Made to Stick Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Every day, every hour, we always give messages, from words and gestures to appearance or other forms of expression are always messages.

Have you ever asked why some people have such a compelling message while others don’t?

In this article, AZLifeMastery shares with you the core ideas to create a compelling message, whether you work in the sales advertising industry or not, which are completely useful through the book Made to Stick Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

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Create a sticky message that explains why some ideas are popular while others are not. The book analyzes the most important characteristics of “stickiness” so that you, too, can create an idea that will go to the heart of people.

Who should read this book?

  • Does anyone have an idea to share with everyone?
  • Anyone who cares why some ideas go “viral”, some don’t
  • Film directors, advertising directors, speakers…

Who is the author of this book?

Chip Heath is a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and a doctorate in psychology. His brother Dan Health is a Duke University scholar, consultant, and founder of the publisher Thinkwell, who advocates a new way of writing textbooks for students.

Every idea can become more sticky.

Great ideas don’t always succeed. Oftentimes, even the most grandiose initiative goes unrecognized and ends up collecting dust in the archives. However, ideas of much less value, such as rumors, spread like wildfire.

Take, for example, the American fear of adulterated Halloween candies. Millions of parents worry that perverts give their children poisoned candies or razor blades. What parents don’t know is that this is just a baseless legend.

But why are such stories so viral? And why are they so hard to extinguish? Quite simply, they share two key characteristics: they are easy to remember, and people are eager to pass them on.

Taking advantage of these two principles, any idea can be designed to increase cohesion and become popular. A few years ago in the US, some health groups wanted to raise awareness about the quality of movie theater popcorn – which was then fried in coconut oil – which contained extremely high levels of saturated fat, which was harmful to humans eat.

Merely informing consumers that that bag of popcorn contains 37g of saturated fat won’t work – the number is too dry and academic to stick in people’s minds.

So they tried another, more powerful idea: “A medium-sized bag of popcorn at a movie theater contains more vein-clogging fat than a bacon-and-egg breakfast, a Big mac and french fries for lunch, and a full steak dinner – all together!”

This vivid message stuck, spread, and eventually forced the major movie theater chains in the United States to replace coconut oil with healthier oil.

Main content to pay attention to:

A sticky message must be simple

Try to explain an idea as thoroughly as possible. But, to stick, too much detail often backfires. Instead, cut what you want to convey into a simple message; Superfluous details will quickly be forgotten along with the message behind it.

A simple statement makes the idea easier to grasp and understand. This doesn’t mean an idea has to be overly monotonous – the art of simplification is about grabbing the core idea that everyone can understand without losing meaning.

Although this is difficult, it will generate sticky ideas. Journalists must master this skill to create catchy headlines that capture the reader’s attention and convey the meaning of the entire article in just a few words.

They know a bad headline can make good articles lose the attention it deserves. A good example from the business world is Southwest Airlines’ slogan “Low-cost airline.” (THE Low Fare Airline) This memorable saying will stay in the listener’s mind. If they try to compare their fares with other airlines complicated, the message will be immediately forgotten and leave no mark.

For successful bonding, there must be surprises.

Your brain always wants to save energy by switching to “autopilot” whenever possible. It does this by letting familiar or predictable information pass by unconsciously.

However, when faced with the unexpected, your brain will jump out of self-driving mode and into manual steering; What is unexpected is received will get attention. Imagine a flight attendant illustrating safety instructions before flying the old-fashioned way. Those who fly a lot on board know every word and won’t mind them.

But if she suddenly goes out of her way and declares, “Although there are 50 ways to break up with your lover, you only have one way to get off this plane,” she will be heard by all the passengers. It’s amazing how quickly people ignore repetitive things. By presenting ideas in a surprising or dramatic way, they get the attention they deserve.

Curiosity makes ideas stick.

The two big challenges in spreading an idea lie in getting and keeping people’s attention. Leveraging curiosity gaps can help address these two obstacles.

People put themselves on autopilot because they believe they at least know everything they need to know to survive the day. The most effective way to get someone’s attention is to show them there are interesting things that they still don’t know. This will immediately kick them out of self-driving mode by creating curiosity gaps – gaps in knowledge that people feel compelled to fill, even if they were previously uninterested in that topic.

Detective novels are the perfect example of this principle, using salient hints and warnings to keep the reader guessing, “who did this?”

The curiosity technique is so successful that celebrity gossip magazines often use it in the press; they found it boosted sales significantly.

The reason is that the only way to satisfy the need to fill the gap is to read the rest of the story. Curiosity can be created by unexpected news.

Amazing facts and figures are potent tools, so they are a good way to kick off a presentation about any idea. For example, starting with the question, “Why do 40% of our customers only generate 10% of sales?” will immediately enter the mind of the listener and make them more interested in the main idea.

Adhesive ideas are concrete and descriptive.

People often express themselves in an abstract way. The more they know about a topic, the more they explain it in confusing terms.

The reason is that most of us find it difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of our listeners or to ask ourselves, “How does that person take what I say?”

Here’s a classic example of this effect: one person was instructed to tap the rhythm of some song (e.g. Jingle Bells) on the table with their fingers while the other person listened and tried to guess the name of that song.

Listeners will only recognize the knock on the table; the percussionist will only know the melody of the song echoing in their head. As a result, percussionists think that the average listener can guess the song 50% of the time, but the real number is only 2.5%.

The problem is that people often forget that not everyone knows as much about a topic as they do, whether it’s the tone in their head or the details of a proposal.

