A Refresher on Gladwell’s MasterpieceIt was a good reunion for me with Malcom Gladwell, one of my key influences in forming my way of thinking about marketing strategy. And the audiobook was a pleasant encounter with him, listening to his concepts and ideas. It has been years since I first discovered this book which had led me to reading some of his subsequent writings – The Outliers and David and Goliath included.
Yet, the concepts of The Tipping Point still brings fresh new connections and resonates so much of the realities in the world of marketing today. And I’ve always liked his style of writing where he reveals his main thesis in hiss first chapter, and then proceeds with the rest of the book, thru case stories and examples to reinforce his thesis with anecdotal evidence, expanding and enriching one’s understanding of these concepts.
And this audiobook seems to be an updated edition of the original work because there were references which I hardly remember from reading it in the past. Or maybe I had never really absorbed it as well on print as with listening to him reading it across 4 hours of a mental journey.
Concepts and Motivators of Influence:
My biggest takeaway the first time I read The Tipping Point was about the Law of the Few – the power of influence and the kind of influential roles critical to the spread of an idea. If one were to look at the strategies I have done for my clients and the organizations I have worked with, one will find personas describing Connectors, Mavens and/or Salesmenplaying critical roles in the targeting of the marketing strategies I have developed. While a lot of marketing nowadays recognize these key influencers in the success of brands and products, I still find that they tap the wrong motivators for these people. Monetary gain rarely is a sustainable route to tap into the power of influence.
Connectors, Mavens & Salesmen
As even Gladwell alludes to, there are intrinsic motivators that match these roles. Connectors find joy in linking people to others and to ideas. Mavens are obsessed with discovery and beam as they are recognized for their discoveries. Salesmen find pleasure in persuasion. Tapping into the power of these kinds of people requires interventions which play into these motivators to truly realize the power they wield.
I can be a mistake also to presume that an individual can only be one of these types. The power of context which Gladwell also discusses applies to how these roles emerge depending on context – the situation of the social exchange, and their specific relationship with those they influence.
An Appreciation of Network AnalysisIt was The Tipping Point and the rise of social media which sparked my interest to study in more depth social network analysis and its profound role in the spread of ideas. There is a Coursera course on Social Network Analysis which takes learners into the math of network effects. Several key models in the course are also mentioned by Gladwell such as the Small World problem, Six Degrees of Separation and the Diffusion Model– interesting models which explain how simple, basic rules govern the emergence of complex patterns of the spread of ideas across social networks. Although Gladwell does not delve into the complex mathematics involved, he does a pretty good job of bringing to life these patters we find in nature and in society.
Key Elements and First Principles of The Tipping PointGladwell’s idea of the contagion is a powerful concept which connects marketing to the natural mechanisms of the world as understood by science. To liken a marketing idea to agents of disease, infections and epidemics easily sparks analogies to understand marketing in terms of inoculation, infection and virality. I reckon old buzzwords like “viral marketing” stems from Gladwell’s best-selling book. The Tipping Point was in a way a contagion in itself when it was released to this world.
“Small changes can have big effects” is a mantra I have made my own when planning marketing strategies. One can have the biggest marketing budgets in his disposal, yet may not even make decent impact if not used well. Alternatively, the right small efforts, if done extremely well and with the right conditions can spark phenomenal results. This relates to the Pareto Principle which refers to the top 20% of efforts being responsible for 80% of the effects. Of course, the hardest thing in the world is finding these small opportunities which can make (or break) any intervention one makes.
The idea of the tipping point, for me, conveys a message of trust, hope and perseverance to anyone with the desire to bring about any kind of change in the world – whether it be towards a marketing goal or social good or anything in between. The hardest part of the climb is the beginning up until you reach the tipping point, the point of no return. It is not an easy thing to determine when and how a tipping point will happen, but when it does, an idea takes one a life of its own. Before it happens though, one needs enough trust in the stickiness factor of the contagion, hope that it reaches The Few that will trigger the small changes with big effects, and perseverance in successfully tapping into the power of context.