The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

As an effort to improve my marketing skills, someone suggested that I read "The Tipping Point", by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a great book and I highly suggest it if you are trying to get your product to become the next big thing. below are my notes that I took while reading the book that I figured might be of use to others out there trying to improve their marketing skills.

Questions: This book made me think of the following two questions, and thankfully gives good answers to them too.

1. What do you do when people are overwhelmed with information and have are immune to traditional forms of communication?

2. How can you get your message to become an epidemic, or to put it another way, to become the next hot new trend?


Answers: The quick answers to these questions are:

1. They get their advice and information from people they respect, admire, and trust.

2. You make your message “tip”, by using the right people, the right message, and doing so in the right environment.


Explanations: The longer, more interesting explanation:

These are ways of making sense of epidemics and give us direction for how to go about reaching a tipping point. The following three ideas, when combined, can make your message “tip”.

Law of the Few: Those exceptional people who find out about a trend and spread it through social connections, energy, enthusiasm, and personality. By finding and reaching these few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics. They spread word-of-mouth epidemics and your resources ought to be solely concentrated on these three types of people:

§ Connectors: People with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They seem to know everyone, or can at least put you in contact with someone new, interesting, or important. Think of them as “charismatic empathetic messengers”.

§ Mavens: People who have information on a lot of different products, prices, or places. They like to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests. They are socially motivated. How to find a maven for your product? Example: The only people who call the 1-800 number for a bar of soap are the mavens, because they are passionate about soap. Think of them as “informed educators”.

§ Sales People: People with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing. Think of them as “strategic entrepreneurs”.


Stickiness Factor: There are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable. That is, to make it “sticky” so people can easily remember it.

§ Make small, but critical adjustments in the presentation of ideas compared to what has been done in the past or to what others are doing. Enough to make it different and memorable.

§ Make the message something that can be easily passed on – easily remembered.

§ Use a simple way to package information that makes it irresistible.

§ By tinkering with the presentation of information, we can improve its stickiness.

§ However, contagiousness is a function of the messenger and stickiness is a property of the message.


Power of Context: Human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment we usually think. (OK, I have problems associating the “power of context” ideas into a marketing message, but just to be thorough, here are the points that stood out to me from the book)

§ An epidemic can be tipped by tinkering with the smallest details of the immediate environment.

§ There is something in all of us that makes us instinctively want to explain the world around us in terms of people’s essential (and obvious) attributes.

§ 150 seems to be the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship

§ By manipulating the size of a group, we can dramatically improve its receptivity to new ideas.


Additional thoughts:

§ Starting epidemics requires concentrating resources on a few key areas.

§ Those who succeed at creating social epidemics do not just do what they think is right, they deliberately test their intuitions.

§ You might have to change the context of your message, change the messenger, and change the message itself.

§ We are powerfully influenced by our surroundings, our immediate context, and the personalities of those around us.


The above information is about the message and the people spreading the message. But how does a contagious idea, product, message, or innovation move through the population? It moves in stages through 5 different types of people:

  1. Innovators: These people are adventurous and are visionaries. They want revolutionary change and something that sets them apart from their competitors (or just those around them). Their goal is to make a quantum leap forward.
  2. Early Adopters: These people are similar to the Innovators, but with less of an adventurous streak. They see what the innovators are doing, and follow suit. But, they are the respected opinion leaders in their community who watch and analyze before making a move.
  3. Early Majority: These people worry about any change fitting into their complex life or business model. Their goal is to make a percentage improvement with predictable progress.
  4. Late Majority: These people are deliberate and are skeptical who would never try anything until the people they most respect have already tried it.
  5. Laggards: These people are very traditional and see no urgent reason to change.