The Tipping Point

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“The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell
(First publication: 2000 / This edition: Back Bay Books 2001)
Taken during a matcha latte and dessert break with Mom at Jones the Grocer

In the end, Tipping Points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action. Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped. (pg.259)

I got this book a few months ago because it was recommended in “The Art of Client Service” by Robert Solomon. I just actually started reading it a few days ago and devoured it whenever I had free time—it’s one of those books where I find myself asking “Where have you been all my life?”

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little. It’s not that life-changing and I think it wouldn’t suit everyone—I just found it extremely interesting and I wanted to memorize all the information I read. I wanted to do something to trigger and cause that “tipping point”—it would be a like a life accomplishment (haha) to cause such a ripple effect on the world.

I majored in Media and Communications, with a focus on marketing and advertising. And now, I work in an advertising agency. So I guess instead of asking “Where have you been all my life?”, the more appropriate question I should be asking is probably: “Why hadn’t I read this agesssss ago?” I mean, it was written back in 15 years ago and it seems to always have a permanent spot on the “business”-related shelves in the Kinokuniya bookstore I always go to, lined up with the other books by Malcolm Gladwell. The book talks about different cases showing the “tipping point”, which is:

“[The Tipping Point is] that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

At first I assumed it would be about different advertising cases. However, each chapter explored such vast examples of situations, from the sudden drop in the crime rate in New York in the 90’s to the increase in suicide rates in Micronesia to the success of Sesame Street. There will always be trends—anywhere you look, whatever society and culture you’re in, wherever you live—but I guess sometimes you don’t really think too much about it, other than just than acknowledging that “it’s a trend”. But when you look back and try to figure out what the “trigger” was and what the “tipping point” was, it can be very eye-opening and expose you to understand more about the people and the society. It has a lot to do with psychology and sociology…and just human-ness.

Oh-so interesting, I wish the book was quadruple the size.

A case that I found was interesting was how the Hush Puppies shoes became surprising popular back in the 90’s. From being not popular at all and almost going bankrupt, the sales suddenly surged and everyone was rushing to get their hands on a pair. It all started with some hipster kids in downtown New York that “suddenly” decided to wear them, and it then “crossed a threshold, tipped, and spread like wildfire.”

Now this was in the 90’s. I was too young to notice and even know what “Hush Puppies” were back then. I found this case interesting because as I was reading, my mind instantly related it to the “Birkenstock boom” that happened last year and this year. They are a 240-year-old German footwear  brand. I used to think of them as “grandpa sandals”. The chief executive of the brand even said that “The company’s marketing budget is “close to nothing,”. I remember when I went on Pinterest last year, pretty much all the “outfit of the day”-esque posts featured Birks. Fashion brands from Givenchy to Forever21 made their own versions of Birks. My mom went to see me when I was living in Tokyo and I had to search for the Birkenstock flagship store for her. (True story.) I look forward to reading a case study about the “tipping point” of the Birkenstock.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone (who doesn’t mind reading non-fiction). I’d recommend it to those that are working with advertising, marketing, trends, social media… any profession, really. If you’re dealing with people, this book can help you be more understanding and observant about the (working) culture you’re in and the people you’re with. It’s not all about advertising (as I had assumed)—most of it isn’t, actually. You don’t have to have any “prior knowledge” on this (or similar) field—as I feel with a lot of non-fiction business books—because it’s about cases, so there are background stories and explanations and all. It’s an entertaining, informative read, and it kept me absorbed throughout.

Get itttt.

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