Tipping point

My first review with mixed feelings. It’s one of those books you hate to love. I was drawn to the book by one of the acclaims for the book about it being a good read for marketers, so I went in with expectations on how to tip my sales! I was initially unsure but I soon understood just how that was going to happen as I read through this knowledge- packed book. I enjoyed it – Tosan A.


Tipping point is a study on how contagion happens and the possibility of sudden change happening. Tipping point as a term is used to identify that one dramatic moment where things can change all at once in the chart of an epidemic. An epidemic is a sudden and rapid spread of ‘something’ within a short period, this could be a disease, fashion trend or even crime rates as the author would show. The whole aim is on how to be deliberate in creating and controlling positive epidemics.

Businessman Touching Domino Pieces Arranged in a Line
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis


The author used lots of stories on different types of epidemics to buttress his points, like the rise and fall of crime rate in New York, the contagion of Blue clues (a kids show), and the spike in fashion brand (hush puppies).  It was almost like reading a novel (@naijabookworm might just enjoy it), the stories were very interesting to read and quite knowledgeable. He also took cognisance of other people’s theories on the reason for tips in the epidemics before proffering his which made it even more compelling.

Like Martin Udogie’s how to read more however, the stories were a tad too much as I sometimes got lost in the stories and would have to remind myself what led to the stories in the first place.


What makes word-of-mouth spread very fast? What makes some rumors, ideas or trends tip and others don’t? Three things. The people involved, the message and the context of the message.

  • The people involved: There are three types of people that help spread the word about a situation (idea or trend); they are the Connectors; the Mavens and the Salesmen.

The Connector is comfortable knowing lots of people and bringing people together. They also know how to connect people with each other, they know who is who. We all know that friend who knows almost everyone with details and at no extra emotional effort on their part.

Mavens are specialists in providing new information or up-to-date information about people and things. They like to accumulate knowledge. Mavens are not just interested in gathering information but are also actively involved in sharing them as well as they are socially motivated. They control the word of mouth epidemics and can be the same person as the connector. In the market place, they are the price vigilantes who compare prices in various stores and makes sure sales really mean sales in stores.

Mavens are data banks. Connectors are the social glue while salesmen are the persuaders’

Salesmen have the charisma, the enthusiasm, and likability. Persuasion from salesmen are not only verbal but also other physical and little cues which can have bigger impact on the subject than verbal or other more obvious sales attitude.

These three classes of people are essential for spreading epidemics.

  • The message: The second major influence on epidemics are how ‘sticky’ or contagious the message being passed is. Using the children’ show Blue Clues, He explained how important stickiness is to tip an idea or in this case – a show. Blue clues introduced elements such as repetition and active involvement of the children watching the show. The message has to be practical and personal. Much of what we are told or watch, we simply don’t remember except we are actively involved.

 ‘What makes a salesperson outstanding is the number and quality of responses to objections commonly raised by potential clients’

  • The context of the message: This is everything else that is happening around that could either promote or stall the spread of the message. Contagiousness is also susceptible to the condition and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur. He likened this to the ‘Broken Windows’ theory by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. Broken windows is a metaphor for disorder in a community and they suggest that when little disorderly acts are ignored in a community, they can explode into more serious crimes because of the sense of anarchy and lack of order. An example is the story of a lady who was chased and stabbed 3 times by an assailant on a street, the stabbing was witnessed by 38 of her neighbors but none called the police (probably) because they knew that there was more than one person watching – the bystander problem whereas in another instance of one person watching, there is a higher chance that the police may have been called.



We all want to believe that the key to making an impact on someone lies with the quality of the ideas we present, but this is not always the case instead we have to actively involve the audience in the ideas we are presenting. 

There is a simple way to package information that under the right circumstances will make it irresistible, all we have to do is find it Malcom Gladwell

Tosan’s take: I was going to skip this review but the more I thought of the book the more I saw so many new things I had learnt from the book and many new concepts to explore ( The James Earl Jones Effect, Fatal Attribution Error (FAE) among others). I really enjoyed the power of the context of all the three points. It was a different reading experience for me but the difference was very welcome as I liked the author’s style of buttressing his theory with lots of stories. Like Martin Udogie reminds, there’s always a cookie to get out in every read, we just have to look harder in some.

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