Every Super Bowl season, I look forward to watching the big game but even more in watching the commercials. We all remember those great TV advertisements that seem to just stick in our minds, but why? What makes an idea sticky, that’s the hundred million dollar question that every ad agencies wants to know. Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick, have the answers why some ideas survive and others die. The acronym SUCCES: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and stories. The acronym its self is simple (of course) but lets break down each important component that makes an idea sticky.
Being simple is about getting down to the core idea and finding that core idea. The authors use a great example by the Commander’s Intent (CI) that lets the extreme detailed plans of foot soldiers not to forget the basic mission assigned, do what’s necessary to complete the mission. When we learn to prioritize our ideas to the essential core idea, it leaves a clear focus and objective to accomplish.
The short story of “Names, Names, Names” is another great example of how a newspaper has found its core belief. Their focus was on amount of local names the newspaper to increase circulation. People loved seeing the names of people they know and their own name inside the newspaper. Therefore, Dun North Carolina newspaper has pushed for local names ever since they discovered this sticky idea, becoming the leader for readership with 112 percent. SO think SIMPLE and get to the core idea.
To get people to remember an event or idea, people need to be disrupted from their normal schema. For Example, a flight attendant making quick unexpected joke about the disco lights on the floor to exit the plane will catch everyone’s attention because it’s not a part of the normal routine. Another way to grab and hold persons’ attention is by surprise. The Buckle Up…Always commercial by the Ad council is sticky because it shows how to disrupt the normal schema about driving safety in neighborhoods. When a car comes flying into the side of the minivan AND BOOM! It highlights the idea that accidents can happen everywhere, even in your quiet neighborhood. This shocking event makes us remember to always buckle up. The commercial was successful in sending its message. UNEXPECTED, got it?
Sticky ideas are concrete. I remember learning addition and subtraction math problems by using concrete images like apples. This has been the success story for Japan in why their students are more advanced in mathematics. The Nature Conservancy, or TNC, has also caught on in using sticky ideas in their environment project to save land. Their goal was to save two million acres. WOW, that’s a lot of land, specially to most public and private businesses wanting to help conserve the rare land by donating money. So they began to split this idea in tangible and reachable goals so they didn’t overwhelm businesses. They redesign their goals into a more realistic look in saving acreage in terms called landscapes. The new objective was to save five landscapes. Eventually over time, TNC protected all two million acres of land. Landscapes were the new type of measurement that allowed TNC to be successful in accomplishing their goals.
Concrete ideas can also work in explaining complex ideas like racial discrimination to elementary school students. By breaking down abstract ideas like racial discrimination and transforming them into concrete idea like blue-eyed brown-eyed kids activities, children can make better sense of the information.
Today, everyone wants proof to know if products work. To make people believe in your idea, it must be credible. Two scientists, Warren and Marshall experience this first hand in their discovery that bacteria caused ulcers in the stomach. A simple action of taking antibiotics and bismuth would cure the pain but that was not enough to make the medical world believe. Being interns in training, their credible wasn’t established.
Winning the credibility of others is a fight against personal learning and social relationships that have been crafts over years of life experiences.
It takes great amount work to persuade a person with a new message. Celebrities that match our own morals are great sources of credibility, like Oprah and her book club. Once Oprah has your novel on her list, it’s a bestseller a week later. People idolize Oprah and respect her decisions. Her fans naturally think “If Oprah likes it, I must like it too.”
Sticky ideas play on our emotions. We are human and hate to see others struggle. Most charities you see on TV focus on one personal story, usually a cute malnourished girl. We have all seen her cute face. We are more likely to make that idea stick to help out the little girl when they play on own human emotions. Again, being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem might make a person feel their contribution is meaningless. But if you tap into just one individual story, it gives hope us the idea that one person can affect other people’s lives.
The Philip Morris’ anti-smoking advertisements started the Truth campaign.
These commercials were stuck in our mind because they were emotional (and concrete). Instead of acting rebellious against The Man by smoking, Truth campaign made tobacco companies the new Man. Advertisers associated emotions that already existed and transferred them on the tobacco companies.
Everyone likes a good story. They can either motivate us to act or provide knowledge about how to act. But the bottom line is stories make people act and can transfer messages through entertainment. Instead of using a dry email to send message about a copier error, people could tell the story of the Xerox repairman and mystery code that led two men on a wild goose chase around the office…Weird but within the story holds the message.
People want to be entertained NOT giving instructions. Stories are successful because they subtly transfer a message in an entertaining way.
Sticky ideas = S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Advertisers can have a long effective frequency of viewers by using these sticky suggestions. Ideas should have a primary focus and simple core. Get rid of all the non-essentials. Ideas should break out of own normal schemas for idea to be more memorable. Ideas should be concrete and in context that people can understand. Ideas have to be from a trusting source. Credibility is crucial in persuading people of your message. Ideas must make people care. Emotional ideas are effective because they make us feel and want to act. Finally, stories make us informed and take action while still being entertained. The message is not lost in the story but is highlighted through the interesting account.
What is your favorite sticky idea you know?
For more sticky ideas, visit heathbrothers.com
- Social Media Promotion: It’s About ‘Stickiness’ (socialtimes.com)
- Change Agents: Are You Sticky? (time.com)
- Concrete: You Can Walk Around On It (highcallingblogs.com)
- Ensure People Remember Your Ideas with SUCCESs [Communication] (lifehacker.com)
- How To Make Sure People Will Remember Your Ideas (zacharyburt.com)