The randomness of success

We’ve been thinking of the book Positioning recently, which explains that for each brand category only a few names can fit in the mental ladder within consumers’ heads, and have begun to wonder if some success is simply random.

This doesn’t mean the brands that win don’t have smart leaders or brilliant marketing or killer benefits. We think, though, that in any crowd of human ideas — and the human crowd is vast — there may be thousands of concepts qualified to make it to the top. The photo of Rio, above, shows the lights of just one city on the planet. Imagine the millions of people in that photo, and how many might have the brains and talent and ideas to create a leading politician, celebrity, religion or product.

If there are just a few slots for success, and many qualified candidates, are the winners merely random? Is the highest rung of any marketing ladder open to those who are accomplished and who also happen to win some lottery of fate? This dynamic — random success — would be fueled by word of mouth. Marketing, no matter how strong, can only create impressions; as consumers listen they begin to tip toward one or two leaders in each category, amplifying the message within their communication networks, until an Obama, McCain, Twitter, Brad Pitt, Facebook, Tiger Woods, Rolex, or Apple gain a far greater share of mind than their human/component parts truly merit.

One thing is true: No matter how smart your marketing, you’ll never be certain of winning. The odds are many, many others just as qualified as you are vying for success.

Photo from Dear God.

1 thought on “The randomness of success

  1. Beautiful photo.

    I think most things in life are a mix of effort and destiny — not sure random is the word I would use though.

    I agree with you that smarts are not enough to guarantee success.

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