Herd Instinct

As social creatures our herd instinct is a strong motivator

Herd Instinct Definition:

Our herd instinct is an emotional and social pressure to conform or copy the behaviour of others. This happens both consciously and unconsciously, particularly when people are faced with uncertainty.  Herd theory contradicts the western perception of people as largely independent, free thinking individuals who seek to maximise utility.

Instead our herd instinct inextricably links our beliefs and behaviours with those of others. This not only means that brand loyalty is influenced by the people we interact with, but also a diverse range of behaviours (e.g. teenage pregnancy) and characteristics (e.g. obesity).

Linked hands symbolises collaboration
Source: Freeimages.com

This means that brands and marketing content are very unimportant on their own. What matters is what people (e.g. staff, customers and prospects) do with them and how they interact with other people in their networks. The scale and structure of social networks will influence how a brand is adopted and evolves as a social entity.

Image of brands on a supermarket shelf

In his book, I’ll have what she’s having, Mark Earls and his co-authors outline compelling evidence to show that our herd instinct (or social learning) is the engine of how new ideas, products, behaviour, cultural norms and attitudes spread through populations. In Herd he explains how our herd instinct can be used to influence mass behaviour.  See also behavioural economics and social proof.


Conversion marketing – Glossary of Conversion Marketing.

Social influence & marketing – Are most purchase decisions the result of social influence?

Herd instinct – How do social networks influence human behaviour?

Social networks – What makes social networks tick?

Word-of-mouth marketing – 6 myths about word of mouth marketing.

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