Made to Stick
Why Some Ideas Survive
and Others Die...
Which is True?
• 38 NY citizens stood by and watched as a
woman was attacked 3 times and murdered
• Coca-Cola rots your bones
• The Great Wall of China is the only man-
made object visible from the moon
• You use only 10% of your brain
About the Authors
or their ‘Sticky’ credentials
• Brothers: Chip and Dan Heath
• Chip Heath: Professor of organizational behaviour,
Stanford University & ‘Fast Company’ Magazine
columnist. Consulted on “making ideas stick” to
Nike, Ideo (!) and the American Heart Institute.
• Dan Heath: Founder of Thinkwell Publishing,
education consultant to Harvard Business School,
Duke University & winner of the 2005 New Yorker
Cartoon Caption Contest.
What needs ‘Stickiness’?
• Ideas • Brand
• Marketing • Public health
• Uncommon sense • Politicians
• Business objectives • Charities
• Your résumé • ...
• Urban Myths • Everything?
Are you inspired?
“Our mission is to become the
international leader in the space industry
through maximum team-centred
innovation and strategically targeted
Don’t most corporate vision/missions sound like this?
What did JFK know?
“I believe this nation should commit itself,
to achieving the goal, before this decade
is out, of landing a man on the moon and
returning him safely to the earth.”
He knew the
We will talk about...
• Simple - How Clinton used it to get elected
• Unexpected - Why Nordstrom employees stand out
• Concrete - Exactly how unhealthy is theatre popcorn?
• Credible - Winning a court case using a Darth Vader
• Emotional - Why you’ll donate less after solving a math
• Story - How a guitar can unite a nation
1. Simple =
Core & Compact
• The most important decision you have to
• What is the one thing you want people to
• What is the one thing you want people to do?
To make a profound idea compact you've got to pack
a lot of meaning into a little bit of messaging.
Getting to Simple
• The 3 Why?’s (or 5 if you are Toyota)
• Avoiding the ‘Curse of Knowledge’
• Use what’s there: Analogies, Schemas*
& Generative Metaphors
*Material covered in more detail
• Schema = Collection of generic properties of a concept or
category which are pre-recorded in our brains.
• Which are you more likely to remember?
• The pomelo, (Citrus maxima or Citrus grandis), is a citrus fruit native to
South East Asia. It is usually pale green to yellow when ripe, with sweet
white (or, more rarely, pink or red) ﬂesh and very thick spongy rind. It is the
largest citrus fruit, 15-25 cm in diameter, and usually weighing 1-2 kg.
• A pomelo is basically a supersized grapefruit with a very thick and soft rind.
Simple & Clinton
• James Carville: Lead strategist for the
Clinton campaign’s successful run in 1993
• “Its the economy stupid”
• People need a constant reminder to ﬁght
the temptation to do too much.
• Clinton had to give up other cherished
Not Clinton platform elements to focus on the one
message that would drive him to victory.
• Why is ‘Unexpected’ important to ‘Stickiness’?
• You have to get people to pay attention to
• Once you have their attention, you must
• Break a pattern
• Open a knowledge gap
• Pose a question or puzzle
• Challenge people to predict an outcome
• Use a mystery story
• The gap theory of curiosity
• Close knowledge gaps while opening new ones
• Turning point concept
• Shift from conveying information to deciding
what questions you want your audience to ask
• Ad Council - The Enclave Minivan
• WestJet & Southwest Airlines
You don’t get what you
expect, so you remember!
• Why is ‘Concreteness’ important to ‘Stickiness’?
• You need to connect a diverse audience to
• To get your message across you must be clear
• Your message must be memorable
Concreteness is used to dispel
‘The Curse of Knowledge’
• Why did Kennedy choose “landing a man on the
moon and returning him safely to the earth” instead
of “strategically targeted aerospace initiatives”?
