Murmuration and “The Trust Horizon”

Posted by on Jan 27, 2012 in CHI Contemplation
Tags: public relations, integrated marketing communications

Learned a new word this week. Murmuration. It’s a flock of starlings, and also a description of the flock’s mysterious, synchronized movement, as documented in this amazing video: http://vimeo.com/31158841.

I actually encountered the word, “murmuration,” on the blog of famed dystopian writer and culture critic, Jim Kunstler. He noted that investment guru, James Dines, has begun applying the term to certain, mass human behavior.

Dines describes as "murmuration" the way rapid, seemingly coordinated, yet inexplicable changes occur in the realm of human activities. Dines suggests that the upheavals of the past year – such as the so-called Arab Spring and the ongoing Occupy movement in the U.S. – represent examples of human "murmuration" that will lead to even greater changes in geopolitical and economic life.

Kunstler interestingly contrasts Dines’ musings on murmuration with the concept of “the trust horizon” introduced by environmental and financial writer (and co-editor of The Automatic Earth website), Nicole Foss.

The trust horizon metaphorically represents the edge of legitimacy, authority and authenticity. Foss posits a correlation between an entity’s size and people’s willingness to accept that entity’s legitimacy. She suggests people stop trusting institutions that become too large, and instead vest their interests in smaller, more local organizations. Foss believes the trust horizon extends logically only to encompass the people, businesses, institutions and authorities immediately around you - the banker who will meet with you face-to-face, the mayor of your small town, the local food-growers. Meanwhile, the entities beyond the trust horizon lose influence and impact.

These two notions – murmuration and the trust horizon – present two very different views of the world and represent a challenge to brand marketers.  How will you respond to the next unpredictable shift in mass-market psychology, and how will your response encourage and strengthen your customers’ trust in your brand within the confines of an increasingly local “trust horizon”?


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