Laws of Success from Tipping Point

“Tipping point is that magic moment when an Idea, Trend or Social Behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like Wildfire”

Malcolm Gladwell (Author of Tipping Point)

Author uses the example of Hush Puppies of how the brand on the verge of extinction selling hardly 30,000 pairs annually became a viral success with more than a ten fold increase in sales in a years time.

Author frames the narrative to explain how viral success can be de-coded, uses the below concepts to explain how an idea “Tips”.

  • Law of the few
  • Stickiness factor
  • Power of Context

1.  Law of the few

To be successful, we need to have Influencers(A small proportion of individuals who have a disproportionate influence on the vast majority). Who exactly are these individuals?

Mavens who identify the initial trendWe can visualize them as the initial innovators.

Connectors pick the cues from Mavens and spread it far and wide.

Salesman – Unconvinced Yet?  the Salesman steps in close it out;

The critical insight here is that few people matter more than others,

Back in 1994, Hush Puppies was hardly selling 30,000 pairs of its footwear in the US, restricted to a few cities and mini retail stores, on the verge of winding down and in a years time sales tips to 430,000  pairs.

By its admission, Hush puppies team admits not having a role in the sudden change of fortunes, 

With no change in approach, what explains?

The brand’s footwear was spotted by a few fashion-conscious youths (read Mavens) in NewYorks Soho and East Village. These Fashion Mavens contributed to the spread of Hush Puppies in these neighborhoods, wearing sandals everywhere from parks to pubs creating a style statement.

The trend caught the attention of fashion-designers (read connectors) to complete their design collection. It acted as connectors broadcasting images of the shoes to the massive audience creating a viral story for Hush Puppies. Fashion-designers became both connectors and salesmen, helping Hush Puppies reach its Tipping Point.

It’s a classic case of a “Tipping point by accident,” with the Hush Puppies’ management playing no role in the trend.

The Royal Enfield Story

Until 2009, Royal Enfield, like Hush Puppies, struggled to sell barely 40,000 units through select dealer outlets. But in a couple of years, sales skyrocketed to touch the 500,000 mark. 

We see many similarities with Hush Puppies but with one key exception

It’s Tipping Point by design.

Siddharth Lal, a charismatic 26-year-old, took charge of the Enfield story. He hadthe personality and business acumen to leverage the Enfield brand of bikes.

He got the Enfield bike to every corner of India by creating a riding culture and sensation! 

He rode the company’s bikes himself (sometimes even cross-country), connected with other riders, and did countless other things to enhance the product and the brand’s image. 

In Sidharth Lal Royal Enfield found a

  • Mavern(Innovator) could innovate new products and ideas.
  • Connector established the linkage with the riding community.
  • Salesman Convince the uninitiated.

Resulting in Royal Enfield sold beyond traditional customers and even millennials started embracing the bike.  

 In the words of the outgoing CEO of Royal Enfield RL Ravichandran, “Siddhartha Lal is Royal Enfield’s biggest asset,”

It re-affirms the fact that few people have a disproportionate influence on the vast majority.  Law of Few is all about the disproportionate influence.

The key lesson here is that if you have a product idea or thought, identify influencers’ and amplify the reach.

2 Stickiness Factor

Mavens, Connectors, and Salesman alone will not guarantee an idea or product to tip. It needs “stickiness”, Stickiness is the ability of certain things to capture our attention and stay in our minds compared to others.

In Royal Enfield’s case, stickiness rested on the tag line “Made like a gun and goes like a bullet” 

The message conveyed everything, and it captured the imagination of a nation.

3 Power of Context

Trends are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the places and times in which they occur.  

In Hush Puppies, the trend emerged in Fashion-conscious New York it became viral. Had the same happened in an obscure corner of the world, it would have never taken off. 


Tipping point helps you connect to many scenarios, picked a few of the ideas, Enjoy reading Tipping Point and create your own viral story.

Picture of Murali Sunderraghavan

Murali Sunderraghavan

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