Book review: “Made to Stick”

[Originally posted on September 24, 2007]
Summary: When marketing anything, keep these six concepts in mind if you want your message to shtick: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories; yes, my friends, that spells SUCCESs. If it sounds like too much work, these two concepts also work: Free, Sex (noooo, that’s not in the book…but it works I tell you!). 
Recommended? Si. It’s a quick, fun read full of interesting anecdotes and examples that make the book’s message more *concrete* (a-hem). If you’re never going to pick it up, at least read a breakdown of the six principles on the book’s website.
One(ish)-liners for each of the six principles:
  • Simplicity – boil it all down to the core message you want people to walk away with….the one thing they should know/do…the key takeaway….the essence of your point…the singular (okay, I’ll stop).
  • Unexpectedness – generate interest and curiosity by being counter-intuitive or using surprise/some other technique. Oh, and you should send me money (see? that’s called “surprise”).
  • Concreteness – explain ideas “in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information”; people think in pictures, so paint a picture. For example, I’m sitting at my desk in my room typing this on my Dell laptop, sipping water and eating green curry chicken over rice. If you make it to the end of this post, I bet you’ll remember what I ate, but you won’t remember all six principles.
  • Credibility – it’s only what is said because of who says it; make sense? If you can’t get a spokesperson (Oprah), be vividly detailed; “sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials”.
  • Emotions – get people to care about your idea by evoking a feeling around your idea, and keep in mind that “we are wired to feel things for people, not for abstraction.” You make me happy by reading this blog post. (Don’t you feel happier knowing that, mom?)
  • Stories – wrap the idea with context and it’ll be remembered as associated with that context; sometimes, analogies work great here as they ground the idea in a story or context folks are familiar with (analogies also allow you to check off “simple” and “concrete”; for example, “my blog is the Pinto of the blogosphere” says a lot about my blog. And me, unfortunately.)
Key takeaways:
  • Think about what YOU would respond to if YOU were your target audience (make sense?). First this means understanding the frame of mind/perspective of your target audience (note: this is HARD). Then, it’s asking questions like “what would make me take notice?” Throw off what the authors affectionately refer to as the “Curse of Knowledge” (corny, but true) and go from there. How does your target audience views the world? What’s important to them? (Which raises some good questions…who are you people? And what’s important to you?)
  • Make ideas interesting in some way/shape/form. Sounds incredibly obvious but it’s in fact hard to do (think of all the crap advertising you see these days…clearly, if it were interesting it wouldn’t be crap…I’ll bet you had a hard time remembering explicit crap ads precisely because they were crap). Playing into people’s curiosity can be a powerful way to make things interesting (guess what color boxers I’m wearing).
  • When pitching something, emphasize benefits, not features; people want to know what’s in it for them (self-interest), or how what you’re offering supports something they believe in (identity). If you can nail both, you’ve got a winner (this whole “organic” craze, for example).
  • Final excerpt from the book. “For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it’s got to make the audience:
  1. Pay attention
  2. Understand and remember it
  3. Agree/Believe
  4. Care
  5. Be able to act on it”
  6. Think free. Or sex. Or both.
Okay, without looking, what are the six principles? And what did I eat? And how much money are you sending me?


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