Monday, July 18, 2011

The Tipping Point - Marketing Implications

I saw The Tipping Point in the number 2 spot in a list of marketing books most recommended by marketing professionals. Malcolm Galdwell says he never intended the book to be a marketing book. Not a book of some purpose, to be precise. However, it is regarded as a marketing book, even a great one. Come to think about it, the book starts with the now-famous anecdote of Hush-Puppies epidemic in New York City. It is so natural that people tend to think of the book in the context of marketing strategies. Anyone would be happy to receive a trophy for "the best design of the year" for doing nothing.

So, I will briefly talk about the three factors Malcolm elaborates in his book, which make products/ideas go over the tipping point. Then I will talk about the implications this factors have in terms of marketing strategies. (Believe me. I already did comprehensive consulting services to two companies, including marketing strategy development.)

Malcolm says three factors are crucial in making a product/idea tip:
1.       The Law of the Few
2.      The Stickiness Factor
3.      The Power of Context

The law of the few states that it requires some special people to make something tip. Connectors are the people with hyper people skills. They attract people. Mavens are information specialists. They have passion for certain product categories, and are eager to share their knowledge with other people. Salespeople use their persuasive power to nudge people into buying decisions.

The stickiness factor is a certain feature of a product that requires endless interaction from the consumers. Malcolm gives an example of the famous children’s show, Blue’s Clues, as having this stickiness factor in abundance.

Malcolm also emphasized the power of the context where the product/idea is positioned. Violent crimes could spread when the New York subway was infested with graffiti and free riders, but no longer when the context changed.

Then what are the implications these three factors have on marketing strategies?

First of all, the law of the few is actually about the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule. Of course, we all want to focus on those 20 percents, if we can. What Malcolm did was identifying the people in the 20% category – they are connectors, mavens, and salespeople. Connectors can be easily spotted in social network service websites, such as Facebook and Twitter. If you reach one twitterian with 1,500 followers, you are actually reaching way over 1,500 people, considering all the weak ties connecting those people. Mavens are naturally drawn to having their own blogs. You can easily connect with them via their blogs.

Then what about the stickiness factor? Malcolm says the stickiness factor is certain memorable contents of the product/idea, which leaves a long-term impact on the consumer. But I believe the stickiness factor can be found in other parts of the product/idea, even outside the product/idea. For example, Apple’s design, I believe, is a surefire stickiness factor. A more comprehensive approach will be more effective in identifying and strengthening the stickiness factor.

Finally, the context. When you think of context in terms of marketing, I suggest you do it in two dimensions – statically and dynamically. Social, economic, political, and technological context is very important in relation with the positioning of a certain product. You cannot sell Nazi outfits in Germany however fashionable they are. But the dynamics of the context – we call this a trend – is even more important. So, when you plan to position your product in the market, be sure to throw it in the position where the future trend will find itself.

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