At a summit last year, I heard Rory Sutherland discussing the idea that in advertising, we should act like dandelions. I’ve since seen Faris talk about it a bit, and traced it back to this article by Cory Doctorow.
The analogy does have merit here are 5 lessons we can learn from dandelions.
1. Get lots of content out there.
Cory tells us that a single dandelion may produce 2,000 seeds per year. Most will fail, but that’s not important to a dandelion; it just wants to be sure that every single opportunity for reproduction is exploited.
On the web, it is almost impossible to predict what will be have a large “earned” impact. I freely admitted that I would not have predicted the success of the T-mobile dance clip, which to me was just a copy of things already done on the web. But it is clearly a success, with over 16 million views now, and is now one of the first things you find if you search for T-mobile on Youtube (which is the default search engine for some kids nowdays btw).
Some companies have tried to release multiple things simultaneously, and just hope that one of them succeeds. See this case study about Officemax.
2. Capitalise on fertile areas
As my good friend Juuso Myllyrinne pointed out to me, if we act like dandelions, then we perhaps fail to capitalise on successes. The randomness of the approach could mean that we are oblivious to market feedback.
But I think the analogy still holds: Some dandelion seed fall on particularly fertile ground. When this happens, dandelions reproduce quickly and plentifully.
Same with creativity: when something lands on a fertile creative patch, it is possible to take advantage of this situation and capitalise. And as Ben Mason over at 101 Culture says, organisations need to listen more and then be able to react quickly.
3. You’re not in charge. (No one is.)
Just as dandelions can’t control the wind, Brands can’t expect to control the ways in which content and stories will be reproduced, altered, improved upon.
Instead, we should actively encourage reproduction and remixing: In total, the high-quality consumer-generated Cadbury’s gorilla remixes got more views than the awesome original.
4. Make things easy to spread.
Dandelions make it incredibly easy for their seeds to fly. Any wind, from any direction is enough. Don’t restrict the ways your content can be shared.
“Send-to-friend” is not really the answer either: sometimes just making it possible to link to something – and not burying it under pages of Flash – can be enough.
5. Be a valuable part of your ecosystem
Dandelions aren’t looking to win or destroy others; they are trying to survive by being a valuable part of an ever-evolving ecosystem.
Be valuable. Keep your content flowing. Get people to create it with you.
Reach places that you could never reach alone.
Be part of something bigger than just you.