When Uncool Becomes Cool Then Uncool Again

I finished another book from the 100 Best Business Book Challenge.

Yesterday, I finished The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I promised myself, after reading Outliers and What The Dog Saw, that I would take a very long and extended Malcolm Gladwell break. Then this book came up and I had the opportunity to knock it out.

I’ve decided that my reviews should be short and to the point, since I’m already five years late to the Tipping Point party. So here’s a quick understanding of the Tipping Point.

I call this review “When Uncool Becomes Cool Then Uncool Again” Or maybe it should be – “When cool becomes uncool then cool and back to uncool” I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

Malcom wants to give us the “WHY”  reason things became insanely popular, or why suddenly crime in New York City, that was increasing dramatically every year for over 20 years, suddenly just dropped.

The bad people in New York didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start behaving themselves.

Remember when Crocs were kinda cool, or maybe they weren’t really at all. I had a pair and still do. Then they hit the tipping point and suddenly everyone owned some.

Not cool anymore. When George starts wearing them, we’ve tipped.

Malcom says that ideas, products, marketing campaigns, etc. spread just like the flu. He calls it a social epidemic when something takes off and hits the tipping point.

I sneeze on you. You sneeze on twenty people. They sneeze on 100 people. Those 100 people sneeze on 5000. They sneeze on 50,000 and then we’re all sick, laying in bed and ticked off.

Malcolm states three rules of a social epidemics.

The Law of the Few – These are the people who spread the disease. There are certain types of people who can spread diseases but not everyone can. In fact, Gladwell says epidemics start because there are three certain types of people.

See if you can figure out who these people are within your group of friends…..

1. Connectors – Your overly social friend who knows everyone. Everyone has that one friend that seems to be able to bring everyone together on Friday night for a great time. He or she is the connector type of personality. If he started wearing Crocs, you started to consider it…But you wouldn’t have before.

He’s the friend who, somehow or another, also knows everyone at the bar. He’s your friend with 1200 friends on Facebook.

2. Mavens – This is your friend who knows everything. He has knowledge on every subject and is willing to share it whether you need it or not. Want the best price on a pizza? The best place to order shoes online or find the cheapest shipping, this is your maven.

The thing about Mavens is, even if you don’t ask for this information, he is going to share it.

3. Salesman – The friend who makes you jump. The persuader. The peer pressure friend….. He/She has the ability and personality to convince you to wear those giant rubber clogs and, therefore, you do.

The Stickiness Factor

Great marketers have figured out how to make messages stick.
It’s all about finding the sticky element. When Sesame Street was first starting, all the professionals told the creators that they had to separate fact from fiction. Big Bird couldn’t be seen having conversations with real humans because this would be too confusing for most children.

When they tested the format, it flopped. They decided to go against all the professionals and mix the elements that became Sesame Street.

I don’t think we’re too messed up because of it, do you?

The Power of Context

The Power of Context is really interesting. This law states that we’re heavily influenced by our environment.

Crime dropped dramatically in New York when they simply started cleaning stuff up.

OK…. I’ve had enough.

I’m cutting this post short because, quite frankly, I’m five years late and there are 10 billion reviews of this book online already. Read it if you want 🙂

Final Takeaways

It was a decent read. I’m not sure I totally agree with everything Malcom is saying, but it will certainly make me think about things just a bit differently.

When looking to spread your message, look for the three types of people I listed above. Don’t waste your time on anyone else. These are your disease infectors.

Change is possible. Your message just might not be sticky enough though. Look for subtle ways to make it stick. This might require meticulous testing and going against what the professionals say. Test, Test, Test.!

Surroundings Matter. Check out the Broken Window Theory.

Sometimes the things we think are very unexplainable are actually quite easily explained. We could just be assuming the wrong explanation.

And don’t forget, cool becomes uncool, but can always become cool again. It just needs to tip.

An example of something this is building momentum and moving toward the tipping point: Vibram Five Fingers!