Why business is like... Pebbles in a pond

The history of marketeers seeking the advice of physicists is a short one, but an understanding of the Theory of Resonance may give communications experts the edge. Resonance Theory explains the curious phenomenon of how very small pebbles dropped into a pond can create bigger waves than a large brick. The brick makes a decent splash but its ripples peter out quickly. A tiny pebble dropped into the same pond, followed by another, then another, then another, all timed carefully, will create ripples that build into small waves.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As Dr Carlo Contaldi, a physicist at Imperial College London, explains, a small amount of energy committed at just the right intervals - the 'natural frequency' - creates a cumulatively large effect.

Media consultant Paul Bay believes that just as with the pebbles in a pond, a carefully choreographed and meticulously timed stream of communication (a monthly ad in MT, for example) will have a more lasting effect than a sporadic big splash during primetime ad breaks.

Innocent is testament to the power of pebbles. Until last year, the maker of smoothies had never advertised on TV, instead drip-feeding the market with endless ingenious marketing ploys - from annotating its drinks labels with quirky messages to hosting its own music festival, Fruitstock. The company sent a constant stream of messages rather than communicating through the occasional big and expensive noise.

So whether you're trying to make waves in the laboratory or in the media, the people in white coats would advise a little and often. A big budget is not the prerequisite of success. Intelligent planning and execution are.

Jenny Harris is Young Businesswoman of the Year and director of JRBH Strategy & Management, www.jrbh.co.uk

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