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Malcolm Gladwell has a way of surprising mewith little things in his books that I have read so far. In Tipping Point he celebrates the power ofone, or few people or little things in causing big change or social epidemics.He has very powerful insights especially in word of mouth marketing.  The book could very well have been called,steps in organising a social campaign. He speaks of 3 elements that can cause awave of change or information transfer; the people, the message and the context.

There are 3 types of people he goes intodetails to discuss; the connector, maven and salesmen.  These are usually people who can use thepower of social networks to spread a word. The connector knows a lot of people,lives in different worlds, has so many acquaintances at the expense of closerelationships. These are people who usually act as a connecting glue to manypeople, a bridge between different worlds. I had a friend, or rather an acquaintance once in high school who was aconnector. I was not close enough to the person as I wanted to be and sheseemed to very comfortable and genuine in the acquaintances. She knew a lot ofpeople  who were very different;Christians, non Christians, sports fans, hip hop masters and so on; andyet  she managed to manoeuvre across thedifferent worlds comfortably. Everyone seemed comfortable in her presencethough we the acquaintances were not always comfortable in each other’spresence. She was a connector and such people are great word of mouth marketingagents because they are loved and trusted by their peers. The maven is theknowledge bank, they have the inside scoop on many things and are very curiousabout things we may wonder what they need it for. However over time, theiropinion is trusted, their knowledge becomes power and these can break or makeyour campaign depending on which side they stand to you. We have the salesman,or people who are good at persuading us to buy what we do not want and make uslike things we probably think we do not like. Unfortunately I have met too manyhired salespeople that do not have this gift and end up irritating me as theytry to push their sale. As i was thinking of this kind of person i remembered astory a close friend of mine told me when he went out to look for a contractorto do their printing work. He went around to different companies who gave himdifferent quotations. Eventually he met one salesman who educated him about theprinting business, how they make their profits, how he can cut his costs and soforth. This man did not seem to be selling his business but rather exposing it,yet somehow my friend was drawn to this business and he has been recommendingit to many people. The salesman has a gift of selling without seeming to sell,honest about his dealings and can be trusted.

The message is also as important as the onewho carries it. Gladwell talks about the stickiness of a message as a veryimportant factor. Does the message you are trying to spread stick in the mindsof the people? How can you make it stick? I think our own politician JonathanMoyo is known to be very good at this factor with the television jingles on theland reform. The message is played often enough, the music simplified andblends into everyday rhythms until it sticks in people’s minds and they beginto sing it without meaning to or liking it. The challenge is how do you make your own message stick cheaply usingthe word of mouth medium. How do you make your business an experience thateveryone wants to be associated with.

The context is also very important and bycontext it can be very simple things like the graffiti on the subway walls thatpredisposed people to violence in New York. I found this very fascinatingespecially as we still face some of the problems he talks about such as littereverywhere. It’s interesting how things such as seeing litter down can givepermission for everyone else to begin to throw their litter down. Some of thedirtiest places also have the highest crime rates because like he says, theselittle things such as dirt can psychologically predispose people to engage inother bigger social crimes. Is it possible that instead of dispatching half thepolice force to Mbare Musika to curb crime, all we probably need is springcleaning the place? How about fighting traffic police corruption? The bookmakes you imagine some low cost possibilities and little innovations that couldmake a huge difference in our lives.


February 2, 2011 at 2:32 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Willie Chinyamurindi
Posts: 1

I really enjoyed this book as well - interesting how our attitude can change when we map ourselves against those 3 elements that cause change.  A must read for all. 

February 2, 2011 at 3:45 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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