On this post, I will discuss the first two chapters of The Tipping Point by Gladwell and the third chapter of Lateral Marketing by Kotler and Trias de Bes because I found a lot of similar points on both books.
Kotler and Trias de Bes discuss the most common way of creating innovations by working from the market definition downward, which results in new products that are just variations of existing products and services. Similarly, Gladwell argues that things can happen all at once, and little changes can make a huge difference. Gladwell defines as social epidemics the way that change often happens in the rest of the world. Both Kotler and Trias de Bes, and Gladwell agree that little variations or changes can have a big impact.
At the same time, these authors warn that even though this innovation process is productive, it will reach a point of saturation. Kotler and Trias de Bes claim that segmentation and positioning (the most basic marketing strategies) are in crisis, and that a new innovation process is needed. Kotler and Trias de Bes call it lateral marketing. Gladwell would argue that it is just a variation of a social epidemic (or word of mouth epidemic).
In chapter two of The Tipping Point, Gladwell talks about about the central role that three personality types, defined as Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen, play in social epidemics.
Since the first time that I read the work of Gladwell, I liked the definition of mavens: “Mavens have the knowledge and the social skills to start word-of-mouth epidemics. What sets Mavens apart, though is not so much what they know but how they pass it along. The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone’s attention” (Gladwell, 2002, p. 67).
The definition of a connector is not bad either: “Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connector” (taken from http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/tp_excerpt2.html).
I have always believed myself to be a maven but most of my friends believe that I am a connector. They might have a point because a quick review of my social networks reveals so. At Facebook, I have 687 contacts; at MySpace, 519: at LinkedIn, 95 contacts, and so on. They might have a point because I enjoying spreading a good message and I am pretty good at figuring out what person would be interested in something or would be a good contact to find about something.
In conclusion, I agree that innovation requires a different approach that goes beyond the category where the idea originated and that there are special kinds of people needed for this process. Among those people are appropriate connectors (people able to spread a message) and salesmen (people with the skill to persuade those unconvinced by the message).