Propagation Planning: Where Inefficiency is Valuable

A few weeks ago, I talked about Propagation Planning. To quote myself, Propagation Planning is:

a technique that goes beyond hoping content simply goes viral. A technique capable of kick-starting, controlling and exploiting online word of mouth

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and have realised an interesting paradox. Traditional marketing meant we bought media or placed articles to reach a particular segment based on demographic or mindset. Media planning looked to be as efficient as possible – buying space where the largest proportion of the target spent time so as to reduce John Wannamaker’s 50 percentage of wasted advertising.

But Propagation Planning is different. At the end of the day, Propagation Planning is about being inefficient. About using the network and its nodes to reach as many people as possible regardless of their make-up, before reaching the final, intended, target.

Take a look at the image below. It starts with content which is Useful, Entertaining, Interesting and Participatory. The content flows through the network, through potentially three additional layers, before reaching the final destination. Propagation Planning

At each of these three layers, content can be shared and disseminated outside of its intended course. If you consider the, on average, 190 friends everyone has on Facebook or the 1,000s of followers influencers on Twitter have, then this network diagram suddenly becomes more and more complex.

Here’s the rub. We figure that starting with relevant influencers, communities and owned media will come close to guaranteeing it will reach the *right* segment or demographic or mindset but by being incredibly inefficient with our message, we can ensure that we also reach anyone who’s interested in our products, goods, services or ideas. Just like this.


6 Responses to Propagation Planning: Where Inefficiency is Valuable

  1. […] Propagation Planning: Where Inefficiency is Valuable « Ed Lee […]

  2. I like the twist on the value of inefficiency! We also need to look at how efficient paid media is? Are people more likely to purchase something or act on something based on a paid advertisement (even if it is the correct target audience) or are they mot likely to purchase something or act on something based on a peer-to-peer recommendation? We know from research it is the latter. I think the word efficient is up for debate in the current media landscape but a really interesting time to be a planner!

    • Ed Lee says:

      thanks for the comment Griffin – as with all these things, I don’t think it is a case of one vs the other, rather that all have their place depending on the brand, the consumer and the mckinsey style “consumer decision journey”.

      totally agree with you – trying to plan for the unplannable makes planning very interesting right now.


  3. tom haslow says:

    Is there any work/opinion on how p to p influence relates to paid media exposure? I’m curious as to the “stamp of legitimacy” paid media ads to the mix of influences.

    I’d think in certain categories, say laundry detergent, a peer reco would be very influential, and a commercial or print ad would give people a sense of “this is legit”, but in something elite like fashion, music etc, paid media exposure may make someone like something less, and WOM would be everything.

    As someone who switched over to strategy from creating media for ten years, this question is in my head.

  4. Ed Lee says:

    hi tom – believe that the image below should help:

    but to repeat my comment above, the efficacy of each medium depends on so many factors, it is impossible to really put your finger on what triggered a purchase.


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