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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Hardcover – January 2, 2007
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Starred Review. Unabashedly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling The Tipping Point, the brothers Heath-Chip a professor at Stanford's business school, Dan a teacher and textbook publisher-offer an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Drawing extensively on psychosocial studies on memory, emotion and motivation, their study is couched in terms of "stickiness"-that is, the art of making ideas unforgettable. They start by relating the gruesome urban legend about a man who succumbs to a barroom flirtation only to wake up in a tub of ice, victim of an organ-harvesting ring. What makes such stories memorable and ensures their spread around the globe? The authors credit six key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. (The initial letters spell out "success"-well, almost.) They illustrate these principles with a host of stories, some familiar (Kennedy's stirring call to "land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth" within a decade) and others very funny (Nora Ephron's anecdote of how her high school journalism teacher used a simple, embarrassing trick to teach her how not to "bury the lead"). Throughout the book, sidebars show how bland messages can be made intriguing. Fun to read and solidly researched, this book deserves a wide readership. (Jan. 16)
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I own a 15 year old Public Relations Firm as marketing and sales knowledge is critical. I purchased the book based on the great reviews and couldn't understand why?
For a book that espouses "stickiness", it was a hard read. I had to force myself to read each chapter.
One example is an analogy of trying to explain a "Pomelo", which is a sort-of fruit, well you can say it's like a grapefruit, sort of.
Quick Question: If you mixed pomelo juice with orange juice would it taste good? You might make a guess. But you must put a "flag" on it and tell people that a pomelo is "like" a grapefruit, you call up a mental image of a grapefruit. So, if you ask me what a Pomelo is i would tell you "it's like a grapefruit"(Now you know what a Pomelo is like). Wow, this is cutting edge, isn't it?
Is this a sick joke? This Pomelo story rambles and rambles until you feel like your reading what you kindergarden children are reading.
The above-mentioned is the type of mindless rambling that this book reads like. If your into this type of psyco-babble, this book is for you. If you value your precious time, stay away, far away.
If you are looking for great sales and marketing books, this is not it. There are many great (obscure) books on the market that will help you sell and market effectively which i would like to recommend but that wouldn't be fair to the authors of this mind numbing book. It was my mistake for buying it.
I know it looks like this review is a contrarian attack, but i really wanted to like this book. My apologies to the authors.
As you might expect, the authors use these techniques to drive home their point. For example, in the chapter on stories, they talk about Subway's Jared campaign--quite a dramatic behind-the-scenes story besides being a near perfect example of storytelling in marketing.
Although these six elements seem like common sense, they are woefully underapplied in business communication. The authors state it well--
"Business managers seem to believe that, once they've clicked through a PowerPoint presentation showcasing their conclusions, they've successfully communicated their ideas. What they've done is share data."
Well researched, easy to read and hard to forget.
I finished this in early 2017 and applied this book to explaining why Trump won the election:
Trump's campaign had a "sticky" slogan that everyone can repeat-- Make America Great Again (MAGA). (The authors give the example of the successful Texas anti-litter campaign "Don't Mess with Texas," very similar.) This hearkened back to the Presidential campaigns of the 1800s where candidates had theme songs played at beer halls and train stops along the way (Thanks to the Washington Post's Presidential podcast for the knowledge there). Whoever had the best song won. (Turkey and other countries today have catchy songs in their political commercials today.) MAGA fits the Heaths' six principles for making an idea "sticky," their acronym SUCCES:
Simple - "Find the core of your idea" - MAGA is an idea summed in four words.
Unexpected - Generate curiousity about your idea. If it's counterintuitive, they will think about it more and thus be more interested.
This is the "again" part of MAGA. To me, that's counterintuitive because we're already great.
Concrete- Make sure an idea is memorable. Use concrete images and proverbs. It helps if you narrow the scope. The authors point out that if you ask people to name white objects in a kitchen, they will struggle to point out many compared to when you ask them to "name white objects in a refrigerator." You narrow the scope and it's easier, even though all items in the refrigerator are also found in a kitchen.
This is the "America" part of MAGA-- it's not about broad concepts like the "future," or "freedom," the entire world, or human rights. America is narrow enough.
Credible- It can't just be a compact phrase or a "sticky, untrue statement." It must be true and convey an idea. Be "compact and core."
MAGA is compact and core but you can argue it isn't credible. If America is already great (what I argued made the statement counterintuitive) then the statement isn't true. I think we've seen enough lies repeated as truths through 2016-2017 (I know I go to Snopes to debunk fake news stories now more than years ago) that this idea doesn't hold. Every person clings to ideas you think are true but are actually not. It CAN be a sticky, untrue statement in 2017; people will repeat the lie until it is true (Goebbels). In fact, the authors examine various urban legends and myths that were "sticky" even though they were false.
Emotional- The idea must create empathy and appeal to identity. MAGA appeals to patriotism (and also nationalism). The emotional response helps make it sticky, which is also why I would say it can also be untrue in this day and age. It doesn't matter that vitamin C drops don't appear to do anything for anyone, the idea that it does makes people think it does-- placebo effect.
"America great again" makes one think back to childhood or an earlier period when he/she was happy to be an American. Probably a 4th of July picnic before you had to pay taxes or worry about childcare. That's the emotion the slogan appeals to, subconciously.
Stories- People remember stories even if they don't remember the content. People like a good comeback story, rag-to-riches, etc. If you can make that part of your message, it sticks.
Trump's campaign garnered so much attention because it was initially seen as a circus sideshow joke with little chance of winning. Everyone seemed eager to watch him lose at every stage. We all know how that turned out. But Trump also told stories about violence, jobs being shipped to China, Mexican druglords, etc. Those were largely verifiably false but people believed the stories. (Can you remember any stories Hillary told?)
Other details in the book:
Everyone is overconfident in his knowledge and thus many a high-paid marketer has gotten fired for creating a sure-fired campaign that wasn't sticky. But that also relates to the Counterintuitive essential of the sticky idea--your message must show the person's "knowledge gap." "Did you know...?" Knowledge gaps are painful and people naturally want to close them. If you can hook them with something they think is counterintuitive, then they hear the entire message and it will likely stay with them (and maybe they Google more about it later).
Limit the paramaters of your message (see above refrigerator example). If using statistics, or diagrams, you'll want to use the proper scale.
Beware of availability bias and other cognitive biases.
One note on psychology to keep in mind-- people tend to ask "What's in it for my group?" and not just "what's in it for me?" This tribalism is important. People subconciously ask themselves "How are poeple like me expected to think or behave?" In the "Don't Mess with Texas" campaign the appeal was Texans and gave an ideal standard of a "real Texan." This created an identity decision "If I'm a real Texan, I mustn't litter." Images of litter evoked empathy and the slogan appealed to identity-- what does my tribe take pride in?
Your message should also choose a "plot" to go along with the story. Person X did Y and the result is Z. It could be an underdog story or something else. The epitomy of SUCCES, according to the authors, is the Subway Jared Fogle commercials. "Eat subs, lose weight." It was counterintuitive-- it violated the schema we think of when we think "fast food." It was the story of a normal guy who accomplished something big. It was counterintuitive-- anyone can do this! It appealed to emotions--Americans struggle with weight and shame. The story was true and verifiable.
The authors spent time researching where various urban myths and beliefs like "nice guys finish last" came from. It's nice to hear the roots of these stories to help ward against our cognitive blinders.
In all, I give this book 3 stars out of 5. Like most best-selling business books, you're better off reading a review or a summary than the actual book. But you likely forfeit the stories in the book that make it "stick," (but hopefully my review has given you a couple stories to help you remember).