Have you ever read about the great literature by Malcolm entitled “The Tipping Point”? It’s a great book about making a big difference. Actually it’s not just plainly about making difference at all but rather, it’s a book about how little things could make a big difference. In economics, it’s like investing a small capital that would surely turn into a multi-million dollar business which is quite awesome. In the book, different rules and laws have been tackled including the three rules of epidemics. It is also widely known as the tipping points of epidemics. The book also discussed about different key concepts besides the rules of epidemics and several case studies were also included, perhaps to help the readers learn how to apply such simple yet very effective laws. Gladwell further describes in some of his examples how people could be unpredictable (Wolfe, 2000).
Malcolm was able to come up with a book that makes people learn how to be a connector (Lee, 2007). Being a connection does not only involve you being able to connect with the people around you. It should over abilities that could make someone be able to connect with the whole society and not just within a small, miniature network of people. Below are the best examples that I found in the book that describes how to form a great group dynamic and how to turn your ideas into sticky ones, meaning, of great value.
It aired so many realizations for me by the way and I hope the same goes for all other readers too. Gladwell further describes about a certain pattern or trend how a certain idea or product could tip into some sort of wide-scale popularity, which was later proved by his series of case studies and examples.
The Best Examples
Gladwell quoted the Airwalking Company in his case studies. He discussed about the history of the company and how its leaders came up with its name Airwalking. Who would have believed that Airwalking, a shoe company, came from the name of a skate maneuver (Gladwell, 2000)?
During the premiere of the first product of this company, all went well even though the design of their skater shoes looks weird for me. Soon enough, their first business product brought them millions of dollars as profit and they slowly developed into a state of low-level equilibrium with a small but loyal audience, that are most probably skaters. It’s like the Airwalking owners know that “If you want to bring a fundamental change in people's belief and behavior...you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured (Gladwell, 2000).” This should have influenced them in their next step.
The owners of the company decided that they wanted more. Instead of concentrating on giving what their small groups of audience want, they decided to make a leap of faith and hope they could get it in the international market. Fortunately, their being greedy turned Airwalking into the coolest brand among teenagers not only for skaters but for a wide variety of genres. According to Gladwell (2000), “That is the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.” Airwalking was able to make those small movements and that’s one of the things that made time rise to the top.
This is just one of his many examples how people a behavior of a particular group or population could be so unpredictable. Seriously, who would have imagined that a simple company with an operating profit of $13 million would make that value grow into hundreds of millions? It’s not so bad to speculate but according to Gladwell (2000), “the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” So what does that mean to you?
For me, it simply means that no matter how peculiar an item may be, just like in the case of Airwalking shoe designs, no one could really say if it would be a successful venture or not unless they try it. This world is full of uncertainties after all.
Sales of Hush Puppies
One of my most favorite quotes that I think influenced a whole significant number of populations to buy Hush puppies was quoted by Gladwell (2000) as “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Later I realized that it was absolutely true.
In this example, no one would clearly expect that there would be a craze for hush puppies that time. It was believed that individuals in general would rather go for a sophisticated form of advertisement than a normal one (Hasegawa et al. n.d.).
However, according to Gladwell, there is nothing that any company or a group of individuals could do about the people’s appetite, which in this example’s case, are hush puppies. All that they can afford to do is to latch on or to adapt to a certain trend as it evolves and turns into an epidemic. It is sometimes not all about advertising. It could also be about the product or any merchandise that is being advertised. It can also be the way how it is being advertised (the reason why Airwalking became so famous back then).
Gladwell taught us that about the fact that there are real trendsetters. However, it greatly concerns businessmen before what exactly this group of individuals is and what qualities can make an individual qualify himself as a trendsetter. By virtue and role, trendsetters can be anyone who popularizes a new trend. It could be a new fashion, music, toys, and gadgets. What’s fascinating about these guys is that they are uncommonly unaffected by the famous trends regardless the way these trends are being advertised (Hasegawa et al. n.d.).
