The Tipping Point – the Summary and Review


The Tipping Point is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell defines a Tipping Point as “a point in any social situations, which starts a rapid change for that particular situation which is compared to epidemics.” The author used the example of about to go bankrupt Hush Puppies business becoming a global fashion trend and dramatic fall in crime rate in the New York City as the examples.

At a point of time, when Hush Puppies shoes were going out of fashion and virtually dying out of market, and on the brink of becoming a bankrupt company, some very influential, creative, and hip kids in downtown Manhattan, New York, started wearing those shoes and suddenly the Hush Puppies Shoes were back in the fashion trend and became a global fashion trend within a couple of years.

The author also used the sudden drop in crime rate in New York City. He states that the number of crime rate increased by three folds from 1965 to mid 1970s, maintained similar statistics for next two decades until it dropped to the lowest ever point in 1992.

The author states that the boom in Hush Puppies business and fall of crime rate in New York are text book examples of epidemics.

According to the author, social situations follow the three rules of epidemics which are;
1. The Law of the few
2. The Stickiness Factor
3. The Power of Context

The Law of the Few states that there are always people who will stand out of the crowd and help a social situation reach the tipping point. These people consist of three groups;
1. Mavens: These are the group of consumer expertise and innovators. These groups of people know a lot of details about anything compared to common people. These are the group of sharp witted people who pays attention to small details of everything that can help common people make important decisions.
2. Connectors: These are the group of people who are good at connecting with people and maintain good personal relationship with them. This sociable behavior/characteristic of them makes them important and influential in the society which helps spreading ideas and advocate new products in the society.
3. Salesman: These are the group of very persuasive people who can influence common people to take actions that will start social epidemics.

The author defines the Stickiness Factor as the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea. It basically means how well something compels people to take actions as certain elements in a message or a product have positive presence in the minds of the receiver. The author related two popular TV shows; Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues which revolutionized children television programs as an example. The producer of Sesame Street researched her idea extensively, consulting sociologist and scientists for the best way to pass on messages to children via television which indeed helped toddlers and preschoolers develop literacy. The Sesame Street has been widely praised for finding a way to make television sticky and instilled important ideas in the minds of children. In order for a message to reach out to all the people, the right person has to carry it and the message itself has to be sticky and simple for people to receive well and remember it.

The spread of an epidemic depends on whether the context is right. When the ideas and products are launched in the right place at the right time, it spreads fast and if it doesn’t fit in the right context, it doesn’t spread. For example, a wave of crime in New York City subway was halted simply by removing the graffiti from trains and clamping down on fare dodging. The context changed and so did the people.

Through the Tipping Point, the author tries to convey that in order to start a social epidemic, one must concentrate on deploying the three groups of people; Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen to start words-of-mouth epidemic. One must have able to convince people by introducing right ideas/products in a right context; by right people with right ideas/products at the right time in a right place as the environment determines the behavior of the people and moreover people are more influenced by their surroundings. The author also conveys that little things done in a right way can make a difference and can change the world.

Overall, this book was a great read and I would highly recommend it. Not only do you get insights into customer psychology, but you are also able to implement some of the ideas discussed and apply them to your business.

Reviewed by on November 4th, 2018