The Tipping Point

5:29 pm PHT

I already finished reading this New York Times bestseller by author Malcolm Gladwell called The Tipping Point. It’s a very educational and informative book, a hodgepodge of psychology and sociology topics useful for marketing people. But even if you’re not a marketing person, I’m sure you’ll learn quite a bit from this often talked about book.

You’ve all probably heard the term “tipping point” if you’re an avid web surfer and possibly in reference to this book. Basically, the the tipping point refers to the point in time when a social epidemic (e.g., fashion trends) pick up steam and essentially break into the mainstream. In the book, Gladwell tries to deconstruct the three crucial ingredients that help tip social epidemics.

First in his ingredients are the very small number of people who spread these social epidemics—The Law of the Few. These people are classified into three types: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. The first and the last are quite obvious in what they do. The second needs some explaining. Mavens are the highly knowledgeable people that are experts in their niches and who spot the trends that the Connectors and the Salesmen then spread to other people.

Another ingredient is the epidemic’s Stickiness Factor. A social trend won’t “infect” a lot of people if it weren’t appealing or interesting or palatable to the people. The final ingredient is the Power of Context: social epidemics thrive in favorable environment.

So if you want a marketing gimmick to work, Gladwell says that you need to tell the right people, make the gimmick sticky, and make sure that the conditions are favorable.

The book is chock-full of really nice case studies and deconstructed social phenomena. Among the cases he presented were the dramatic decrease of New York City’s crime rate in the early 90s (making the city one of the safest cities given its population today), the rise of Hush Puppies sneakers in the mid 90s, the success of Sesame Street and its modern-day equivalent, Blue’s Clues, the rise of teenage suicide in the Federated States of Micronesia, the unsuccessful combat against teenage smoking, and the story of how the novel The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood became a national bestseller.

Compared with The World Is Flat, the previous national bestseller that I’ve read, The Tipping Point is just a little bit more informational and useful. However The World Is Flat is a better inspirational book because it celebrates the individual: in a highly connected world, individual people have greater power to influence and create knowledge and wealth. This point is struck home by the fact that Time Magazine named you (i.e., the bloggers, the YouTubers, the Wikipedians, the Diggers, the Flickrers, etc.) as the 2006 Person of the Year.

Ultimately, The Tipping Point is a marketing book. As an individual, you don’t have much resources to conduct the necessary studies to discern how your product or service or meme can go viral and infect a large section of your target audience. But I’ll admit that the book does teach a lot, and I would heartily recommend reading it. I’ve already encouraged my sister (who is a Psychology graduate) to read it, and she’s already liking it.  :)

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