Which Would You Choose?

Most of you have probably heard the math-class fable of the father who offered his son an allowance of $10 per week, to which the clever boy replied, “How about I only take one cent this week.  But you have to double it each week, so 2 cents next week, 4 pennies the week after, etc.”  The father quickly agrees to this bargain.  Within 6 months, the boy has amassed over $670,000.  The power of exponential growth is the lesson.

Another example of this is one I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point:  take a sheet of paper, and fold it in half.  Repeat this 50 times. 

(I know that it’s impossible to fold a piece of paper in half more than 7 times – just suspend your disbelief for this thought experiment.)

How tall would the resulting stack be?  Some might say a foot, some might say the height of a fridge.  The actual answer is that it would stretch upwards almost to the sun.

People have a hard time understanding exponential growth, but as a marketing tool it can be very powerful.  As I wrote about here, it can dramatically grow a customer base.  But, as Gladwell points out, for something to grow exponentially, it has to be “contagious.”  Or to put it another way, “sticky.”  Or, in the context of marketing, “REMARKABLE.”  It has to be a product or place or service that is so good, people REMARK on it to their friends.

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3 Responses to “Which Would You Choose?”

  1. netdud Says:

    It might be more accurate to say “It has to be a product or place or service that people REMARK on to their friends.”

    BAD can move exponentially just as well as GOOD–if not moreso.

  2. Derek K. Miller Says:

    The MythBusters managed to fold a piece of paper 11 times, but it had to be almost the size of a football field to start with:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_(season_5)#Seven_Folds


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