Every one of us has a famous or smart people that inspire us and who we listen to. These people can influence us on so many levels. These people are called opinion leaders. What I’m interested in is the ways we actually listen to the opinion leaders. A powerful opinion leader can slightly or completely change the way we think. The influence of powerful opinion leaders is just amazing and history is full of great examples like Churchill, Hitler or Martin Luther King, Jr. Opinion leaders can influence our thinking in good and bad ways.
Some people are fine with the opinion leader being just a celebrity who’s looking good and selling you stuff. I want my opinion leader to be neutral and trustworthy. Perhaps the best example I can think of is Al Gore. His fight against the climate change got me interested in it. He even got a lot of US citizens to recognize that the climate change is a real thing and that takes some serious opinion leadership skills.
Opinion leaders are people and organizations that us common people listen to and learn from. They are the best in their own field or sometimes they know something about everything. The most important thing for me about opinion leaders is objectivity. An opinion leader tells his opinion based on his knowledge on the matter. However, in marketing I don’t see that knowledge is everything.
Using the force of influence wrongly
In the 60’s cigarette companies hired scientists and doctors to speak for the benefit of smoking, even though it was a known fact even then that smoking is bad for you. People of course believed these adverts where a smart doctor tells you that smoking is good for you. These doctors were opinion leaders in smoking, even though they should have not been. Common people have always been a bit simple and gullible. People these days would not believe an ad where a doctor tells that smoking is healthy, but they do believe other things that are not true or believe people who are being paid to praise a product. So opinion leaders are perfect for marketing. A good opinion leader can make a turd look like a diamond or a good opinion leader can brainwash people to buy overpriced products from a tech Company that is named after a fruit. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.
Here is a ridiculous ad where a doctor advertises for benefit of smoking:
Everything leads up to stupid people
In a world that makes sense, opinion leaders are people with education, expertise, objectivity and credibility in their own field. In a perfect world people are also smart, money grows in trees and Arsenal actually wins the premier league. Unfortunately we don’t live in a world that makes sense and that’s why a person can be an opinion leader just by being famous or really charismatic.
I wonder if there ever is going to be a time when people actually can think for themselves and are not so gullible. As a marketer, I really hope so because gullible and stupid people make marketers job too easy.