Made to Stick

Today I want to talk about an exciting new book called Made to Stick. The principles in the book I’ve used in my own business already. I’ve actually read it three times in the last month, it’s that exciting, and so I want to pass it on to you.

The foundation of the book is based on the observation that sticky ideas have common attributes. Those attributes are: simple, unexpected, concrete, creditable, emotional, and tell a story. Remaining true to the concept of simple, these principles spell the word success, which makes it easy to remember.
Let’s look at some examples of the principles that are discussed in the book.

Keeping your message simple.

In the military there is a concept called Commander’s Intent. And despite the tons of planning that goes into a military operation, almost none of them survive the first contact with the enemy. Because military operations in the environment are so complex, plus the enemy gets a choice on what happens. So the Commander’s Intent is a core message that’s simple and everyone can understand. Look at it this way—despite, no matter what happens, the foot soldiers on the ground knows what has to be accomplished that day regardless of anything else.


A lot of you probably remember me talking about Broca’s area of the brain. You have to break a mental pattern to get past Broca’s area so that the idea can go into long-term memory. Now think about Hollywood with the movie The Sixth Sense. A good Hollywood movie is a master at doing this. There are unexpected scenes throughout the entire movie.

“I believe this nation shall commit it self to achieving a goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

John F. Kennedy

Now the third principle is Concrete.

There is no wiggle room in this statement, ”To land a man on the moon and return him safely within the decade.”

Let’s look at how making your message credible can really make an idea stick. I want to read a passage directly from book.

“Imagine that it is your job to educate incoming NBA rookies about the danger of AIDS. NBA players are young men—rookies are often under twenty-one, and they are sudden celebrities, with all the attention that goes with this new fame. Now they’ve heard about AIDS their entire lives, so the risk isn’t that they’re not aware of AIDS, the risk is that the circumstances of their lives prompt them to drop their guard for a night.

The NBA requires all rookies to meet in a mandatory session before the season begins.

On the first night of the orientation, the players were hanging out in the bar at the hotel, and despite the secrecy around the event, a group of very attractive women had staked the place out. And they were definitely dressed for attention—the players really liked it, and there was a lot of flirting going on with plans to try and get together later during the week.

Well, the players showed up the next morning for the day’s meetings. They were shocked to see the women they had talked to the night before lined up in front of the room.

Each one of them went one by one and introduced themselves and followed with, “And I’m HIV positive.” Now that stunt certainly added credibility to the NBA’s message.

To make your message stickier, you need to tap into peoples’ emotion. Now, charities have known this for years, that if they can make an emotional connection, one on one, with a person, as opposed to giving to a group fund, they’ll always get more donations.

It’s human nature to tell stories, which is the last letter in the SUCCESS acronym.

Think about the Jared story, where a man lost hundreds of pounds by creating his own diet eating Subway sandwiches. That story has carried a lot of momentum and weight for the Subway campaigns.”

Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath.

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