“How much are you going to tip?”

Have you ever been asked that question when splitting the check?

There are two couples at the table, the waiter has brought separate checks and the credit card holder turns to the other credit card holder and tries to find out how to coordinate the tip.


I mean, if they were out just the two of them, would they ask what people at the other table were going to tip? (Probably, hence the need to invent the 15% standard). Why does it matter if one couple tips 14% and the other 18%?

Don't underestimate just how badly many people want to fit in. (Not with everyone, just with their tribe and their peers).

What does it mean to be popular?

Some things (and people) are popular because a chord is struck, because there's a right place/right time alignment of interest and solution. But more often, an idea is popular because something had to be. Tribes demand winners, the flavor of the month, the safe choice.

That's why being the "presumed front-runner" is so vitally important. People want to hire the person or vote for the person or work with the organization that most people in their circle would have picked. They are then blameless.

We say we want to root for the underdog, but actually, we want to be seen as rooting for whomever everyone else is rooting for.

A significant part of marketing to strangers is the work of appearing to be the dominant choice, the safe choice, the one that's going to get picked by everyone else soon. Get in sync, the thinking goes, if you're the kind of person that wants to be in sync.

One example: a restaurant that highlights its most popular dishes virtually guarantees that those dishes will become the most popular.

There are a huge range of tools and signals available to marketers willing to invest in the position of most popular. But the signals are expensive. Because the presumed frontrunner can afford it. Hence the circular nature of marketing investment–acting like you can afford it often means you will soon be able to.

And the best plan for the insurgent brand? To find a smaller tribe, become the presumed winner there, and scale it up across tribes.