Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Returning to Simplicity

For some time, I have been studying a trend that has come to be known as “voluntary simplicity.” It is a growing movement toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Born out of people’s disenchantment with the frantic, harried pace of modern life, it is a trend whose time has come.

In a society that has embraced the philosophy that “busier is better,” spawning scores of methods for doing more and getting more, people are finally realizing that there is life beyond tag sales and to-do lists. Simply stated, more and more people are awakening to the reality that there is a vast difference between living life and making a living, and that busy-ness is not necessarily profitable.

“You are not here merely to make a living,” said former president Woodrow Wilson. “You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” It is a sentiment echoed by the philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living,” he suggested.

As the Bible itself states in Ecclesiastes 4:6, “better is a handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” And it is Thoreau who queries us, “Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?”

As the founding father of voluntary simplicity, Thoreau captured the essence of it when he stated: “Simplify. Simplify. For as one gradually simplifies his life, even the laws of the universe will appear less complex.” Taking his suggestion to heart, there are many who are quitting the rat race and instead of caving in to peer pressure are returning to the simplicity of living more by making do with less.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Spreading the News

In the book The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing, author Emanuel Rosen points out that it’s not necessarily expensive advertising, marketing or public relations that get people to select certain products or services over others—instead it is word of mouth among consumers.

According to a May 2001 McKinsey & Co. study, 67% of U.S. consumer sales are influenced by word of mouth. And personal experience products such as books, music and movies are especially susceptible to the powers of personal persuasion. No doubt all of us can think of incidents in which we have shared buzz about products with business associates, close friends and family members.

“Word of mouth has superseded any form of paid advertising, in terms of influence,” says Marian Salzman, author of Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand. In our world of round-the-clock media bombarding us with an average of 10,000 images daily, personal recommendations carry much more weight than conventional hype from professional spinmeisters. “Go to the trend spreaders and plant yourself intelligently on their radar,” suggests Salzman.

Perhaps the best example of a trend spreader is Oprah Winfrey. It is not unusual for sales of her latest book club selection to skyrocket into the millions of copies, many times thrusting them from the shadows of obscurity into the limelight of newfound fame. Note to trend spreader wannabes: the secret to her success is the uncanny connection she has with her audience created over years of bonding with them.

In its simplest form, the creation of buzz is about one person sharing their experience using a product or service with someone else, usually someone with whom they have an existing relationship. While trend spreading may come more naturally to some people, buzz creation is an activity that anyone can practice with positive results. Pass it on!