6 Key Principles Of Ideas Made To Stick
Chip and Dan Heath reveal why some ideas survive and others die.
You may have already noticed that some ideas stand out and survive over time while others do not last long. This is obviously not by chance and there are some intangibles that will give ideas a special strength that will allow them to last over time. Brothers Chip Health and Dan Health propose to reveal the secret of these ideas in their book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”.
A Must-Read Book
The book is based on six principles that will give special power to ideas that respect them. It is aimed at everyone, whether you are a marketing specialist, writer, manager, leader or coach of a sports team. Simply put, it will help all those who need to get a strong message across.
The book is full of stories that show “sticky” messages. The latter are put in opposition to messages that will quickly be forgotten. Each chapter has several practical sections where Chip Health and Dan Health present a problem and then share the original solution to it. They then show how to rework it to obtain a much more memorable solution.
The principles presented in the book that may seem obvious to you, but in practice you will find that it is quite common for a presentation not to use them, for example. Have you ever listened to speakers who only share data and graphs? Probably, and although these are messages filled with information, they do not last over time. It is therefore essential in life to be able to maximize the stickiness of the messages you want to convey.
To do this, the book proposes that we focus on the six ideas that I will now detail for you.
Principle 1: Simple
You have to keep it simple. The goal is to reduce a message to its absolute core. For example, Southwest Airlines has always been profitable for more than 30 years while other airlines have gone bankrupt or had to redefine their image several times to remain competitive.
What is the secret of Southwest Airlines? Their motto of course!
Their motto is to be THE low-cost American airline. Every important decision made within the company, including refreshments and in-flight entertainment, is influenced by this fundamental mission.
While there are obviously more principles at work in Southwest Airlines’ success, it is their fundamental message on which they have been able to capitalize that has played, and continues to play, a key role in their ongoing success. By focusing on it, they are able to avoid all distractions by diverting them to stay in the right direction.
By keeping your messages simple, you will make them much easier to digest, recall and apply.
Principle 2: Unexpected
An unexpected message has a great deal to do with being “sticky”.
What is an unexpected message? A message that will make you stop and question yourself.
In the 1950s, Sony was a technology company in difficulty, with low employee morale, and had just obtained permission to use transistors representing the ultimate in technology. At that time, radios were giant pieces of furniture because of the large vacuum tubes needed to receive radio transmissions. With transistors, the size of a radio could be considerably reduced.
Sony’s technology leader needed to find a way to inspire and motivate his team for the innovative work that lay ahead. His message to his team was simple and unexpected:
“We’re going to create a pocket radio.”
At the time, the idea of putting a radio in a pocket was about as absurd as putting a dishwasher in your pocket. The unexpected story remained and motivated Sony employees to move forward with this new product that would change the course of their history.
Principle 3: Concrete
Be concrete in your messages involve using sensory language whenever possible to paint a mental image.
For example, when Boeing designed the 727 airliner in the 1960s, the management team set the following objective for the design and capabilities of the aircraft:
- It is expected to accommodate 131 passengers
- It must fly non-stop from Miami to New York
- He’s due to land on runway 4–22 at La Guardia
This last point is no coincidence since runway 4–22 at La Guardia was chosen because it was less than a mile long. It was much too short for the jet aircraft of the time.
If the specifications of the 727 were simply to be bigger, fly further and land on shorter runways, it is not certain that the engineering team would have pushed so hard to produce such a revolutionary aircraft.
Concrete ideas are much more powerful than abstract ideas based on great theories.
Principle 4: Credible
Credibility can come from outside or inside the person with a message. For example, when I buy articles on Amazon, user feedback often influences my buying process. This is an example of external credibility, unless the manufacturer writes the comments himself…
An example of credibility from within is an author who gives a free chapter of his book.
Just last week, I bought a book because I read a sample chapter and was eager to learn more about what the author had to share in the rest of the book.
In marketing, you can establish your credibility with a single example. The authors then take the case of Safexpress, a family delivery company in India. She was awarded the contract to deliver the fifth Harry Potter book to all bookstores in India on the same day before 8 a.m.
They could not deliver the book too early, to prevent the secret from being revealed, or too late to avoid angering bookstore owners across the country. They finally succeeded in their mission. This success is a story that they can put forward and that tells more to all their potential customers than the recitation of any delivery statistics.
Credibility is based above all on concrete facts and successful experiences.
Rhetoric and figures do not make a difference.
Principle 5: Emotional
In general, people don’t care about the numbers. They care about the things they can relate to. An interesting challenge described by the authors is related to an anti-scrap campaign across Texas. Marketers have considered showing an American Indian in the version of a tear on a garbage heap, or a wild animal delivering an anti-scrap message. Nevertheless, they knew that these messages would not work with those they were trying to reach.
The typical road polluter in Texas was an 18- to 25-year-old man driving a van and listening to country music. The marketing team had to find a way to reach this character in order to get his message across. And a usual slogan wasn’t going to work.
The marketing team ended up with a handful of highly respected Texan professional athletes picking up garbage on the side of the highway saying:
“You see the guy who’s there and throws garbage out the window… You tell him I have a message for him… Don’t play with Texas.”
In less than a year, garbage has decreased by 29%.
Therefore, the power of emotion in your messages should never be underestimated.
This is an essential aspect that allows people to move with ideas that last.
Principle 6: Stories
The final principle of “sticky” ideas is to tell a story to get the message across. Did you know that you can maintain a healthy weight by eating exclusively at Subway? How can you know that? Chip Health and Dan Health tell us about Jared’s story that most Americans know.
Jared was an American student who weighed nearly 200kg and now weighs just over 80kg. His secret? He was going to eat at the Subway for lunch and dinner. Although Subway avoided overusing this message because of potential health responsibilities, it was too compelling a story to ignore.
Of course, eating only at Subway is not ideal for maintaining your fitness weight. Nevertheless, Jared’s story is so strong that it has left its mark on an entire generation of Americans and continues to exist in the collective unconscious.
Stories are therefore an essential source of stimulation and inspiration.
An idea associated with a story is more likely to last and make a difference.
By applying the six principles from the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”, your presentations will be changed forever and you will finally be able to convey messages that leave their mark and last. Even better, these principles will also be useful in your conversations or when writing your blog articles.
To go further and discover more examples highlighting these principles, I would strongly recommend that you read the book of Chip and Dan Heath.
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