Stop trying to fix your business with fame

As you might’ve noticed, “fame” is how many businesses hope to fix their problems. For instance: many marketing strategies are aimed at, ideally, merely increasing an idea’s visibility and social validation – in hope that doing so will propel it towards its success.

It obviously doesn’t work. Which is why parameters such as “shares”, “likes” and “views” are considered vanity metrics. As opposed to real metrics – the dreaded ROI.

Yet: people pursue them. With all their strengths.

Why? Let’s find out.

A scientific perspective on why people crave fame

Humans are social creatures – meaning they’ve evolved to live in packs (small conglomerates of around 250 units tops – let’s all say thank you to Robin Dunbar for figuring this out). Amongst these packs, there’s an organization (read this twice: organization. Which is very, very different from hierarchy) based on competence. Averagely speaking: the higher the competence, the higher the social validation – or, in “street language”: fame.

Example: Carl is extremely competent. Hence, everyone looks up to him when there’s a big problem to be solved – generating social validation (“fame”) for him. Out of the basic need of knowing who to call for help.

This is an extremely ingrained mechanism within the human psyche: we’re naturally brought to go after conspicuous individuals because there used to be a time, millennia ago, before modern civilization, in which our life depended on that.

By this, you can see already where is this going: fame can be used to cheat.

How to cheat with fame

Since people are naturally attracted by fame due to a cognitive bias that reads “fame” as “competence”, the less honest people might try to use this to their advantage: by adorning a product with fame, people will naturally lean to think it’s a legit one – even though it might very well not be one.

Out of bon ton, I won’t be naming famous cases of hype around subpar or downright awful products – you already know them.

What happens when you cheat with fame

Short term damage:

  • You’ll attract the wrong clientele Your product should be aimed at people who need to solve something. By hyping up something, you risk attracting the very worst clientele you can think of: social climbers. Social climbers are terrible customers, for a long set of reasons (I’m pretty sure you can name a few: think of a customer there just to be seen having a look at your product, without really buying anything).
  • You might be swiftly outpaced by a genuine product If you’re unlucky enough to be in the same market of an actually good product, and that includes good marketing, their merit (read: sales) will crush your fabricated hype.

Long term damage:

  • Economical failure Profits are turned in out of people buying your product. People buy, and keep, your product if it solves their problems. So: if you hype up something, and it ends up not actually help people, reality will put you out with a spinning head kick – coming either from disgruntled customers, better competitors or both.
  • Ethical failure (brand image damage) There’s very few brands as bad as the one “he who hypes trash”. For the same reason because people are attracted to fame: there’s an equally big cognitive bias for which people develop a very strong feeling against who doesn’t keep promises.

Long story short

Stop thinking about fame: start thinking about how to explain to your clientele how can you help. Fame is just a byproduct of how good you are at this (nominally: if you made something really useful, and you were good enough in marketing to explain this to your clientele, people will spread the word of how useful you are – or, in other words: your social validation will grow up).

Use fame as a secondary metric, rather than an objective. Your bank account, and mental sanity, will thank you.

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