I recently finished reading ‘The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.
This is one of the best consumer psychology/business books I read in a while. Malcolm explores principles of viral marketing, backing up his findings with a great deal of research, interviews, and data. Even though this book is several years old, the ideas discussed are very relevant and can certainly be applied in any business situation, including today’s grim economic environment.
The Tipping Point focuses on three concepts, necessary to create a point where an idea gets a life of its own and spreads like wildfire. I would consider this the key principles of viral marketing, although Malcolm doesn’t refer to it that way. The following is a short summary and ideas behind The Tipping Point:
Law of the Few – Malcolm believes the following three groups of people are necessary to ‘tip’ an idea. Some of us may belong to one or more of these groups, but the most pronounced characteristics of each are easily spotted:
Connectors – These are people who seem to know everyone. They have many friends and acquaintances that transcend many different social groups (let’s say, golfers, insurance brokers, and auto enthusiasts, for example). They easily make friends and stay in touch with many of the people they meet.
Mavens – These are the experts. Generally on the leading edge. Some may place them in the Innovator section of the product adoption bell curve. These are the people who know things inside and out. They can tell you why a 2003 BMW 540 is better than a 2004 BMW 540 and explain it in such detail, you just have to believe them. They can tell you what the best area to buy a condo is, who to talk to and what to say to get the best deal.
Salesmen – Optimistic, passionate and energetic, salesmen are a group who is great at promoting. They are able to take an idea, trim the fat, amplify the right components and get you excited about it in no time! The emphasize long-term relationships and are generally trusted as advisers.
Stickiness Factor – To make an idea sticky, few things need to be in place. First of all, really get to know your target audience. One of the companies discussed in the book contacted a group of their ideal customers and made arrangements to spend time with them following their daily habits to truly understand them.
Further to research, a set of metrics should be in place that will allow you to track progress, determine effectiveness and measure strength of marketing campaigns. [personal note: Any consultant or agency worth their salt should help you create a set of metrics and understand what they mean. ]. You then use the results to make detailed, effective modifications in your campaign.
Power of Context – Did you know that people greatly alter their behavior depending on their immediate environment? In The Tipping point, Malcolm explores several experiments and events which range from reducing crime in New York, growth and management style at Gore-Tex and explosive popularity of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood amongst others. It boils down to making little changes in the environment to create big differences in the behavior. Cleaning up NY subway cars and keeping them clean, for example, lowered the crime rate substantially in the subway system. Adding graffiti and some loose garbage to a back alley increased the likelihood of larceny and vandalism by almost 30%. These are relatively small changes and substantially affected how people behave in those areas.
Overall, this was 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.