to the success of this project will be your ability to prosecute your case via both the spoken and the written word.
- Ability to Motivate. Oh yeah, baby, you have to be good at this. That said, it doesn’t mean you need to have the charisma of a Barack Obama to influence people to follow your lead.
I also suggest that you leverage the internet by employing the following strategies:
- Blog Strategy. Used correctly a blog can educate and persuade at the same time. Use it to win people to your cause, build belief, and generate excitement.
- Video Strategy. Creating videos then loading them to your YouTube channel is a smart way to promote brand values, your unique selling proposition (USP), your products/services and your mission. All essential ingredients for your bandwagon building program. Incidentally, video content can be easily and quickly created – personal videos rather than slick Hollywood-style productions is the way to go. Your videos can also be added to your blog.
How to Use The Bandwagon Effect in Your Business
Here are five techniques you can use to create you own bandwagon effect:
1. Create Your Game Plan
Keep it simple, keep it brief. Your game plan should identify your bandwagon effect objectives and how you plan to reach them.
2. Find a Cause
I’m not necessarily talking about a charitable cause although it is certainly an option. Your cause could be product or business related. For example, the cause of improving lives as a result of people becoming your customers. Another cause could revolve around a crusade to expose dodgy practices in your industry. The possibilities are almost endless. One of the central tenets of the bandwagon effect is that people love to be part of something that is bigger than themselves.
Keep in mind that one of the central tenets of the bandwagon effect is that people love to be part of something that is bigger than themselves. They also like the feel they’re doing good. Leverage these two motivators for maximum effect.
3. Pick a Trend – the Right One
You know your industry; I don’t. So, choose a trend in your industry and go all out to attract customers who are following or likely to be motivated by the trend.
4. Roll It Out – Start With One Customer
Rather than freaking out about the seeming size of the task, break it down into manageable bites. The manageable bite starts with one customer. That’s it. We just focus on one customer at a time. The key objective is to transform a mere customer into a solid gold raving fan.
You can acquire raving fans by creating extraordinary customer experiences. You can’t take shortcuts here – your goal is to delight and amaze your clients which in turn will create the viral effect you need. Call it the ultimate whispering campaign.
Raving fans will create your bandwagon effect. Raving fans are enthusiastic advocates for you, your products, and your business.
Look at it this way.
The Christian religion started with one leader – Jesus – who in turn attracted/recruited 12 disciples. This simple act heralded the beginning of the Christian faith. Today there are 2.2 billion people who profess to be Christian. But it started with a leader who initially persuaded just one person to follow him. The rest is history.
5. Be Relentless and Consistent In Your Messaging
This program requires you to be totally consistent in your messaging. If your audience detects backsliding and a lack of commitment to the cause, they will drop you faster than a hot potato.
Next Steps For You
Giddyup! What can I say? If you like the concept and want to run with it I may be able to help you with a Brainstorming Session. From there can come your simple game plan. Good luck!
Next Steps For You
I suggest you select one or two of the strategies listed and make a commitment to implement them. If you need help let me know
Your Turn – Time to Comment!
What was your biggest takeout from this post?
After reading this post are there any ideas that you will now embrace?
Make a comment below!
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