The same effect occurs in verbal communication: confusing terms convey a message in the same way that typing on a desk conveys a melody. Only by using specific, easy-to-understand phrases can we ensure that the message is received.

In addition, you should also include examples or illustrations to help get the message across. Expressed specifically, many associated images are not only easy to remember but also easy to stay in the oil.

Concreteness means avoiding unnecessary terms when talking about real people, real things. Instead of saying the retail staff didn’t “deliver impeccable customer service,”; tell them to let the customer exchange the shirt even if it was purchased at another branch.

Instead of saying the fox did not “change his preferences to suit the medium,”; let’s say it convinces itself that the unattainable bunch of grapes is too bitter. The simpler and more descriptive an idea is, the more sticky and contagious it will be.

A sticky idea must be believable.

In general, ideas go viral only if people believe them; otherwise, they’ll get out of the way. Trust can be achieved in a few ways.

One commonly used method is to have experts speak for the story. An expert is not necessarily a doctor in a white lab coat.

An anti-smoking campaign, for example, used an image of a woman in her late 30s who had smoked since she was ten. Now, facing the risk of a second lung replacement, the young woman looks very sick and old. Her appearance itself proves the credibility of the story. People believe stories told by real, believable people.

Another way to add credence to a story is to use factual facts and figures to illustrate a point – but only if they create a concrete, not abstract, picture. Relying too much on statistics is a widespread mistake.

An example of effective use of data is the claim of the anti-war campaign that the total number of nuclear weapons in the world today combined is 5,000 times more destructive than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

This comparison gives the reader a common point of reference (the desolation of Hiroshima) and makes them try a 5,000-times larger disaster. Precisely because the scale would be so large, it underlines the main idea: the nuclear race has gone too far.

In addition, the audience has a number that has been prepared for them to pass on the message to others. Using the audience itself as a reference is incredibly effective.

Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign slogan is aimed directly at voters: “Ask yourself, is your life better than it was four years ago?” People tend to trust their own judgment more than the opinions of experts, so if your audience can verify your message for themselves, it will be extremely believable.

The emotional effects that can make people take action

To get people to donate to poor children in Vietnam, we have an approach: Either present strong data demonstrating how many millions of children are starving and how many die every day, or to of just one child in need and could be helped with aid money.

The first way affects the rational part of the mind. If the data is reliable, we can look at them, but we may not take action. The second way directly affects emotions. We find it just as believable as the first – you can see a living being clearly starving anyway – but more importantly, it motivates us to take action.

The reason is that emotions are the main driving force behind human behavior, rather than reason or numbers. So if your goal is to get people to act, your message needs to hit the ground emotions directly.

An anti-smoking campaign would have a greater impact if it featured images of people whose lives and bodies have been destroyed by tobacco; These paintings move audiences, but facts and figures rarely have an emotional impact. Focus on emotional stimuli rather than dry numbers when presenting an idea.

The audience will join hands if they gain something.

Emotions work because people are more concerned with other people than with facts or figures. But everyone cares about one person: themselves.

Before deciding to do something, people always ask, “What do I gain?” So a proposal will be successful if it can prove beneficial to the audience.

To take advantage of this principle, a company should not only list the characteristics of, but also, say, a new TV; they should show clients how these traits can be personally beneficial. Customers need to imagine the bliss of sitting on their sofa at home and enjoying the benefits of the new TV’s amazing features.

This mindset was also applied in a campaign in Texas aimed at stopping people from littering. It coined the slogan, “Don’t mess with Texas,” and let celebrities and athletes from local football clubs reach out to the youth on their behalf.

The question “What do I gain?” in this situation with young people is their sense of connection with the common god through the behavior of littering in the right place. This campaign makes young people think, “True Texans like me would never throw trash on the sidewalk.”

Sticky ideas are best when they’re told like a story

A story has great stimulating power to the brain. It helps us see the nature of our actions and predict how we would react in a similar situation.

Often when trying to spread an idea, people make the fatal mistake of trying to get rid of the story behind it in exchange for an empty slogan.

While slogans can be very helpful in making ideas stick, they don’t do much to get people to take action. This is where stories and examples prove most effective.

For example, a fast food restaurant chain, Subway, has benefited enormously from Jared Fogle’s true story of an overweight person who has actively lost weight thanks to the twice-a-day diet Subway.

No slogan in the world can match a story like this. Most good stories follow one of several patterns. A common example is a challenge when “David” [the little hero] fights the “Goliath” [the giant].

Stories like this inspire so many people to stand up and follow the example of “David”. Another common pattern is compassion, in which a “good Samaritan” meets a struggling complete stranger.

This type of story is especially effective in inspiring socially beneficial behaviors. Stories about creation, like the apple falling on Newton’s head and leading him to the theory of gravity, encourage people to see the world from a new lens or to think out of the box.


The main message of this book is that each idea can be presented in a way that is truly heart-wrenching. The stories, advertising campaigns, and successful ideas that linger in our minds share a few salient features that can be summed up in the SUCCESs formula.

  • Simple – finds the heart of any idea.
  • Unexpected – grab people’s attention by surprising them
  • Concrete – ensures ideas are easily expressed and understood, and many visual connections
  • Credible – people need to believe in it
  • Emotional – hits on emotions instead of reason
  • Story – uses a narrative to guide ideas.

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So above, AZLifeMastery has just shared with you the core ideas for helping you create a message that can be heard by everyone. This will help a lot in daily life or at work. Don’t forget to share this article with someone you think has benefited from it.

Other books by Chip Heath