Nichification and Virality is History

Bob Lefsetz has back to back great posts up on the subject of nichification and the Death of Virality (only if you sign up for his free email).

On nichification, Bob writes:

That’s right, putting on your best face, curating your image, that will be passe. We’re evolving into a more honest era, where it’s all about what your friends think of you. And the truth is they’ll forgive flaws, that’s what makes you human. And all those makeup tutorials on YouTube, the purveyors are going to give up and not be replaced.

This is a complete reset. A disassembling of the twentieth century model of gatekeepers and number ones. And the early internet model of virality. Virality is almost dead. No one has the time for it. If your friend recommends something, you’ll check it out, otherwise you’ll ignore it.

Friends have points of reference. There will be a switch to real life as opposed to internet life. Of course friends will utilize the internet and the smartphone to ease their existence, but they’ll mostly use these tools to gain information and communicate with their friends.

So marketing will become ever more difficult.

But also the aspirational culture we live in will decline. Everybody wanted to be rich and famous. Turns out very few people can be rich and famous. So why try? Everybody was gonna write an app, nobody does that anymore. Apps are something you get for free, they’re not a way to get rich.

As for getting rich… The millennials and Gen-Z are far different from their forebears. It’s not enough just to have money, how did you earn it, do you give back? Forget the disinformation paraded in the media, about influencers frolicking and flying on private jets. Everybody’s resetting their aspirations. They want fulfillment, not fame. And no one can be as famous as the stars of yesteryear.

It’s like America will become a nation of small towns. Because you don’t want to feel like a number.

If Bob is just a little bit right in his riff…you better know how to market effectively or hire for the role. For me, marketing has never been easy. I know good marketing when I see it, but am not sure how to create effective marketing. I have never had any natural instincts about growth hacking, a/b testing or hired effectively for this role.

In his next post about the end of virality, Bob riffs:

But the truth is if you’re trying to gain a fanbase from scratch, good luck. Be thankful anybody is paying attention at all.

You can post it, but that does not mean people will read it, never mind share it. We’re all overburdened with info, so we only forward the most fascinating, the most important, which is very little. And the dirty little secret is nobody reads it anyway. Bump into them and ask them, they’ll try to fake it, but the truth will be revealed.

Kind of like those e-mail newsletters with articles to read. You sign up and click through a couple of times, but then you stop, the information is not vital. God, think of how many articles have been forwarded to you that you haven’t read.

We all watch different TV shows and read different books and listen to different music. So nothing catches fire and blows up, because no one’s got the time for what they’re already interested in.

So marketers furiously look for publicity in newspapers, blogs, believing it will start a fire. But it won’t unless it’s truly eye or ear-popping. It has to be equivalent to the Beatles, or at least Adele, to get traction.

Otherwise, you’ve got to convert people one by one. Which sellers hate. Because it’s slow and difficult and you win or lose on your merits. It’s hard to fake people out, and they’re certainly not going to tell anybody else.

So, it’s about train-wreck or quality. And even then, word is gonna spread slowly. Just look at all the clickbait on legitimate websites. You know the drill, lurid headline and when you click through you’re inundated with ads, so you don’t.

Marketers have brought this upon themselves. We’re overloaded, we’re not paying attention. We have to hear it from a trusted source before we’ll click.

So nothing lights a fire on the internet overnight.

Which means that big publicity campaigns fall flat. And if you can see the sell beneath the supposed event, people are turned off. That’s what killed viral music videos.

So there is no overnight success. No instant adoption. And that’s what the system was built for, to create a towering edifice overnight.
There’s no sure-fire way to the top.

We live in an era where everyone is offering their expertise and playbook and nobody has the right expertise and playbook for you. I think the best companies and investors of tomorrow are preparing for this new grind.