• When presented a difﬁcult concept, people desire ‘an
• The average American would not resonate with
achieving an ‘aerospace initiative’, but ‘man on
moon’ was very Concrete.
A medium bag of popcorn is as bad for you as:
Isn’t this easier to remember than
“Popcorn has XX grams of saturated fat”?
• Why is ‘Credibility’ important to ‘Stickiness’?
• So far, you have decided on your message,
got people’s attention and made memorable...
• Now you have to get people to believe it!
Making the Incredible
Credible (for Mortals)
• The self-testable credential*
• Borrow someone else’s credibility
• The anti-authority (stories with real people)
• Lies, damn lies & statistics
• The signiﬁcant impact of detail*
Was the little old lady a world renowned burger expert,
public ﬁgure or Nobel Laureate?
Where did the power of this message come from?
Credibility & the Darth Vader
• Study included several multiple identical court cases, each
identical, with two variables:
• Evidence was presented with additional vivid –but
irrelevant– detail either in defence or in prosecution
evidence against ‘bad parents’
• Jurors were different for each trial
• 5.8/10 jurors found the parents guilty in one scenario, 4.3/10
in the other
Make sure your alibi has lots of detail!*
Emotion = Action
• Think about the previous video:
• Who was the target audience?
• What emotions would it elicit in that audience?
• Why would this translate into action?
‘Truth Campaign’ facts:
Remembered spontaneously by 22% of kids
Kids exposed to this campaign were 66% LESS likely to smoke.
2 years later, smoking had dropped 18% in high school and
40% in middle school.
• People are usually reluctant to spell out the ‘WIIFM’
• Semantic Stretch - Words that have a lot of emotional
impact get overused
• Our analytical brain - Much like surprise and anger
being ‘Sticky’ opposites, so are analytical thought
• We are hard-wired to feel emotion for people, not
• People aren’t motivated by the same things, or even
necessarily by self-interest!
• Target audience: 18 to 35-year old,
pickup-driving anti-authoritarian male
who liked sports and country music,
and wasn't motivated by emotional
associations with cuddly owls. Also
happened to be the worst litter offender
• Getting Bubba to identify the tough
masculine texan as someone who
Caring About the
"If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will."
- Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu
(Blessed Theresa of Calcutta)
• IDEO video from the perspective of a patient that
goes into the hospital for a leg fracture
• The doctor as patient
• The doe-eyed Ethiopian child vs. statistics
Can a guitar unite a nation?
The Velcro™ Theory of Memory
• Imagine your brain as having the
thousands of loops of a piece of
Velcro™ - representing all of its
diverse ﬁling cabinets of memory
• The theory proposes that the
more hooks your story has, the
more likely it is to stick in your
As you hear a story, you live it in
your own mind... like experience.
• Of all plot types, 3/25 are ‘inspirational’:
• The Challenge Plot
• The Creativity Plot
• The Connection Plot
• Chicken Soup stories: 80% are ‘inspirational’
• People Magazine: 60% of non-celebrity stories
Inspiration leads to action.
Six String Nation’s
• Simple - 1 Canada: not ‘red’ or ‘blue’
• Unexpected - Someone built a guitar out of 64 parts that
• Concrete - Guitar is based on real objects that represent parts of
• Credible - Borrows credibility from famous people and places,
as well as anti-authorities
• Emotional - Feeling of patriotism, all Canadians have a link to
this guitar in some way, love of music
• Story - Each part has a story, and the guitar itself now is creating
For an idea to stick, it must make the audience:
1. Pay attention - UNEXPECTED
2. Understand and remember it - CONCRETE
3. Agree / Believe - CREDIBLE
4. Care - EMOTION
5. Be able to act on it - STORY
One Final Thing...
• By using the S.U.C.C.E.S.s framework, you are
seeking to create an engaged and motivated
audience for your idea
• This audience has a say in how the message
lives and is passed on
The success of our ideas isn't whether
people mimic them exactly, it's wether we
achieve our goals.