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Did anyone else pore over Sunday's New York Times Magazine? It's Sixth Annual Year of Ideas was fascinating, so pull it out of the recycle bin if you missed it....

Since connecting is so key in reaching women as consumers, this idea (on page 52 of the magazine) really caught my eye: "In the 1950s, sociologists coined the term 'homophily'-- love of same -- to explain our inexorable tendency to link up with one another in ways that confirm rather than test our core beliefs."
Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen, and others, have written about how women tend to communicate symmetrically (by finding common ground), while men tend to communicate assymetrically (more status or positioning-based). As marketers, we hope that our brands will resonate with women enough that they will start spreading the word to their many like-minded friends. Brands that get to know their core customers well will more likely be able to reflect that common ground - to leverage the tendency toward homophily.
So, what happens when all the like-minded people are already talking about and loyal to your brand (lucky you)? Is that it?
No. The hope is that we can inspire people to broaden their perspectives and referral reach - and start to talk up our brands with consumers who might be just a teeny bit outside their usual inner circle.
The NYT nugget on homophily closes with a thought from Nathan Torkington, an O'Reilly Radar trend spotter: the idea of creating "serendipity" as the counter trend in this situation. I've always liked that word, which means (according to Webster's Collegiate Dictionarey, 10th ed.) "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for."
It reminds me of my recent trip to Dubai. It was not a place I had ever dreamed of visiting. Still, I found lots in common with the businessmen and women I met there, and just enough dissimilarity to be intrigued rather than completely overwhelmed by our significant cultural differences.
Your next level of best customer is just a shade outside your core market, so inspire the "fringe" to talk.
P.S. Greg Stielstra (who I interviewed for my 9 Minds eBook) wrote a great blog post about it. And, there's more on homophily in this Washington Post article.

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.