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Are You 'Messaging It Great'?: Five Lessons From Malcolm Gladwell and Morton Grodzins (Who?)

by Tim Riesterer  |  
November 29, 2011
  |  10,546 views

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How one author "messaged" someone else's theory and made millions
  • How messaging your ideas, offerings, and strengths to appeal to customers is pivotal to success
  • Five key messaging lessons

Malcolm Gladwell sold millions of copies of his book The Tipping Point, and he made millions of dollars on the concept he wrote about. But, he didn't discover it.

An unknown political science professor, Morton Grodzins, first conceived of "the tipping point" more than 40 years before Gladwell released his book. Yet, Grodzins didn't make millions of dollars.

Gladwell went on to sell millions of copies of his book Outliers, and he made millions of dollars, again. One of the key principles he described was a concept called "deliberate practice." And, you guessed it. The original theory was developed by someone else—Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericcson, who toils in academic anonymity while Gladwell hits the big-dollar talk-show and speaking circuits.

Gladwell 'Messaged It Great'

What did Gladwell do that those other guys didn't? Why was he able to make millions while Grodzins and Ericcson never hit the mainstream?


He messaged it great. Gladwell was able to take very geeky, academic concepts and connect with the buying public, getting them to part with their money. The other guys didn't.

Have you ever been frustrated that a less-dominant competitor beat you and your company? Are your customers continually trying to commoditize you? Or, maybe you're the one who needs to outsell a more innovative competitor.

Regardless, as a marketer, you are charged with creating your company's story and getting it told in a way that drives growth. It's your job to message it great.


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Tim Riesterer is chief strategy and marketing officer of Corporate Visions Inc. He is the co-author of Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win The Complex Sale,

LinkedIn: Tim Riesterer

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  • by Tea Silvestre Tue Nov 29, 2011 via web

    Great article. I think most of us (marketers) get that we need to be remarkable and have a unique point of view...the challenge is HOW to do that. Finding your Secret Sauce is a task that takes time, creativity and a whole lot of work. One of the things I do to help my clients accomplish that task is through a series of exercises that help them inventory all that they have to offer (via their passions, talents, skills, emotional strengths and yes...weaknesses, too). Yes, it's important to not to "we" all over the place, but you've got to start with the nugget that is you and then build on it and see where it overlaps with what your ideal customers want/need.

  • by Paula Rivers Tue Nov 29, 2011 via web

    Thanks - this article brings up some very good points to consider when thinking about messaging. What would make the article even more helpful would be to include specific examples that demonstrate excellent messaging - and why they work in their space or conversely, terrible messaging and why it doesn't work....It's easy to state messaging needs to be compelling and grab attention and convince decision makers to move away from the status quo but much harder to actually do it well. Anybody with some great examples?

  • by Auri Biswas [Art-of-Innovation.com] Tue Nov 29, 2011 via web

    Good points ... with actionable advice esp. in section 4. It brings up the issue of Theory / Advice vs. Practice / Implementation.

    One has to start with sound, well thought out theories & concepts -- but then the real challenge is applying them with a good understanding of the specific realities of a particular business (and balancing conflicting goals e.g. brevity for humans vs. enough text for search engines.)

    And becoming aware of, and overcoming, hurdles and shortcomings (external and internal, organizational and individual) that come between an envisioned solution and its execution.

    Regards, Auri Biswas

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