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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The instant classic about why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to make your ideas stick.
“Anyone interested in influencing others—to buy, to vote, to learn, to diet, to give to charity or to start a revolution—can learn from this book.”—The Washington Post
Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus news stories circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas—entrepreneurs, teachers, politicians, and journalists—struggle to make them “stick.”
In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds—from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony—draw their power from the same six traits.
Made to Stick will transform the way you communicate. It’s a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures): the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice.
Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas—and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.
Starred Review. Unabashedly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling The Tipping Point, the brothers Heath—Chip a professor at Stanford's business school, Dan a teacher and textbook publisher—offer an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Drawing extensively on psychosocial studies on memory, emotion and motivation, their study is couched in terms of "stickiness"—that is, the art of making ideas unforgettable. They start by relating the gruesome urban legend about a man who succumbs to a barroom flirtation only to wake up in a tub of ice, victim of an organ-harvesting ring. What makes such stories memorable and ensures their spread around the globe? The authors credit six key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. (The initial letters spell out "success"—well, almost.) They illustrate these principles with a host of stories, some familiar (Kennedy's stirring call to "land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth" within a decade) and others very funny (Nora Ephron's anecdote of how her high school journalism teacher used a simple, embarrassing trick to teach her how not to "bury the lead"). Throughout the book, sidebars show how bland messages can be made intriguing. Fun to read and solidly researched, this book deserves a wide readership. (Jan. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Adult/High School—While at first glance this volume might resemble the latest in a series of trendy business advice books, ultimately it is about storytelling, and it is a how-to for crafting a compelling narrative. Employing a lighthearted tone, the Heaths apply those selfsame techniques to create an enjoyable read. They analyze such narratives as urban legends and advertisements to discover what makes them memorable. The authors provide a simple mnemonic to remember their stickiness formula, and the basic principles may be applied in any situation where persuasiveness is an asset. The book is a fast read peppered with exercises to test the techniques proposed. Some examples act as pop quizzes and engage readers in moments of self-reflection. The book draws on examples from teachers, scientists, and soldiers who have been successful at crafting memorable ideas, from the well-known blue eye/brown eye exercise conducted by an Iowa elementary school teacher as an experiential lesson in prejudice following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to conversations among Xerox repairmen. Readers who enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's Blink (2005) and The Tipping Point (2000, both Little, Brown) will appreciate this clever take on contemporary culture.—Heidi Dolamore, San Mateo County Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Chip and Dan Heatha Stanford professor and an education entrepreneur, respectivelyattempt to determine why one idea succeeds while another fails. What could have been a dry marketing textbook is, instead, a generally engaging narrative generously endowed with anecdotes and instructive sidebars. The Wall Street Journal expressed annoyance at the profusion of personal stories, while the Washington Post cited some problems with the overall framework. Overall, however, Made to Stick is a worthy addition to the spate of recent books that explain why we do the things we do and how this self-knowledge can be used more effectively. "Anyone interested in influencing othersto buy, to vote, to learn, to diet, to give to charity or to start a revolutioncan learn from this book" (Washington Post).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Based on a class at Stanford taught by one of the authors, this book profiles how some ideas "stick" in our minds while the majority fall by the wayside. Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and compelling advertising make up much of the intrinsically interesting examples that the Heaths profile that qualify for "stickiness." This book explores what makes social epidemics "epidemic" and, as the Heaths cite from Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point (2000), defines the secret recipe that makes an idea viral. The principles of stickiness are examined--an unexpected outcome, lots of concrete details that we remember, emotion, simplicity, and credibility--all packaged in an easily told story format. Taking these five stickiness attributes, the book offers numerous examples of how these properties make up the stories we are all familiar with--the urban legend about kidney theft and the razor blades supposedly lurking in Halloween candy. Exercises, checklists, and other tools are sprinkled throughout the book to help the reader understand and test how stickiness can be applied to their ideas, whether they are teachers, parents, or CEOs. Gail Whitcomb
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
“Made to Stick summons plenty of brain science, social history, and behavioral psychology to explain what makes an idea winning and memorable—and the Heaths do the telling with beautiful clarity.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Utterly compelling.”—Los Angeles Times
“Surprising and provocative.”—The New York Sun
“Fun to read and solidly researched.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, teaching courses on strategy and organizations. He has helped over 450 startups hone their business strategy and messages. He lives in Los Gatos, California.
