The Power of Mimetic Desire – Unleashing Growth with Social Proof

May 28, 2023 4 mins read

We do not desire objects or things directly; we always desire them through other people. We long for things that other people desire.

René Girard

Dear Reader,

Mimetic Desire isn’t just about wanting desirable things—it’s about the imitation of desire itself. As we dive into this topic, let’s explore how understanding and harnessing Mimetic Desire can be a game-changer for your startup’s growth.

The go-to book on Mimetic Desire for startup founders is “Wanting” by Luke Burgis. Unrelated to our topic, this line from his book resonated….

My definition of an entrepreneur is simple. One hundred people look at the same herd of goats. Ninety-nine see goats. One sees a cashmere sweater. And the alertness of the one isn’t due to data analytics. It stems from a willingness and ability to look beyond and to see something more than meets the eye, and then to do something about it.

The True Power of Mimetic Desire

Mimetic Desire goes beyond mere influencer marketing—it involves leveraging trusted endorsements from brands, incubators, or respected industry leaders. It’s why you’re willing to go the extra mile to secure that first big-name logo, understanding the inherent desirability it brings. It’s why you prefer that “name” advisor over the best advisor—because brand signaling, also known as mimetic desire, is a priority. These strategic moves amplify your startup’s perceived value and inspire desire among your target audience.

Beyond Waitlists and Exclusivity

Clubhouse provides a great example of how waitlists, limited editions, and exclusivity can evoke mimetic desire—they create the perception that others want your product, making it more desirable. However, these tactics aren’t the only means and may not always be the most effective. It’s essential to focus on building momentum, and remember that leveraging mimetic desire can be a powerful acquisition tool. But keep in mind that if the product fails to deliver, the desire will fade.

The Authentic Way – Delivering Awesome

The most potent way to manifest mimetic desire is by delivering exceptional value through your product or service. If your offering delivers on its promise and solves real problems, it becomes inherently desirable. Desirability is perhaps the most powerful facet of mimetic desire.

Harnessing the Power of Social Proof

Social proof, leveraging the cognitive bias that others’ actions indicate a good idea, taps into Mimetic Desire. Platforms like Amazon, Airbnb, and Upwork utilize reviews and ratings as potent social proof, signaling desirability and trustworthiness. Positive reviews ignite Mimetic Desire by showcasing customer satisfaction, inspiring others to seek similar experiences or products. Social proof shapes purchasing decisions beyond product reinforcement, amplifying the desire imitation effect.

Finding Your Product-Market Fit

Discovering early evangelists who genuinely value and willingly share your product is key to achieving product-market fit. Consider Slack: originally a communication tool for a gaming company called Tiny Speck, it pivoted after their game didn’t succeed. Early tech startups using Slack served as inspiration for others, driven by the desire to emulate the success of those companies. Choosing Slack is driven by mimetic desire, as it’s associated with successful startups, rather than simply being the best tool for the job.

Similarly, Dropbox’s offering of extra storage for user referrals demonstrated how users found genuine value in the product. The key in both Slack and Dropbox’s stories was providing real value, sparking authentic desire and encouraging sharing among users.

Challenge for the Week

Let’s put mimetic desire into action in the smallest possible way. Identify one feature of your product or service that your customers love the most. Now, think about how you can showcase this feature to potential users in a way that makes them desire it because they see others benefitting from it. Ignite mimetic desire by demonstrating real value and success others are experiencing with your offering.

Until next Sunday, continue to challenge the status quo.

— James

(LinkedIn | Twitter | Tiktok)

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