Posts Tagged ideation

How to make your idea stick

Sticky Tape

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”:

Simple:
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.

Unexpected:
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.

Concrete:
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.

Credible:
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)

Emotional:
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.

Stories:
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.

SUCCESsSimple, 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?

3 Lessons on Innovation from The Martian

3 Lessons in Innovation from The Martian

Everyone is talking about the latest sci-fi thriller, The Martian, which stars Matt Damon (Interstellar, The Departed), is directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) and is adapted from Andy Weir’s novel about Mark Watney, a marooned astronaut who uses all his wit and ingenuity to survive on the inhospitable Mars.

The sci-fi movie is being heralded for being more science than fiction, having consulted extensively with NASA and having featured scientifically accurate technology so real and feasible that movie-goers thought the movie was based on a true story.

I was blown away at how beautifully the movie was done and relieved that it lacked the cliche scenes typical in space blockbusters.  You won’t find the super smart astronaut doing ironically non-super smart astronaut things. You won’t find an astronaut glancing through his rocket ship window at the little blue dot called earth with somber commentary on human insignificance. And you won’t find any overly science-y jargoned explanation between scientists that only confuses the audience more.

What you will find is a pure survivalist tale that illustrates the power of human perseverance and collaboration to do brilliantly innovative things. And it will sure make you feel proud to be a human Earthling.

So here are 3 lessons on innovating for you Earthlings out there from The Martian. (Caution: Some spoiler alerts- so go watch the movie before you read this!)

To innovate, reframe and solve the right problems, one at a time

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it…Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work… You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

This was probably one of the best quotes from The Martian. It leaves you feeling that nothing is really impossible or hopeless. Although faced with terrifying circumstances, aka being stranded hundreds of millions of miles away from any other living human, Watney reframed his situation and focused on solving the problems at hand, one by one. And by doing so, he kept his sanity and ultimately his life.

For Watney, the big question was “How do I survive on Mars?” – which sounds like a completely impossible scenario.  But Watney began breaking down the question into smaller, more solvable problems that he began to work out one after the other. “How do I grow enough food?” “How do I make water?” “How do I communicate with Earth?”

Of course our own big questions we ask about our own business and products may not be as life threatening (though we think it may be) – but they are often questions that feel too abstract or too complex to solve. By reframing your problem into tangible challenges – you can and will be able solve for the seemingly impossible.

To innovate, incorporate diverse perspectives and be open to collaboration

A beautiful moment in The Martian took place when the directors of CNSA (China National Space Administration) discussed whether to postpone their own mission by offering their Taeyang Shen space probe rocket to the US to help them retrieve Watney or to simply remain silent, free from repercussions since the rocket was classified information that no one knew about. Ultimately, in the name of science, they decided to reach out and help their fellow scientists.

How often do we look outside our own industry? (If you’re in financial services or healthcare, what can you learn from CPG or the tech sector?)
How often do we look outside at what other cultures are doing? (What can US companies learn from the success of Chinese products and companies?)

Often we can be narrow minded and blinded by our own expertise and knowledge in a field. However it’s diversity and collaboration that fuels innovation, which is one of the reasons why we take our insight and innovation clients on ‘safaris’ to gain inspiration from lateral industries and cultures, to open up their mind in a way that their office desk can not. It is through this exposure of diverse thoughts and perspectives that we can achieve great things.

To innovate, welcome humor

I admit it’s fatally dangerous, but I’d get to fly around like Iron Man.

This great line by Watney during one of the most suspenseful, and even ludicrous, scenes in the movie had me smiling from ear to ear, even though I was also clenching my fists in anxiety. The Martian is such an intense thriller, but it smartly keeps lighthearted with refreshing quips by Watney – which brings me to the power of humor.

Studies have shown that humor can help in ideation and creativity, allowing for more eureka! moments. Even brainstorming the ridiculously exaggerated of the imagination could help you to break out of your linear way of thinking by allowing the mind to associate new ideas/relationships more freely- and ultimately lead to more plausible solutions you wouldn’t have thought of before – and if you’re Watney- save your life.

The Martian was an uplifting story and a remarkable demonstration of human ingenuity, offering great lessons even to those who aren’t stranded in space. To all the innovators out there on Earth- take note.

Mart Watney Innovating GIF

Image Credit: IndieWire