The recognition and systematic study of phenomena of diffusion or contagion

Author: Marc Vincent


In the times in which we live, there is perhaps no problem so fundamental, and which yet is so little taken into account in marketing research, as that of the effects of personal communication in all its diverse forms. While the idea of the existence of word of mouth publicity is time-honoured, yet the explicit recognition of its manifestations and of its influence on consumers, together with the idea of analysing this phenomenon scientifically, have only recently come into being. Certain direct mathematical approaches undertaken by various writers, including my own modest contribution, have analysed the phenomenon using the tool of models of propagation. This comparison with certain processes pertaining to the domains of biology or of the physical sciences constitutes an unsatisfactory simplification of the more complex underlying psycho-sociological reality. We should make an effort to take into account phenomena such as that of leadership, or the fact that communication is the crucible containing an amalgam, so difficult to resolve into its constituent elements of transmissions of information and of direct influence of one person on another. A great step forward would be taken to promote research work in this domain if the place of this phenomenon were to be explicitly recognised in marketing models, forecast studies and the research on ideas for new products, since explicit arbitrariness has the considerable advantage over implicit arbitrariness of being a prime mover in the sphere of progress.

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