Dan Heath is a senior fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, which supports entrepreneurs fighting for social good. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Together, Chip and Dan have written three New York Times bestselling books: Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive. Their books have sold over two million copies worldwide and have been translated into thirty-three languages, including Thai, Arabic, and Lithuanian. Their most recent book is The Power of Moments.
I I N T R O D U C T I O N
A friend of a friend of ours is a frequent business traveler. Let’s call him Dave. Dave was recently in Atlantic City for an important meeting with clients. Afterward, he had some time to kill before his flight, so he went to a local bar for a drink.
He’d just finished one drink when an attractive woman approached and asked if she could buy him another. He was surprised but flattered. Sure, he said. The woman walked to the bar and brought back two more drinks—one for her and one for him. He thanked her and took a sip. And that was the last thing he remembered.
Rather, that was the last thing he remembered until he woke up, disoriented, lying in a hotel bathtub, his body submerged in ice.
He looked around frantically, trying to figure out where he was and how he got there. Then he spotted the note: don’t move. call 911.
A cell phone rested on a small table beside the bathtub. He picked it up and called 911, his fingers numb and clumsy from the ice. The operator seemed oddly familiar with his situation. She said, “Sir, I want you to reach behind you, slowly and carefully. Is there a tube protruding from your lower back?”
Anxious, he felt around behind him. Sure enough, there was a tube.
The operator said, “Sir, don’t panic, but one of your kidneys has been harvested. There’s a ring of organ thieves operating in this city, and they got to you. Paramedics are on their way. Don’t move until they arrive.”
You’ve just read one of the most successful urban legends of the past fifteen years. The first clue is the classic urban-legend opening: “A friend of a friend . . .” Have you ever noticed that our friends’ friends have much more interesting lives than our friends themselves?
You’ve probably heard the Kidney Heist tale before. There are hundreds of versions in circulation, and all of them share a core of three elements: (1) the drugged drink, (2) the ice-filled bathtub, and (3) the kidney-theft punch line. One version features a married man who receives the drugged drink from a prostitute he has invited to his room in Las Vegas. It’s a morality play with kidneys.
Imagine that you closed the book right now, took an hourlong break, then called a friend and told the story, without rereading it. Chances are you could tell it almost perfectly. You might forget that the traveler was in Atlantic City for “an important meeting with clients”—who cares about that? But you’d remember all the important stuff.
The Kidney Heist is a story that sticks. We understand it, we remember it, and we can retell it later. And if we believe it’ s true, it might change our behavior permanently—at least in terms of accepting drinks from attractive strangers.
Contrast the Kidney Heist story with this passage, drawn from a paper distributed by a nonprofit organization. “Comprehensive community building naturally lends itself to a return-on-investment rationale that can be modeled, drawing on existing practice,” it begins, going on to argue that “[a] factor constraining the flow of resources to CCIs is that funders must often resort to targeting or categorical requirements in grant making to ensure accountability.”
Imagine that you closed the book right now and took an hourlong break. In fact, don’t even take a break; just call up a friend and retell that passage without rereading it. Good luck.
Is this a fair comparison—an urban legend to a cherry-picked bad passage? Of course not. But here’s where things get interesting: Think of our two examples as two poles on a spectrum of memorability. Which sounds closer to the communications you encounter at work? If you’re like most people, your workplace gravitates toward the nonprofit pole as though it were the North Star.
Maybe this is perfectly natural; some ideas are inherently interesting and some are inherently uninteresting. A gang of organ thieves—inherently interesting! Nonprofit financial strategy—inherently uninteresting! It’s the nature versus nurture debate applied to ideas: Are ideas born interesting or made interesting?
