Why geeks should be your target for marketing

It’s simple; because they listen. As opposed to the masses, which are really good at ignoring you.

Do you really think Average Joe will listen when you say your Samsung Galaxy S II has a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor? No, he will ask his friend, Geek Mike, which phone he should buy.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, explains it perfectly:

He explains the TV industrial complex is gone, the golden years of the 60’s when all companies had to do is flood the TV with ads is now history. There’s too many choices, and way less time. Nowadays there’s complex networks of information, and everybody knows where and how to get recommendations of services and products, which probably will only be noticed if they are remarkable.

How do you explain that Google became such a big company without advertisement? You make a good product, and people talk about it. First the hard-core geeks, then normal geeks, there’s normal people, and eventually, even grandmas and grandpas. They started with doing one thing, but very well, and that made them remarkable. That’s why today even though Google+ as 74% males and 25% engineers (reference), they will spread the word, and eventually everybody will be there.

That is the viral effect of social networks. If you want something to spread through the network, you have to target the nodes that are more tightly connected, the ones at the center of the network. These would obviously be geek bloggers, many of which have thousands of followers, each of which will spread it to more and more people, until eventually you get to the masses. Google, Twitter, Facebook, the iPhone, they all seemed to be targeting only a small niche of technical people, but what many people didn’t consider, is that these geeks would find the value, and spread the message.

This should be obvious, but for some people it’s not. Some people say “oh, the geeks don’t like this, but it’s OK, they are not our target market” (Nokia comes to mind), which completely misses the point that if geeks don’t spread the message, you already lost.

And that is why GNOME 3, for example, already lost. They are ignoring the huge backlash from existing users telling them “we don’t care about you, you are a tiny minority”.

In this hugely interconnected world, you should not disregard the tiny minority that loves you, to seek the huge majority that doesn’t care about you, that is not only dangerous, but doomed to fail. Moreover, I would go even further and say, this tiny minority can actually tell you what you should do to reach the big majority better.


6 thoughts on “Why geeks should be your target for marketing

  1. I agree with you to some extent. I really think that attracting people that will spread the word is the correct move but I don’t necessarily agree with you that they have those people. On the contrary geek friends of mine that /actually/ are interested in new technology and new ways of interacting with your computer have been very impressed with gnome 3 and has started using it themselves. Even my Mac friends are impressed.
    It’s not like there aren’t problems though. Canonical decided to fork, which I believe is a problem for any effort to present a coherent Linux experience, and the only good option for running gnome 3 right now is by running fedora, which is nice but feels a bit like always running beta. I hope all of this sort itself out in the next two years.


  2. @Mattias Yes, to some people GNOME 3 is impressive at first, but I think after using it for a while things change. And sure, problems are expected, but the real problem is that GNOME developers have already decided not to fix some of those problems because of “design decisions” (not problems in their mind).

    Not to mention the fact that many people hate it immediately.

    I do believe Unity will succeed because at least Ubuntu tries to listen to its customers, unlike GNOME.

    And I disagree that Fedora feels like running a beta. Has worked perfectly for me for several years.


  3. Mmmm…

    What geek would recommend a device like the iPhone? It lacks too much functionality (e.g. full bluetooth, USB MS, USB OTG, file manager) and it forces you to use iTunes which is a stinking turd. No geek wants that yet the iPhone is hugely successful. You can’t even script it, any geek knows you’d have to jailbreak the damn thing to make it register 1 on the interesting scale.

    What geek would recommend an iPad? It’s not good for surfing because it can’t do Flash so you’d really be stuck with a sub-set of the web which would be damned annoying.

    It seems to me a better plan than marketing to geeks might be to drown out the geeks, perhaps offer inducements to tech ‘journalists’ to write nice things about you and combine that with a slick marketing campaign direct to the ignorant masses.


  4. Pingback: At least one reason WeAreTabCo’s advertising campaign is flawed « Probably a Tech Blog

  5. @URNumber6 There are many different kinds of geeks: programming geeks, comic geeks, gadget geeks, science geeks, etc. But rather than “geeks” I’m talking about early adopters, fans, otakus, etc.


  6. (not exactly on topic – sorry)

    Have you seen this: http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.dev.platform/browse_thread/thread/7668a9d46a43e482#

    Mozilla have started to work on their own mobile OS called ‘Boot 2 Gecko’. At the moment they’ve based it on top of Android but some of the participants in the discussion thread above have suggested they should go with MeeGo instead as it’s more in line with Mozilla’s own ethos of openness.

    The Mozilla devs have said they’d consider it but may require assistance to do so.

    I don’t know if you or any of your work colleagues would be interested in contributing some of your knowledge to help direct the project along the right path ;¬)


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