‘Made to Stick’ – how to make your key messages memorable


This book looks at what makes ideas “stick” – why some ideas spread easily whilst others don’t.

Being able to communicate effectively has become increasingly important for public managers in democratic states. “A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theatre contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries lunch, and a steak dinner – combined!”

This simple message – delivered at a Press conference organized by a non-profit organization in the USA  – spread like wildfire across the US media. From the national TV networks to the front pages of hundreds of local newspapers it caught on spawning headlines such as “Lights, Action, Cholesterol” and “Theatre Popcorn in Double Feature of Fat”. And all for the cost of a press conference!

This example – which will resonate with public leaders – shows the power of well crafted ‘sticky’ messages. The authors of this book, brothers Chip and Dan Heath, set out to explore what makes them work. Although sometimes it feels like just another American “self-improvement” book the authors backgrounds – one is a educational publisher and the other a professor at Stanford – lend it credibility.

Their formula for creating ‘stickiness’ – Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions and Stories (SUCCESs) – is perhaps a bit contrived. And it is a shame they have not linked their work to the growing field called “memetics” which studies how ideas spread like ‘genes’ – by replication, mutation and selection and which is widely used in ‘viral’ marketing (see Blackmore 1999 and Brodie 1996). But nevertheless an interesting and (for me) useful guide. 

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About Prof. Colin Talbot

Professor of Government (Emeritus). Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
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