The innovators always got to wear a different, more exclusive shoe than anybody else, mainstream consumers had the satisfaction of wearing the same brands. - Malcolm Gladwell

I’ve been listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, on audio book. It’s a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I just finished it and found the topic of the book intriguing. I’m still processing the book, but wanted to quote this sentence from the book.

It is towards the end of the book, where Mr. Gladwell, uses Airwalk as an example for dissecting how their popularity tipped in the 90s. At the peak of Airwalk’s success, the book talks about how Airwalk had segmented their product. For the stores that were the initial catalysers of the shoe brand, Airwalk supplied them with a more higher end, better quality shoe. It was these smaller, boutique shops that the innovators — the folks whom Mr. Gladwell describes as those who sets the trends and introduces them to the mainstream — would get their shoes.

I thought this juxtaposition of consumers was so intriguing to me. When I heard that sentence I understood both sides and could quickly draw examples from my personal life. It also made me think of the scene in the movie, The Incredibles, when Helen Parr, was having a talk with Dash, her son. Dash says, “Our powers make us special,” to which she responds, “Everyone is special, Dash.” The clincher is Dash’s response, “Which is another way of saying that no one is.”

In the same section about Airwalk, Mr. Gladwell shares about DeeDee Gordon, whose task was to find the innovators and the trendsetters and then inform the ad agency that helped tip Airwalk to a global market. DeeDee shares that innovators and trendsetters are outcasts in that they feel different from the crowd. Dash in the Incredibles is an outcast, that’s different because of his super powers and when mom argues that everyone is special, she’s forcing him to not be himself and be different and pushes him in line of the cookie cutter shape of his peers.

In the same way, I think that’s what Mr. Gladwell is saying about the innovators of Airwalk. With the company converging the product line, they were alienating the innovators and keeping them from being unique and different from the rest of the crowd.

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