Why do some ideas, behaviors or products start epidemics while others don’t? How do you curb a rampant epidemic, or start a positive campaign that spreads like wildfire? Malcolm Gladwell addresses some of these questions in his famous book, The Tipping Point. In this free version of The Tipping Point summary, we will give a synopsis of the 3 rules of epidemics to create your own tipping point.
The Tipping Point: The 3 Rules of Epidemics
According to Malcolm Gladwell, there are 3 rules of epidemics that determine whether something tips and spreads like wildfire. Whether you are a marketer, educator, social worker, or someone looking to make an impact, these 3 rules will determine how far your campaign succeeds (or fails).
1. Law Of The Few
A tiny percentage of people – Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen – are accountable for building huge initial momentum because of their special social gifts, and are single-handedly responsible for many trends around us today:
• Mavens (the Data Banks) always have the inside scoop, and can’t help accumualting and sharing knowledge.
• Connectors (the Social Glue) seem to know everyone, and naturally connect people across different worlds and communities.
• Salesmen (the Persuaders) are charismatic, persuasive, and effortly influence others’ buying decisions.
If you are starting a new campaign, don’t waste your resources. Focus your resources on these 3 groups of people
2. The Stickiness Factor
Were you or your children ever hooked on Sesame Street or Blue’s Clues? Ever had a jingle that that you couldn’t stop humming? These messages are powerful because they are “sticky” – you just can’t get them out of your heads. There are many techniques to make something stick, including the use of stories, audience participation and repetition. Success often hinges on small details (such as placements and sequencing) rather than major changes (such as a revamp of the content).
The tough part is to find the right stickiness factor for your specific target audience. If you are not achieving the desired effects in your campaign, take a step back. Test different formats and structures of your messages with your target audience to see which ones stick.
3. The Power of Context
Our characters and convictions are less important in determining our actual behaviours, compared with the influence of our immediate environment or “context”. Because our environments and social norms define what “acceptable behavior” means, they consequently shape our actual behaviours. Someone who is law-abiding and peace-loving in one environment may commit serious crimes in another.
According to the “Broken Window Theory,” broken windows in a neighborhood will lead to higher violent crime rates. Based on the Power of Context, to reduce the crime rate, we should fix the windows rather than arrest people for crime.
In the same vein, to shape people’s behaviours, you can change the context and manage their social groups (through small groups of less than 150 people to effectively leverage on social bonds).
Other Details in The Tipping Point
For more details and examples on the 3 rules above, do get our complete summary bundle including a one-page infographic summary in pdf, a 6-page text summary in pdf, and an 11-min audio summary in mp3.
The Tipping Point is packed with examples that illustrate the 3 rules at work across a wide range of industries, companies and circumstances. You can purchase the book here. Do also check our Made to Stick summary for more tips on how to create sticky messages, or read the Contagious summary for more insights for crafting messages that spread like wildfire!
About the Author of The Tipping Point
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference was written by Malcolm Gladwell–an English-born author who grew up in rural Ontario. He has been a staff writer with The New Yorker since 1996, and was a reporter at the Washington Post prior to that. Besides this book, he is also the author of several best-selling books, including Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success(2008) and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (2013).
The Tipping Point Quotes
“The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point.”
“There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it.”
“Human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem…an epidemic can be reversed, can be tipped, by tinkering with the smallest details of the immediate environment.”
“Merely by manipulating the size of a group, we can dramatically improve its receptivity to new ideas. By tinkering with the presentation of information, we can significantly improve its stickiness. Simply by finding and reaching those few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics.”