What do the Dubai port deal, the numa numa video, Danish cartoons and yellow wristbands have in common?
They all spread because they were easy to spread. At the same time that climate cancer languishes in the background, voters inundate Congress with phone calls about the port deal. And pundits are surprised–shocked!–at how irrational the public is.
Actually, our behavior as people is pretty easy to predict. We like things that are simple, not complex. Issues where we can take action without changing very much. If a marketer brings us a new idea, it’s either ignored or it’s a problem. A problem because we have to do something with the idea. Buy the new suit, trade in for the new car, install a new IT solution or change the way we feel about an issue.
The best problems, as far as a consumer is concerned, are those that can be solved quickly and easily, with few side effects.
Bite sized doesn’t mean small, though. When the stakes are high enough, people are willing to do really big things (like join the Army), if they believe that those big things are in and of themselves sufficient to have an impact on the problem. It’s bite sized, but a big bite.
Why are millions of Americans going to die of preventable diabetes and heart disease every year? Because the action needed to avoid the problem isn’t bite sized. And why did blogging take three years to really take off? Same reason.