Cultural Latency and the tyranny of rapid adoption?
Happy 4th of July weekend to all the US Americanos out there. Today I’m going fishing…in my Google Feed Reader.
Yes, I felt like a fisherman this morning as I tried to catch some interesting info in the hundreds of blog posts and articles that had somehow piled up–over the last 24 hours.
24 hours? What is happening? I have a Google headache now…and I didn’t even open Tweetdeck. I can’t keep up. Wait, my phone is vibrating.
Sometimes we need to slow down…and slowing down a bit might even be the key to staying on top.
A new study by Jonah Berger from the University of Pennsylvania, Gaël Le Mens from Stanford University and Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona has shown that fast cultural adoption correlates to an equally rapid falling from favor. According to the results reported in physorg.com, the quicker a cultural item rockets to popularity, the quicker it dies. This pattern occurs because people believe that things that are adopted quickly will become fads, leading them to avoid these items, which, in turn, causes them to die out.
The authors focus on the rise & fall in popularity of baby names…they also point to the music industry where similar findings have been observed. Artists who rise to the top of the charts quickly often fall very quickly as well, and have lower overall sales than those who rise more slowly. The researchers then go on to explain that people who want to ensure the persistence and success of (items) should seek to popularize them at a slow but steady pace (again, see physorg.com).
Rapid adoption of almost everything is easier than ever today as communication technologies get faster and more ubiquitous. In fact, the latency of culture is starting to near 0.
As Faris Yakob writes on his blog, people on horseback (used to be) the speed at which information traveled: The speed at which messages could traverse distances put a limit on the latency of culture, which in turn tended to mean things changed more slowly.
Email enabled messages to travel at the speed of light. This led to things moving faster, things changing faster.
But email is one to one–even if you send it to many people, no one oversees it, which puts a limit on the reduction in cultural latency–and it used to be limited to the desktop.
Now we have millions of eyes all connected to a real-time micro broadcast messaging platform via a mobile device they have with them at all times, and a social eagerness to demonstrate primacy.
Cultural latency is nearing zero, at least in the more connected parts of the world.
Which is going to have some interesting effects, because it creates much faster feedback loops–information, once delivered, is both a reported effect and a subsequent cause, which triggers more effects.
Diminished cultural latency means that the propagation of information is so fast that the spread itself becomes the defining aspect of the system: the rate-of-spread becomes as important as the information itself.
It is in this quick fire culture that the commercial meaning makers–brands and their agents–must operate. In line with the increasing cultural decay rates, the speed of advertising must increase in step–more things must be created more often, to maintain the salience of even a few years ago.
You can really see the reduction of cultural latency playing out today. Every recent big event now seems to get caught up in this “0 cultural latency feedback loop world”(swine flu, iran, M. Jackson) where rumor becomes fact and rumor again.
And what will all this mean for brands? What will it take to build classic products in today’s quick fire world? Can anything really “stick” anymore?