With every company trying to be its own content machine after the rise of the internet and social media, we are inundated with more information than before.
So how can your message stand out from all the white noise?
The Heath brothers wrote Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die, a popular book amongst marketers, entrepreneurs, and managers, which explores the concept of “stickiness” – first coined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point.
The Heath brothers distilled their learnings into 6 principles, creating the acronym SUCCESs (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories).
Here is a recap of the 6 traits that will make your ideas and messages “stickier”:
What’s the core message? Can you communicate it with an analogy? A lot of brands want to be one thing, ten things, and everything. Services tell their clients that they are the fastest, the most efficient, the healthiest, the most personalized. The authors encourage brands to remove excess and really prioritize.
An an example, the authors tell us Southwest’s core message is to be “THE low-cost airline”. When proposed with the idea to offer dinner to their customers, the CEO decided against it because the main concern was not passenger comfort, but being low-cost. If it didn’t meet that core goal, it was not a priority. Southwest is still today the world’s largest low-cost carrier.
How can you violate a schema? How can you surprise your audience? Brands need to grab people’s attention so that, like a well-written mystery novel, they will hold on tight, eager to stick with you to the very end.
As an example, the authors describe a commercial where the audience sees a happy family getting into a minivan and cruising through the suburban streets. Then out of nowhere- CRASH! The advertisement to “buckle up” was effective because it violated our schema of real-life neighborhood trips.
Use vivid imagery. Paint a mental picture. Much research shows that concrete words (like “V-8 engine”) are more memorable than abstract ones (like “high-powered”).
As an example, in the old Aesop’s fable of the fox and the grapes, the fox declares the grapes he was unable to reach are probably sour. Instead of the phrase and lesson “don’t be bitter when you fail”, the term “sour grapes” appears in every language. It’s concrete imagery has remarkable staying power.
How do you make your idea believable? You can do this easily by bringing in a true authority. But if you can’t, there are 5 other ways to create credibility:
1) anti-authority (use living proof to show that your product works)
2) concrete details (extensive details=internal credibility)
3) statistics (using data to prove your point)
4) the Sinatra Test (look for one proof that will convince all customers you’re great; named after Sinatra’s famous song New York, New York, where he sings “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere”; also known as social proof)
5) testable credentials (allow customers to test your product/idea for themselves)
Sticky ideas appeal to our subconscious wishes, desires, and hopes, and inspire people to act. You need have people take off their analytical hats and show how your ideas are associated with things they really care about.
For example, instead of emphasizing your features (“we have the best seed”), tell people that you’ll give them what they truly desire (“we’ll give you the best lawn”). Empathizing with your target consumer will help you to be in more tune with what will emotionally resonate with them.
Why bother telling an entire fable or myth if we can just say the bottom-line moral of the story? Why is “Beware of being bitter when you fail” not as effective as telling the entire fable of the fox and the grapes?
Stories can not only include all the earlier stickiness principles (concrete imagery, emotional resonance, unexpectedness) but they can also create a mental simulation that allows the listener to really internalize the ideas in their mind. If you hear a story, you can more readily retell it to others, as if you experienced it yourself. It’s the same reason why flight simulators are more effective than flashcards when training pilots.
SUCCESs – Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Stories are the 6 key principles to make an idea really stick with your audience. It is a fantastic book whose examples and lessons can be applied to almost anything in life, no matter what career or industry you are in.
How have you seen these principles work in your own brand communications and product development work?