What Makes Ideas, Products, Trends Tip and Spread Like Wildfire?

What makes ideas, products, trends tip and spread like wildfire? Malcom Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point’ analyzed this and concluded that small changes in the way the message was delivered made a big difference. Besides, he answered two questions:

  • Why is it that some ideas and products spread like wildfire and some don’t?
  • What can we do to deliberately start and control a positive wildfire of our own? 

The analysis was supported with a startling depth of research in the fields of psychology and science. You’ll learn some interesting insights besides the central theme of the book.

For instance, to figure out if the two amazing segments of Seasame Street taught the fundamentals of reading to children, he drew upon research from psychologist Barbara Flagg and explained the concept of the perceptual span. The human eye can focus on only a very small area at one time. This means that if you can track where someone’s fovea is moving and what they are fixating on, you can tell what they are looking at and what information they are receiving.  That’s one interesting insight, don’t you think?

Each factor responsible for the wildfire had subsequent case studies to back it up. Finally, the entire book was supported by one central analogy – epidemic. He argued that the best way to understand such drastic change is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas, products, and behaviors spread like viruses

It’s compelling, thought-provoking, and surprising enough to keep you hooked. Likewise, it’s professionally written, well organized, and explained.

I liked the part where he not only explained the roles of connectors, maven, and salesman for starting the word-of-mouth epidemic but also explained about the three characters, their personality, subtle difference, and how they are responsible in detail. 

There was no specific reason as to why I read this book. I decided to read all of Malcolm’s books ever since I read David and Goliath. I was highly impressed with it and this book didn’t disappoint either. The narrative style has almost been the same – starting with stories/examples and ending them with how and why. It was followed by research and analysis to answer the how and why.

It took a deep dive into the practicality of the idea when the case studies were shared. You might be confused because I had mentioned case studies before, so how is this different? The previous real-life examples, which looked like a case study served only that specific factor he was explaining whereas these are all the factors together. Airwalk – athletic shoe company, Micronesia suicides, and fighting teenage smoking are some of the case studies.

The Tipping Point was a wonderful and intriguing page-turner with parts that blew my mind. Malcolm has done an amazing job in proving his argument as well as given marketers, business people, educators, policymakers a  strong reason as to why some ideas and products start epidemics and some don’t and a  practical idea that they could use to deliberately start and control positive epidemics of their own.

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