It’s like these individuals have their own world and they will try their very best to influence others to join them. Perhaps their definition of popular is somewhere near the opposite of what we perceive being popular as. These individuals are present in almost all countries and they are influencing the trends of almost all industries too. Name it, from music to fashion industry, they carry their own styles all over the place.
However, it’s not right to say that they are bad people. It’s just that they have their own style and I think there is nothing wrong with that. One way or another, even though they may look weird, they are still promoting one man’s business. They are actually helping smaller and less popular businesses grow. Fortunately, I have a message for these less popular businesses from Malcolm; “There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them” (Gladwell, 2000). What they wear and what they use must have been manufactured by a certain firm. They are just consumers like us and that clearly means they are not different.
Sesame Street and Blues Clues
In the part of the book where he uses Sesame Street and Blues Clues as an example, Gladwell was talking about the term “stickiness factor”. Stickiness factor is another crucial factor that contributes greatly whether a current trend will evolve into something bigger or perhaps just die. For him, as long as the concept of a trend or anything unique about a particular trend sticks to the minds of people, there is a possibility that it will develop into something bigger. Thoughts about the trend brought about by these stickiness factors will start to influence an individual’s current and future behaviors; until such time that it will turn into some kind of epidemic and boom! It has now evolved into a new popular trend.
His book pointed out that stickiness factors contain certain qualities and I actually didn’t get it at first but I realized that I have to set aside what I believed in at once so that new information and wisdom could go though. Fortunately, I was able to understand how Sesame Street and Blues clues because an ever famous television program for kids which many people believed would not have happened.
Way back, it was unusual for toddlers and kids to watch TV. Also during that time, the rate of literacy across the Americas and some countries in Europe were not as high as it is today. So, parents would rather let their children watch TV and learn something from it than to learn nothing at all. However, what good learning could children possibly extract from TV shows at a time when technology was so low compared today?
Surprisingly, the Sesame Street shows my PBS countered that perception. Conventional wisdom states that something could not be done under a certain condition (can range from a lot of reasons especially for someone who is pessimistic). However, Gladwell stated that stickiness factors are almost always counterintuitive. Meaning, it could operate and occur even if what it conveys is contrary to the common beliefs of the public. This soon became truth when the Sesame Street shows became an extremely popular program.
The reason why such shows became so moving is simply because of the stickiness factor that it has. It could also be because “emotion is contagious” (Gladwell, 2000) and those parents wanted their children to laugh and learn at the same time. Parents wanted so much for their sons and daughters to learn and they realized that making them watch such shows could be an optimum option for their goals. This trashed the common assumptions and beliefs of many about the concepts and behaviors involved in watching television and the corresponding cognitive abilities that could be developed along the process.
After quite a few years, Blue’s Clues emerged, using an almost exact copy of the process used by Sesame Street. However, it has to unique in its own way so that the public would not brand it as another copycat. Months or years after these said events, studies have followed stating combined facts about the effects of letting children watch Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues TV shows in their logic, cognitive and reasoning skills. As a result, majority decided to conclude that children watching such shows could indeed develop higher improvements in their logic and reasoning abilities.
Lee. (2007). Quotes from the Tipping Point. Lee’s Blog. Accessed October 2011. Retrieved from
Gladwell, M. (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things can Make a Big Difference.Little,
Brown & Company: Boston, New York & London.
Wolfe, A. (2000). The Next Big Thing. New York Times. Accessed October 2011. Retrieved
Hasegawa, M., Pascual, E., Tarmaddon, S. & Oroza, C. (n.d.). Trendsetting Consumers. History
Of Information. Accessed October 2011. Retrieved from http://blogs.ischool.berkeley.edu/i103su09/structure-projects-assignments/research-project/projects-and-presentations/how-has-the-influence-of-trendsetting-consumer’s-change-during-three-different-eras/.