Well, this is a nurture book.
So how do we nurture our ideas so they’ll succeed in the world? Many of us struggle with how to communicate ideas effectively, how to get our ideas to make a difference. A biology teacher spends an hour explaining mitosis, and a week later only three kids remember what it is. A manager makes a speech unveiling a new strategy as the staffers nod their heads enthusiastically, and the next day the frontline employees are observed cheerfully implementing the old one.
Good ideas often have a hard time succeeding in the world. Yet the ridiculous Kidney Heist tale keeps circulating, with no resources whatsoever to support it.
Why? Is it simply because hijacked kidneys sell better than other topics? Or is it possible to make a true, worthwhile idea circulate as effectively as this false idea?
The Truth About Movie Popcorn
Art Silverman stared at a bag of movie popcorn. It looked out of place sitting on his desk. His office had long since filled up with fake-butter fumes. Silverman knew, because of his organization’ s research, that the popcorn on his desk was unhealthy. Shockingly unhealthy, in fact. His job was to figure out a way to communicate this message to the unsuspecting moviegoers of America.
Silverman worked for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit group that educates the public about nutrition. The CSPI sent bags of movie popcorn from a dozen theaters in three major cities to a lab for nutritional analysis. The results surprised everyone.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that a normal diet contain no more than 20 grams of saturated fat each day. According to the lab results, the typical bag of popcorn had 37 grams.
The culprit was coconut oil, which theaters used to pop their popcorn. Coconut oil had some big advantages over other oils. It gave the popcorn a nice, silky texture, and released a more pleasant and natural aroma than the alternative oils. Unfortunately, as the lab results showed, coconut oil was also brimming with saturated fat.
The single serving of popcorn on Silverman’s desk—a snack someone might scarf down between meals—had nearly two days’ worth of saturated fat. And those 37 grams of saturated fat were packed into a medium-sized serving of popcorn. No doubt a decentsized bucket could have cleared triple digits.
The challenge, Silverman realized, was that few people know what “37 grams of saturated fat” means. Most of us don’t memorize the USDA’s daily nutrition recommendations. Is 37 grams good or bad? And even if we have an intuition that it’s bad, we’d wonder if it was “bad bad” (like cigarettes) or “normal bad” (like a cookie or a milk shake).
Even the phrase “37 grams of saturated fat” by itself was enough to cause most people’s eyes to glaze over. “Saturated fat has zero appeal,” Silverman says. “It’s dry, it’s academic, who cares?”
Silverman could have created some kind of visual comparison— perhaps an advertisement comparing the amount of saturated fat in the popcorn with the USDA’ s recommended daily allowance. Think of a bar graph, with one of the bars stretching twice as high as the other.
But that was too scientific somehow. Too rational. The amount of fat in this popcorn was, in some sense, not rational. It was ludicrous. The CSPI needed a way to shape the message in a way that fully communicated this ludicrousness.
Silverman came up with a solution.
CSPI called a press conference on September 27, 1992. Here’s the message it presented: “A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings—combined!”
The folks at CSPI didn’t neglect the visuals—they laid out the full buffet of greasy food for the television cameras. An entire day’ s worth of unhealthy eating, displayed on a table. All that saturated fat— stuffed into a single bag of popcorn.
The story was an immediate sensation, featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN. It made the front pages of USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post’s Style section. Leno and Letterman cracked jokes about fat-soaked popcorn, and headline writers trotted out some doozies: “Popcorn Gets an ‘R’ Rating,” “Lights, Action, Cholesterol!” “Theater Popcorn is Double Feature of Fat.”
The idea stuck. Moviegoers, repulsed by these findings, avoided popcorn in droves. Sales plunged. The service staff at movie houses grew accustomed to fielding questions about whether the popcorn was popped in the “bad” oil. Soon after, most of the nation’ s biggest theater chains—including United Artists, AMC, and Loews— announced that they would stop using coconut oil.