How Brands Can Tap Into The 10% Tipping Point Rule To Spread Their Message Into Mainstream Culture With Less Media Spend

In this month’s Marketing Science Cheat Sheet for brands we explore how brands can increase media effectiveness and ROI by utilising minority influence.

The Insight

Human behaviour is affected by the influence of individuals and the social networks, which link them together. This means that consumer attitudes can be affected not only by the majority, but also by the minority should this group reach a specific tipping point: 10% of the overall population.

Minority influence is a type of social influence, which takes place when a group or individual belonging to the minority influences the majority’s opinion or behaviour.

The Science

Findings from “Social Consensus Through The Influence Of Committed Minorities” by J.Xie et all (2011) highlight that when a group of individuals who are committed to an opinion reaches 10% of a population, the time that it takes for the majority of society to adopt this opinion dramatically decreases.

With diversifying generations and consumer behaviours, brands that are able to tap into minority groups and understand what these consumers want will be able to utilise the 10% tipping point and ride the wave as these minorities influence the way that society behaves.


The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a private research university in New York, used the binary agreement model to discover what point a minority needs to reach before it can influence wider society and decrease the amount of time it takes for their unified opinion to be adopted. This research was published in the Physical Review E, a peer-reviewed, scientific journal, published monthly by the American Physical Society, which focuses on many-body systems, networks and complex systems.

The report analysed how the impact of an individual’s opinion (the speaker) affected that of an audience (the listener), when the individual’s opinion was unmoving, and the timeframe it took for the majority to accept the new opinion.

The binary agreement model uses a 2-opinion framework, where ‘speakers’ and ‘listeners’ hold an opinion. A small number of ‘speakers’, who are described as those who can influence others to alter their opinion but which they are immune to influence, hold a different option to that of the main group. Where the two different opinion holders interacted, the model outlined the possible interactions that could occur.

If the ‘listener’ held the same opinion of the ‘speaker, the model highlighted that this opinion was reinforced in the listeners mind. However if the option was different, the ‘listener’ considered it and moved on to talk to another ‘speaker’. If they then shared the same option as the first ‘speaker’, the ‘listener’ then adopted this new opinion.

By using this model, the report found that when the minority reaches 10% of the overall number of the population, the initial majority opinion quickly switches to the opinion of the consistent and in-flexible majority.

Who can benefit

With consumer behaviour dramatically being influenced by diversifying generations, brands need to listen to what the minority wants and adapt their communications before the group reaches the 10% tipping point. This will ensure that they are carried forward once the majority adopts the minority’s opinion and are able to tap into an entirely new consumer audience.

These findings will benefit a wide range of brand types, including disrupter brands such Uber, product brands such as Microsoft and activist brands such as the Body Shop, but will also affect other industries such as high street fashion and technology. By engaging with the minority audience, brands will be able to distinguish themselves from their competitors and engage their audiences in a way to promote purchase intentions.

Opportunities to Create Brand Magic

To capitalise on these findings, brands can tap into rising subcultures to learn what this minority is looking for from brands and how best to engage these consumers & be part of changing the future of consumer behaviour.

An example of this is the rise in the popularity of craft beer. This change in consumer habits (the choice to purchase craft beer over internationally know labels) caused a rapid growth in new craft breweries coming onto the market over the past eight years. Brands like Brewdog, which was founded in 2007, are constantly finding ways to seed out the idea that craft beer is best and challenging the way that society drinks.

In 2010 Brewdog launched the ‘world’s smallest protest’ and lobbied for the government to recognise two/thirds of a pint as a legal measurement, having realised its consumers were no longer buying pints. By doing this, Brewdog not only targeted their already existing customers but also called upon other craft beer drinks and united them to push to government into updating a 300-year-old measurements law.

Dr. Martens is an example of a brand that has successfully transitioned into mainstream fashion, having targeted and been associated with multiple subcultures since in launched in the early 20th century, with anyone from a punk rocker to secondary school teachers wearing them. The brand became a symbol of rebellious youth, becoming known as the ultimate in anti-authoritarian footwear and being adopted by punk and grunge music subcultures. By targeting multiple subcultures, Dr Martens has been able to utilise the 10% tipping point and transition into a globally acclaimed and worn brand that is still reaping the rewards today.

Another brand that targeted a specific minority before making the successful transition into mainstream society is Apple. This tech giant initially targeted the creative and design community, which positioned them as an aspirational brand for mainstream society, especially when it came to anything relating to design. Apple’s campaign ‘Think Different’ used the psychology of ‘us versus them’ to drive this message and call out its competitor’s consumers for being repressed, dull and unimaginative (therefore positioning their customers as pioneers and creatives). By doing so, the brand was able to tap into multiple audiences, and used this to propel the brand over the 10% tipping point and into the mainstream market.

About StoryScience

StoryScience is the UK’s first scientific strategic creative agency. Moving away from the traditional opinion-led approach, StoryScience’s guiding purpose is to pioneer scientific creative and deliver brand magic that audiences want and the results clients need. We deliver creative and strategic marketing solutions underpinned by a scientific creative thinking. In short, we use science to create brand magic.


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