How to Use Malcolm Gladwell’s Theories for Content Marketing

How to Use Malcolm Gladwell’s Theories for Content Marketing

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Malcolm Gladwell is generally acknowledged as one of the foremost thinkers of our age.  He’s written about a variety of topics, from French Impressionists like Monet and Renoir to those who are well-known in technological fields, such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

He’s also had quite a bit to say about how the market works and how companies can benefit from examining its trends.  So it’s possible to take a lot of what he says and apply it to content marketing.  By understanding his theories you can figure out how the market works as well as how consumers think.


In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that people make up their minds about things, situations, and other people in the blink of an eye.  This idea has become a little bit controversial.  After all, isn’t it a good idea to take your time making up your mind about something?  You can’t just let your first reaction dictate what you do next.  You have to be rational and gather all the necessary data before you make a decision about anything.

However, Gladwell seems to be suggesting that people don’t actually follow this rational way of making decisions.  Their first impressions are usually the ones they go with.  For example, maybe you go out dress-shopping with a friend.  You go to a couple of stores and you don’t like anything.  Suddenly, at the third store, you see something and you just fall in love with it.  You have a gut reaction.  After doing this, you may look at a number of other dresses, but you’re always going to go back to that first one.  Even if other dresses seem to be more practical, cheaper, and more attractive, you know that there’s something about that first one.  It just speaks to you.  This is the phenomenon that Malcolm Gladwell is talking about.

The same thing also applies to websites. Sometimes, you’re browsing the web for a certain product. You might decide to do a cost-benefit analysis by going to a few different websites.  This is a smart idea.  But chances are you’re going to hit upon a website you really like, where the images and content speak to you.  If this happens, then you’re probably going to buy what you need from that website, even if the product itself doesn’t seem any better than other products on other websites.

If this is how the majority of consumers react, then it’s really important to make that good first impression by writing simply and concisely on your website.  Present your content is such a way that people will respond to it.  To do this, it’s a good idea to gauge your first reaction to your content.  You can also get a few different reactions, especially from people in the demographic you’re targeting, before you put the website up on the internet.  If your website and your content generate positive initial reactions, that means you’re doing something right.

The Tipping Point

In another book named The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell does a different type of market analysis which can be helpful when setting up a website.  In this book, Gladwell talks about products that seem to be declining in terms of popularity.  He uses the example of Hush Puppies.  These are a certain type of shoe that used to be very popular among middle-aged, conservative men.  However, as time went on, the popularity of Hush Puppies declined.  At one point, they had become so unpopular that the makers were planning to stop production completely.  However, just when it looked like Hush Puppies were going to be taken off the market, they suddenly started selling out.

What happened?  It turned out that, although the shoes were no longer popular among the original demographic, they had become popular with hipsters.  The production of Hush Puppies continued as before.

Now, the popularity of Hush Puppies occurred naturally.  Certain people in certain pockets of the population started wearing them just because they liked them.  And they influenced other people to do so as well.

According to Gladwell, three types of people can be responsible for the growing popularity of a product—connectors, mavens, and salesmen.  Connectors are people who know a lot of other people and they genuinely like to connect individuals with similar tastes together.  Or they might connect an individual with a certain taste with a product that suits them.  Mavens are people who know a lot of things.  They have a lot of information in their heads and people go to them to get an unbiased opinion.  Salesmen are charismatic people who use their charm to sell things.

Now, you can use all this information in content marketing.  First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just one group of people who might be interested in your product.  Sure, there may be a particular group that has always bought it.  But it’s also possible for a completely different group to want to use it.  So use the type of images and language that will appeal to more than one group.  If you feel that a certain group might respond to your product, you can write blog posts or post social media comments that will apply to that group.

Another great way to get the word out about your product is to work with connectors, mavens, and salesmen on the internet.  For example, if you’re selling makeup, try working with a well-known beauty blogger whom people turn to for reliable information.  Or you can work with a shop front that specializes in connecting producers with consumers.  Use charismatic salesmen to set up your websites, do your blogging, and manage your social media.

Much success,

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