What makes Choi Sung Bong influential?

Hello again, it’s been a while!

This morning on Breakfast on One, Marie introduced NZ to this viral video that’s been capturing hearts around the world.


Already being hailed as “Korea’s Susan Boyle”, Choi Sung Bong is a 22-year-old with an amazing story. Abandoned at age 3 at an orphanage, he escaped into homelessness at age 5, and spent the next 10 years surviving by selling gum and energy drinks.

This is a real tearjerker, even before the music begins. The video (just one version, there are several others) has attracted over 5 million views in just a week since it was uploaded. And the Facebook page set up for Sung-Bong has gathered over 30,000 likers already.


Every minute, 48 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube. Why do some videos get 5 million views, while others don’t?

It comes back to a larger question: why do some ideas take off, and others don’t?

It’s a question that a team of filmmakers took on in creating The Influencers, a 13-minute documentary that asks some of the world’s movers and shakers what it is that makes someone influential.

The filmmakers say they’re trying to find out “what makes a person influential without taking a statistical or metric approach.” However, they do refer to the classic adoption curve referenced in books like The Tipping Point and Crossing the Chasm. They even made a fantastically funky graphic about it (click to enlarge):

The Product Adoption Curve

What’s not often told is that the adoption curve comes out of research into 1950s farmers adopting new kinds of seed.

While it has been a useful way to look at influence, it’s not the only way. Researcher Duncan Watts did some research into influence, and concluded (somewhat controversially) that what mattered most was not so much the influencer, but instead, the influenced.

More on this in Simon’s NZ Marketing Magazine column in the July-August issue. Stay tuned!

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