The Tipping Point is an informative read by Malcolm Gladwell where he seeks to unpack, understand and explain how ‘epidemics’ take off. Here, he really highlights how the smallest changes can make the greatest impact as he studies epidemics like ‘Sesame Street’, ‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’, the start of the American Civil War, the success of the Airwalk sneakers, and other examples that help put into perspective the seemingly random success of both positive and negative epidemics.
As a marketing enthusiast, you can imagine this read was a gem for me, so much so that I had to read it twice, making notes along the way. Though published 15 years ago, there are still some relevant gems that I thought I would share with you.
There are 3 Rules concerning Epidemics:
Law of the Few
The Power of Context
The Law of the Few
A few influencers are the ones who are responsible for and ignite the spread of an ‘epidemic’. These few can be categorised as follows:
1) Connectors – they are responsible for bringing together different worlds. They are able to translate a high-level concept or idea into a format that a broader audience can understand. Here, Malcolm Gladwell reiterates the six degrees of separation concept. What fascinated me, in addition to this, is the ‘the strength of weak ties’ especially in the context of, for example, employment. Sometimes the greatest opportunities arise from seemingly weak ties.
2) Mavens – these are knowledge accumulators. They aren’t just obsessed with information collection but also want to share it with others for their benefit.
3) Salesmen – these are powerful influencers. They can affect the emotions of others and are charismatic individuals.
The distinguishing factor between the three kinds of influencers is; “Mavens are data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are social glue – they spread it… Salesmen (have) the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced.” (pg 70)
The Stickiness Factor
The ‘stickiness factor’ refers to memorable messaging and is:
– What makes a product/service/experience memorable to consumers
– About creating a message and interaction between consumer and product that makes it memorable. It makes consumers feel a part of the journey.
– Viewers aren’t just an audience, but become participants
Power of Context
Messaging cannot be received in isolation. In addition to the law of the few and the stickiness factor, an important consideration in communicating a product/service is the context. “Human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem.”
– Our context and surrounds play an important role in how messages are received
– The ‘Broken Windows’ theory is an example used to describe this with regards to crime
– The power of context also highlights, to me, the importance of image & its impact on how messages are recieved
The author provided some incredible insights that I found valuable. There are a lot of questions one could have seeing that his book is based on a lot of theories, but one cannot fault him as he does factually back his claims. Perhaps not a conclusive read on all aspects to do with epidemics, but in the age of the influencer, he does help to put into perspective a lot of elements that are relevant today. I admire his attention to detail and the immense amount of research that went into this short but relevant read.
Do you have any thoughts?