BOOK REVIEW of ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell
This book addresses the phenomena of epidemics in behaviour. It’s premise is that there are certain types of people that start, broaden and continue certain trends in a particular way that is almost formulaic.
These are Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople – all of which play their part in translating and transmitting the mesage from the Innovators of the world.
Connectors: “These people who link us up with the world, who bridge Omaha and Sharon, who introduce us to our social circles – these people on whom we rely on more heavily than we realize – are Connectors, people with a very special gift of bringing people together.”
Mavens: “A Maven is a person who has information on a lot of different products or prices or places. This person likes to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests … they like to be helpers in the marketplace. They distribute coupons. They take you shopping. They go shopping for you … This is the person who connects people to the marketplace and has the inside scoop on the marketplace.”
Salespeople: “Mavens are data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are social glue: they spread it. But there is also a select group of people – Salespeople – with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing, and they are as critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics as the other two groups.”
Things I learned from this book include…
Stickyness – a product or service must be of such quality and usefulness that it lives up to the hype of the reporting of it by the Mavens and Connectors. It must create involvement (engagement) of the target audience.
The Sesame Street Lesson – Kids tune out when things get confusing, even things designed to be exciting (to adults) proved to be confusing to kids and they switched attention. Lesson: know your audience, understand how they want to consume your content and in what situations are they most open to receiving your message.
Which peronality trait are you aiming at? – Studies have shown that children will lie and cheat depending on the circumstances of a situation. Therefore personality traits are not set in stone. Don’t expect adults to be any different, if you’re trying to create an epidemic around your product or service understand the personality traits of your audience as they’re in the situation they come in to contact with your communication, or, news of it via the Mavens, Connectors and Salespeople.
Fundamental Attribution Error – We are more intelligent about human situations than abstract ones, which is maybe why human based stories capture our attention. Gladwell writes: “(FAE) …is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people’s behaviour, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation or context.” He concludes that there seems to be a mental sleight of hand that helps us reduce the complexity of decision making.
Unfortunately, this usually means our decisions only appear to be rational.
The Power of 150 – The human neocortex ratio of the brain = 150. This means the maximum number of genuine social relationships we can handle is approx. 150. Gore Co. (makers of Goretex) limit the number of employees working in it’s buildings to around 150 for this reason, they find that people function more efficiently, happily and innovatively in groups no larger than this. Mormons split their communities once they reach 150 into two groups of approx. 75. The military have found that units of soldiers operate optimally at 200 or below.
Lastly, Gladwell hypothesises that understanding tipping points when it comes to things like cigarette addiction could have significant impact. Trying to curb the initial usage of cigarettes by youngsters is pointless. No amount of persuasion over the decades has made much difference because of the rebellious nature of teenagers.
He suggests that curbing the stickyness (or addiction) is needed – IE: reduce the nicotine levels to make addiction less likely.
The concepts in this book require some deep thought and can be applied to all walks of life not just marketing. For instance his story of crime reduction on the New York subways simply by cleaning up graffiti is inspirational.
On a thought provoking basis I give this book 8 out of 10.