Rory Sutherland on outsourcing media planning to the public

 In opinion

Over at Rory Sutherland’s blog, he has hit the nail on the head regarding social networking.

In the post, titled “a dog that doesn’t bark” he muses

…This new approach is almost the opposite of the first, “viral” approach. For, rather than using networks effects to reach a lot of people indiscriminately and cheaply, it uses network effects to reach very few people precisely and expensively.

And rather than outsourcing media buying to the public, it works by outsourcing media planning to the public.

It works not by reducing the cost of distribution (as with conventional virals) but by totally eliminating its usual inefficiency and wastage.

I’ll give you an example of how this might work. Let’s say you and your wife/mistress/boyfriend/husband/sheep have just spent a lovely weekend in a hotel in the Cotswolds (rather you than me, frankly – I find the place a bit up its own *** – but no matter). Anyhow, you get home and you receive a thank-you letter or email from the hotel. And inside the thank-you letter is a voucher for three nights for the price of one at the hotel. It’s not for you, you understand, but it’s to give to any one person you choose.

Rory asks if there are any examples of this … but I think he’s onto something.

Social media and the power of trusted referrals should not be underestimated.  If we can make this easy to put into place, it may form a powerful new marketing tool.


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Based in London, Practical Futurist and former Global Managing Partner at IBM, Andrew Grill is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption, workplace of the future and new technologies such as blockchain. Andrew is a multiple TEDx and International Keynote Speaker.