Either ‘Super good’ or ‘Super bad’ – the rise of extreme responses

Speaking at the National Hotel Marketing Conference in London this week I overheard a brilliant statistic from an Internet marketing expert: young male executives on average will book a hotel within 2.5 seconds, in contrast to mature females who can take 2½ weeks, visiting 22 different sites, before making their minds up!

The speaker was not making a cheap sexist point, rather just revealing variations in their audience data.

Yet it did highlight to me the need for flexibility in your communications and marketing: it seems more and more that you need to be able to meet the immediate, rapid requirements of one part of your market, while also catering for the much deeper, more thorough needs of other parts.

Is this just a one-off? Or is it part of a wider trend where we could do with a new word for this phenomenon, such as ‘diverse polarity’. If represented as a graph it would be a reverse Bell Curve – known by statisticians as a ‘Well Curve’.

And on reflection, it is not just response rates to booking a hotel that demonstrate the Well Curve graph with two examples coming to mind, televisions and schoolchildren:

TV’s are now either mega big (I feel rather insignificant with my 32 inch screen) or at the other end of the scale, micro-size, hand-held screens on your mobiles.

Similarly with school children: my wife who works as a teacher observes how youngsters are getting brighter but sadly also, at the other end of the scale, (I’m trying to think of a diplomatic word here) doing less well – probably as a result of poorer quality parenting and adult inter-action, where large numbers of children sadly spend much of their lives in front of computer games and are put to bed watching a DVD rather than having a bed-time story read to them.) From her experience, there does not seem to be situation of the majority of the kids being in the middle any more.

One theory might be that in periods of transition conditions deviate from a Bell Curve pattern (with the majority in the centre ground) to the diverse polarity of a Well Curve.

I was interested to come across a study example of our polarised world by Chip Heath and Roger Gould called ‘Semantic stretch in the marketplace of ideas’ (Quoted in: ‘Made to Stick’ Chip and Dan heath).

The study showed increase use of extreme synonyms for the word ‘good’, such as ‘fantastic’, ‘amazing’ with an accompanying decrease in use of less extreme words like ‘OK’, ‘pretty good’. Similarly, the use of extreme negative synonyms for ‘bad’ revealed a parallel pattern. The authors concluded that either semantic stretch was happening – or that the world was simultaneously getting much better and much worse! (I sometimes seem to concur with the latter!)

In my Brand communications talks I highlight how your Brand audiences sit within a spectrum ranging from ‘Brand Evangelists’ to ‘Brand Taliban’, and how it is not one size fits all in your messaging. 

Is this rise of ‘diverse polarity’ a mildly interesting phenomena? Or is it something ‘Super good’ or ‘Super bad’.

Any other examples can you think of?

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