The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

A summary of Gladwell's bestseller that created a marketing cult.

The Tipping Point is an ambitious book that explores how ideas spread and why some messages are more contagious than others. Filled with scores of examples, Gladwell focuses on the inflexion point of where an idea translates into a mass epidemic.

The Tipping Point : How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Picture Credit: jgarber)

The Big Idea

Gladwell seeks to explain how ideas can be passed like viruses, how ideas reach a 'tipping point' when many people start adopting them and how this exponential growth of these ideas often takes us by surprise.

He starts by asking these two simple questions:

  1. Why some trends achieve exponential popularity while others fade into oblivion?
  2. What can we do to deliberately start and control positive trends of our own?

Tipping Point

Tipping Point is the name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once. Gladwell explains that epidemics happen when the right people encounter a potent idea under favourable circumstances.

Examples of Epidemics:

  1. Resurgence of the popularity of Hush Puppies
  2. Rise in teen suicide in Micronesia
  3. Syphilis epidemic of Baltimore

Gladwell argues that these epidemics are caused by three agents of change:

1. The Law of Few

When it comes to epidemics, the disproportionality of the 80/20 Principle becomes even more extreme. The 20% people consist of :

  1. Connectors (people who can mix across many groups. He uses Paul Revere as an example),
  2. Mavens (Most often motivated by the need to share knowledge and to help people — they are the early adopters of any industry), and
  3. Salesmen (Persuasive people with the ability to sell ideas, products, and behaviours easily. They find the best way to make an argument, regardless of what it is.)

2. The Stickiness Factor

The stickiness factor is the ability of certain things to capture our attention and stay in our mind compared to others. Examples of good sticky concepts are Sesame Street and Blues Clues.

3. The Power of Context

Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.


How to use the tipping point framework to increase your social media marketing efforts?

Step 1 — The Law of Few

  • Know your niche (demographics, psychographics, behaviours and geographics, etc).
  • Find out where and what are they spending time (blogs, Facebook, youtube, twitter, etc). Use it to market your product.
  • Are your customers generally connectors, mavens or sales people? (Are you empowering them to do their job better?)
  • Identify your influencers. Make them your customers. Find, thank and energize your influencers to create great word of mouth marketing.

Step 2 — The Stickiness Factor

Any idea, product or service can be made sticky by using these points:

  • Uniqueness (e.g. The Nest)
  • Aesthetics or perceived appeal (e.g. Apple)
  • Positive associations with pre-existing brands with great appeal (e.g. Happens with movies — think great actors)
  • Emotional engagement (e.g Story of Karen Klein)
  • Excellence or the last of a breed (e.g. vintage clothes and antiques)
  • Expressive value (e.g. diamonds)
  • Nostalgic value (e.g. Neverland Ranch, late MJ’s house)
  • Cost (e.g. Walmart)

Step 3 — The Power of Context

As a marketer, it’s better to target context before targetting customers. So, on top of promotion, marketers can use these elemets of influence to create context:

  1. Scarcity — showing that your product is limited in quantity
  2. Majority — showing that your product is popular
  3. Authority — show that your product is valued by the influencers to show that you have the authority
  4. Beauty — associate your product with good looking people as people assume good looking people make good choices
  5. Reciprocity —giving your customer value even before the purchase is made (Evernote and Fitrocracy have great business models based on this)
  6. Consistency —giving a great experience over and over again. It builds trust which in turn influence customers.

Tweet These Quotes

  • A book is a living and breathing document that grows richer with each new reading.
  • Emotion is contagious.
  • And once the advice became practical and personal, it became memorable.

Thanks for reading this far! If you got value out of this book digest, it would mean a lot to me for you to scroll down a bit farther and hit the recommend button.

SK lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is a coffee addict who happens to write about productivity, entrepreneurship and lifehacks at

Dconstrct By Sathyvelu Kunashegaran

Simplifying Entrepreneurship, Investments and Life.

    Sathyvelu Kunashegaran

    Written by

    I don’t know 99.9% of things out there, but the 0.1% that I do know — I am world class at it. And I intend to share it here.

    Dconstrct By Sathyvelu Kunashegaran

    Simplifying Entrepreneurship, Investments and Life.

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