The power (and risk) of charismatic ideas

Charisma is a magical power. It enables humans to hotwire connection and build bridges long before the facts on the ground are clear.

Charisma creates rock stars, powerful scientists and con men, too.

Misused, charisma is often the road to tragedy, because it causes us to suspend disbelief and follow a leader we should have been wary of. On the other hand, charisma in the right hands is the engine that can move us toward better, toward outcomes we might have never achieved if we’d allowed ourselves to be paralyzed by the status quo.

Consider for a moment the charismatic idea. An idea, disconnected from the person who might have conceived it, that spreads from person to person. An idea that’s not only sticky, but viral as well.

I wrote about ideaviruses twenty years ago, but didn’t talk enough there about the very nature of an idea itself. That some ideas, like some people, are more charismatic than others.

When those charismatic ideas contribute to the culture, they create a forward cycle that benefits all of us (I’ll nominate “don’t litter” as an example.) On the other hand, sticky negative ideas (like false fear about vaccination) persist longer than they should.

Our job as marketers is to do the hard work of finding and nurturing charismatic ideas we can be proud of.

One place to start is to look at the ideas you’re trying to spread. Consider whether they’re charismatic enough to earn the effort you’re putting into them–and if not, how to replace them with ideas that are.

HT to the Distance Plan