Never Herd of It


The phrase “Never heard of it” seems to be the default position of the 'herd'. It’s a phrase used to discredit just about anything unfamiliar that finds its way to the marketplace. The implication is that if it’s not popular, it must not be any good. The Never-Heard-Of-It mentality is all about waiting for something to become popular first, then we allow ourselves to enjoy it. It’s a perfect representation of the herd mentality.

The problem with this is approach is many great ideas get overlooked or fail in the marketplace because not enough people are willing to give them an honest look.

Yes, it could simply be a shortcut to try and avoid bad stuff, but I’ve found popularity to be among the worst ways to judge the quality of anything, and it’s an absolutely pointless test for something all-new that’s just entered the marketplace. I’m not saying popular things aren’t good, because they often are very good. But using popularity as a gauge of quality is a highly flawed approach. In many cases, we’ve simply fallen victim to clever marketing efforts. A well managed brand seems like it has popular appeal when it’s likely just a creative illusion constructed by advertisers to help position things in the public consciousness. When/If a test is needed, I’ve found a personal reference or recommendation from a single individual I trust is a far better test than the collective judgement of the herd.

I think the most likely source of Never-Heard-Of-It is that we’ve come to doubt our own ability to judge something honestly. We’ve put the approval of the herd over our own tastes. Everyone wants to feel like we fit in, and that’s always been one of the most powerful motivators. Maybe that’s it. 

But what’s on the other side of the Never-Heard-Of-It approach? Is it embarrassment or becoming an outcast? I doubt it. It’s guaranteed to help more than it hurts. Great leaders usually have the ability to see what others haven’t yet seen. They have a strong sense of discovery and can see potential when others can’t. Think about that key Hollywood producer that buys a script everyone else passed on, and it later becomes a blockbuster hit. They saw a quality there that no one else saw. They trusted their judgement about the quality of the writing or the ideas within. Everyone seems to have that one friend that finds the best new music long before anyone else. This approach is so rare and unusual, it almost seems like a superpower. It’s as if they’ve invented this new thing, because to us, they’re the source. 

Duke Ellington said, “If it sounds good, it is good.” Why can’t we use that mentality as our litmus test? All it requires is for us to embrace our own sense of discovery and to step away from the herd now and then. 

Learning to follow threads is one of the most practical ways of discovery. If you love a movie, find out who wrote it and who directed it and track down some of their other works. Find an interview of your favorite comic artist where they mention their biggest influences, then buy those books. Trust a close friend instead of a celebrity testimonial. Instead of using terms like, “guilty pleasure,” just own it. Boldly enjoy more of the things you love, and share those things with the world.