There’s a theory talked about in academic circles to describe how new ideas, innovations, are spread. It’s called Diffusion Theory.
And while it’s seldom talked about in advertising circles (at least not the ones I find myself in), diffusion theory might just be the bedrock upon which the ad biz is built. The actual theory,¬†developed by Everett Rogers in the early ’60s, happens to possess many of the buzzwords we use in advertising. In both fields, there are the innovators, the early adopters, the change agents, communication channels, disrupters, dissonance, the list goes on…
It makes sense that there’s so much similarity in the verbiage used between these two fields, because, at the end of the day, it’s all about ideas. Each new ad we do is supposed to be an innovative idea created to spread another new innovation or product. And with each campaign, we always aim to connect with the early adopters, the change agents, the elusive cool kids on the block in an effort to reach that critical tipping point. Thank you, Malcolm Gladwell.
“While money can’t buy me love, it can diffuse it.”
Most often, you have to pay for diffusion of ads or ideas, even if you’re using that bold new innovation you came up with for good (say, as drug companies did with penicillin) or evil (tobacco companies and smoking).
Songs often diffuse on their own (even the ones that do so in your brain, rather inconveniently, at 2 a.m. in the morning.) Thank you, ELO. Videos about bottle-feeding deer in your driveway diffuse organically, too.
At Maris, we strive to diffuse for good, whether for disrupting the spread of bad innovations, promoting amazing cities with soul, or touting entire states filled with incredible arts, food and culture.
With all this diffusion talk, it may occur to you, as it did me, that many ideas don’t have to pay to be diffused. The diffusion just happens naturally. Natural processes, like photosynthesis, sure. But human processes, too, like that natural sense of compassion, commitment and community that draws us together in times of crisis.
So, for the bigger things in life, maybe the diffusion’s figured out already. Don’t really need a theory. Advertising and academic diffusion can take a lesson from that.
While money can’t buy me love, it can diffuse it. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to. Love diffuses for free. (You knew there had to be a sappy ending).
And now for one last bit of diffusion aimed at doing good: Don’t miss tonight’s (Tuesday, September 19th’s) Millsaps Arts & Lecture Series event: Shining light on S.T.E.A.M., hosted by our friend¬†Anik Kurkjian and the Mississippi Light Collaborative.¬†Anik and members of the collaborative will “introduce their world of light and open up the world that lies behind the lights.” Tonight, maybe they’ll talk about how light diffuses naturally, too. See how this all came together?