The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell
Contributed by Sherie Debus
Chapter 3

The chapter begins by talking about Sesame Street, a TV show produced by Joan Cooney to encourage reading among American children. The 1960’s show came to be after extensive research on the best possible ways of passing information to children. Gladwell uses the phrases ‘agents of infection’ and ‘virus’ to refer to television and literacy respectively. Gladwell uses the television program as an example of how producers make their ideas stick in the minds of the target population. He calls this the stickiness factor. Even though television is one of the best mediums to reach out to a vast number of viewers easily, using it as an educational platform would be a challenge, and, therefore, appropriate measures had to be put in place to make it possible.

Despite the challenges, Cooney, alongside other counterparts, gave it a shot and borrowed various techniques from the commercial industry such as the aspect of live animation. Moreover, the show invited celebrities to the show, and within a short period, Sesame Street started seeing success as it engaged children in activities that enhanced their reading and learning skills. Gladwell strongly believes that for a message or an idea to stick and be remembered, appropriate strategies must be utilized. Sesame Street paid close attention to the kind of information needed by children, and that is why it attained the tipping point. Gladwell notes that bigger innovations aren’t always needed to spread an idea. Sometimes, there are cheaper and subtler ways of ensuring that an idea is remembered.


In this chapter, Gladwell tries to answer the question of what makes an idea stick and be remembered. The primary idea exemplified in this chapter revolves around the role played by small changes in enhancing an idea to reach the tipping point. By providing various examples of advertisements, Gladwell tries to explain why some behaviors, products, messages, or ideas become trendy more than others. Once again, the chapter emphasizes the essence of a tipping point in the swift transmission of ideas. But in this case, Gladwell particularly asserts that it’s not always that trends become famous and successful as a result of major innovations, but rather, a trend can become impactful due to small changes made to the content, the environment, or the people responsible for spreading the idea. Gladwell, therefore concludes that the tipping point is primarily influenced by small changes that, ultimately have enormous impacts.

From a close analysis of the chapter, it can be concluded that there are three primary ways of analyzing trends and how they enhance an idea to reach the tipping point. One, products and ideas can become popular when a specific group of people becomes aware of them and hence share the news. However, Gladwell insists that this can only be successfully carried out by a special kind of people. Secondly, Gladwell asserts that sometimes ideas are made popular because the ideas themselves are catchy, memorable, or enjoyable. Finally, products or ideas are made popular through the environment in which the idea is born. Small changes in the environment can significantly alter people’s behaviors.

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