Book review: “Made to Stick”

Book: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Summary: When marketing anything, keep these six concepts in mind if you want your message to shtick: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories; yes, my friends, that spells SUCCESs. If it sounds like too much work, these two concepts also work: Free, Sex (noooo, that’s not in the book…but it works I tell you!).

Recommended? Si. It’s a quick, fun read full of interesting anecdotes and examples that make the book’s message more *concrete* (a-hem). If you’re never going to pick it up, at least read a breakdown of the six principles on the book’s website.

One(ish)-liners for each of the six principles:

  • Simplicity – boil it all down to the core message you want people to walk away with….the one thing they should know/do…the key takeaway….the essence of your point…the singular (okay, I’ll stop).
  • Unexpectedness – generate interest and curiosity by being counter-intuitive or using surprise/some other technique. Oh, and you should send me money (see? that’s called “surprise”).
  • Concreteness – explain ideas “in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information”; people think in pictures, so paint a picture. For example, I’m sitting at my desk in my room typing this on my Dell laptop, sipping water and eating green curry chicken over rice. If you make it to the end of this post, I bet you’ll remember what I ate, but you won’t remember all six principles.
  • Credibility – it’s only what is said because of who says it; make sense? If you can’t get a spokesperson (Oprah), be vividly detailed; “sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials”.
  • Emotions – get people to care about your idea by evoking a feeling around your idea, and keep in mind that “we are wired to feel things for people, not for abstraction.” You make me happy by reading this blog post. (Don’t you feel happier knowing that, mom?)
  • Stories – wrap the idea with context and it’ll be remembered as associated with that context; sometimes, analogies work great here as they ground the idea in a story or context folks are familiar with (analogies also allow you to check off “simple” and “concrete”; for example, “my blog is the Pinto of the blogosphere” says a lot about my blog. And me, unfortunately.)

Key takeaways:

  • Think about what YOU would respond to if YOU were your target audience (make sense?). First this means understanding the frame of mind/perspective of your target audience (note: this is HARD). Then, it’s asking questions like “what would make me take notice?” Throw off what the authors affectionately refer to as the “Curse of Knowledge” (corny, but true) and go from there. How does your target audience views the world? What’s important to them? (Which raises some good questions…who are you people? And what’s important to you?)
  • Make ideas interesting in some way/shape/form. Sounds incredibly obvious but it’s in fact hard to do (think of all the crap advertising you see these days…clearly, if it were interesting it wouldn’t be crap…I’ll bet you had a hard time remembering explicit crap ads precisely because they were crap). Playing into people’s curiosity can be a powerful way to make things interesting (guess what color boxers I’m wearing).
  • When pitching something, emphasize benefits, not features; people want to know what’s in it for them (self-interest), or how what you’re offering supports something they believe in (identity). If you can nail both, you’ve got a winner (this whole “organic” craze, for example).
  • Final excerpt from the book. “For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it’s got to make the audience:
  1. Pay attention
  2. Understand and remember it
  3. Agree/Believe
  4. Care
  5. Be able to act on it”
  6. Think free. Or sex. Or both.

Okay, without looking, what are the six principles? And what did I eat? And how much money are you sending me?

On perceived scarcity, intertia, and relational thought; a collection of mini-posts

I’ve been wanting to write full posts for each of the items below for weeks but haven’t. I just realized that is because I have no idea what I’m talking about. Accordingly, I’m publishing them as half-baked, random rants; enjoy : )

Perceived scarcity creates perceived demand, and thus, perceived value
I wonder, how much of value is perceived versus real? Diamonds. Home prices. “Premium” items. Dating. Heck, even in interactions with friends, I sometimes feel like the less available I am (to a point), the more demand there is for my time (or, at least, the higher the perceived value for my time). On a daily basis, I find that many things have mostly implied value, not real value. This is reinforced by something else I often find: demand creates demand. I often (unfortunately) forget how much the concepts of supply and demand factor into many aspects of my daily life — and how much they are shaped by perception.

Inertia is the strongest force in my universe (yes I know it’s not technically a force)
It’s crazy how if I don’t work out for a day, the next day I find an excuse, and the day after that, until it’s been weeks since I’ve hit the gym. On the flip side, if (huge if) I can break that cycle, it becomes progressively so much easier to hit the gym. Same thing with my eating habits (I already had the cookie, may as well eat the ice cream) and my drinking habits (although, I do blame some of you for being that “net external force” that throws me off there). Though in public I might mock folks who have personal coaches, privately I’m quite jealous; if I had someone whose job it was to make sure that I stayed on track — that inertia worked for me, not against me — I wonder where’d I be?

Everything is relational (right?)
A web search on the term “relational thought” brings up links to esoteric papers and some very random sites/blogs. This is curious to me…why isn’t this studied more? Doesn’t our mind operate relationally? In my life, anyways, it’s “this note reminds me of this song”, or “this perfume reminds me of”…eh, you know what I mean. A couple of years ago I found this cool site that gave you book/music/movie recos based upon an input favorite in a relational way (check it out here); I swore I was looking at the future. Soon thereafter a buddy of mine started drawing mind maps of his thoughts, a way to format output similar to the relational way in which we think; I think he got smarter over the course of just a few weeks (I’m not kidding). I’ve been sitting here waiting for the “relational revolution”, but instead, I feel we’re conforming to the way (current) computers force us to interface with them, which is very “singular input, singular output”. Okay, now I officially don’t what I’m saying so I’m going to stop.

Got some time this weekend? Enter the Current TV Ecospot Contest

Got some free time this weekend? Access to a videocamera (even on your phone or as part of your dig cam)? Consider entering the Current TV Ecospot Contest.

“Make a :15, :30 or :60 second ecospot about
TAKING ACTION: Showcase how you, or someone you know, is taking action to alleviate the climate crisis in their own small or big way
MOTIVATING CHANGE: Create an original, persuasive message that will open eyes, inspire change and empower your audience”

Videos aren’t due until 9/12; for details, here’s the link:

I had fully intended on entering…in fact I even wrote a script (below); just realized, though, I need to focus a bit (for those who know me, please, stop laughing…please?).

Oh, forgot to mention another reason I decided not to enter the contest; my script is weeaaaaak:
0:00 [A few flowers on a ridge wafting in the wind]
0:03 [From camera left, a knee-down shot of a guy wearing dress pants and dress shoes (#1) walking, stepping on the flower, and walking on]
0:06 [From camera right, before #1 exits, a knee-down shot of a girl wearing jeans and tennis shoes (#2) walking, stepping on the flower, and walking on]
0:08 [From camera right, before #2 exits, a knee-down shot of someone wearing shorts and flip flops walking, about to step on the flower, but stops and moves his foot towards camera]
0:11 [Cut to black; fade in/out with the following text: “it’s not too late”]
0:12 [Cut to black; fade in/out the following text: “to see what we have” ]
0:13 [Cut to black; fade in/out the following text: “to save what we have left”]