Changing behaviour around our brands is what we’re all chasing down every day. So are network effects, sharing, organic scale. But the two are not currently connected. They should be.
This is because networks effects are one of the most powerful ways you change behaviour and convert people to your brand, product and service.
Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway, when asked at SXSW how has she disrupted the codes, conventions and behaviours of haute couture fashion, by getting women to rent, not buy, dresses, answered "by getting friends of people that have tried to do it as well" (paraphrased, badly; apologies, Jennifer).
In essence, rent the runway organised their marketing efforts in tight geographies, targeting small, connected networks. They knew if they could convert one woman to rent dresses in a friendship group, then it would be much easier to kickstart a cascade, or ripple effect, through the related network. They then asked the women who rented to share their experience and how they looked as a social, networked proof of how they looked, and importantly, felt, when they enjoyed their rental.
As a result of this great, well networked proposition rent the runway became the fastest growing fashion startups, with well in excess of 2million users, a commercially and culturally successful and celebrated organisation.
The emerging science of networks repeatedly demonstrates their influential effect on our behaviour. They change music we listen too. The way we vote. Even our bodyweight.
The reasons for this influence will vary from category to category, but in many instances the reason probably doesn't matter. What does matter is how you get those already close to or using your brand to advocate, or perhaps even better, to involve their network in their usage behaviour.
This is all about understanding what is inherently social in your business and how to unlock this:
What within your product or service is, or could be, networked?
What within your marketing is, or could be, networked?
How is your audience networked, and why?
Why and how will people advocate or involve others in your product and service?
Where within your business will it add the most value?
The answers to these questions are not just based in infrastructures, but in the emotional, human value of your business. Hyman in her SXSW seminar recognised this, clearly arguing that they both sell the emotion of wearing an amazing designer dress and network this emotion by having women proudly displaying how they felt (and looked) when they wore it. Other women want that feeling, and because one of their friends enjoyed it, they also believe it is accessible.