Hush Puppies and the explicable re-birth of a brand that seemed on the verge of disappearing

In 1990s, Hush Puppies shoes went from being popular in the Soho district of NY among the hipsters to spreading to the whole country. How did that happen?

Whether it’s the spread of a disease or Hush Puppies shoes, they all have a moment of “Tipping Point” that unifies many isolated enclaves into a unified trend.

Law of the Few

An epidemic begins when a few highly infectious individuals become viral vectors for a product or idea by adopting it themselves and spreading the word.

3 types of infectious opinion leaders

  1. Mavens – Experts, generally the leading edge. Some may place them in the innovator section of the product adoption bell curve. They can tell you what the best area to buy a condo is, who to talk to and what to say to get the best deal.
  2. Connectors – People who seem to know everyone.
  3. Salesmen – Optimistic, passionate and energetic. They can take an idea, trim the fat, amplify the right components and get you excited in no time.

The Stickiness Factor

We tend to spend a lot of time thinking how to make the message more contagious, how the reach as many people as possible. The hard part is figuring out how to make an impact once it reaches the target audience.

Stickiness means the message makes the impact and sticks in your memory.

10 Factors that make any product sticky or infectious

  1. Uniqueness
  2. Aesthetics
  3. Association
  4. Engagement
  5. Excellence
  6. Expressive value (visible sign of user values)
  7. Functional value (helps achieve goal)
  8. Nostalgic value
  9. Personification (has personality)
  10. Cost (perceived value for money)

The Power of Context

People greatly alter their behavior based on their immediate environment. Cleaning up NY subway cars and keeping them clean lowered the crime rate substantially in the subway system. Adding graffiti and some loose garbage to a back alley increased the likelihood of larceny and vandalism by almost 30%.

Target contexts before you target consumers. Consumers are contextual chameleons and will adopt your product if it fits the context, situation or occasion in which they find themselves. It also means consumers are more highly susceptible to influence at the point of purchase than we might think.

6 psychological principles of influence

  1. Scarcity
  2. Majority (social proof)
  3. Authority (preferred choice of public figures)
  4. Beauty (aesthetics, associate with good-looking people)
  5. Reciprocity
  6. Consistency (how your product is consistent with the choices they’ve already made)

If people are in a group, responsibility for acting is diffused.

  1. They assume someone else will make the call OR
  2. They assume because no one else is acting the apparent problem is not really the problem

Lexus spent a hefty sum in pampering its customers when it had to recall a few autos

Why did they invest so much? Because the very first buyers were more likely mavens, people who care about cars and talk about cars. Those are the guys who would influence all the rest.

When finding new information, ideas, jobs, weak ties are stronger than strong ties.

Your friends, after all, occupy the same world that you do. They might work with you, or live near you and go to the same parties and schools.

Your acquaintances on the other hand occupy a different world than you do. They are much more likely to know something that you do.

Broken Window Theory

Criminological theory that sates visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior and civil disorder can create environment that encourages further crime and disorder.


Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hi, I'm Wai Yan. I love designing visuals and writing insightful articles online. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.