One of the more interesting stories of the week comes courtesy of the Harvard Business Review, which reveals that many of today’s oh-so-awesome social media insights actually track their provenance back to a 1966 study on word of mouth by Ernest Dichter, who HBR describes as “the father of motivation research”.
Some key insights gleaned by HBR from that nearly fifty-year-old study:
A major Dichter finding, very relevant today, was the identification of four motivations for a person to communicate about brands:
The first (about 33% of the cases) is because of product-involvement. The experience is so novel and pleasurable that it must be shared.
The second (about 24%) is self-involvement. Sharing knowledge or opinions is a way to gain attention, show connoisseurship, feel like a pioneer, have inside information, seek confirmation of a person’s own judgment, or assert superiority.
The third (around 20%) is other-involvement. The speaker wants to reach out and help to express neighborliness, caring, and friendship.
The fourth (around 20%) is message-involvement. The message is so humorous or informative that it deserves sharing.
We can’t say we’re surprised that these insights were coined so long ago — human nature doesn’t change all that much. If we made the effort, we daresay we’d find similar threads woven through essays by classical Greek and Roman philosophers as well.
Plus ça change …