Back in the spring I posted B2C – build in virality or bust, positing that the only way a B2C company can succeed is to build virality into its products, as the cost of customer acquisition in the consumer market is so high ($150 or more per customer) compared to the lifetime value of a customer that without viral, e.g. zero-cost marketing, a B2C company can never become profitable.
Well it’s time to promote another classic business book, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. While this book was published 14 years ago, back in 2002, it’s must reading today for consumer marketeers.
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life, is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.
Applying key concepts from Gladwell’s book, such as the roles the personality types of connectors, mavens, and salesmen play in making something go viral, can provide you with an indispensable edge in a B2C market.
For extra credit read the Q & A with Malcolm Gladwell on his web site. And for even more reading, use the search terms “tipping point” on Gladwell’s site and you’ll find a host of articles from explaining the successes of Sesame Street to the iPod.