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Book Review — Made to Stick

Sep 05, 2017

We're always looking for ways to improve our communication skills at Website Muscle.

As co-workers, better communication helps us work more efficiently and productively for our clients.

As website builders, understanding communication helps us hone our client's messaging and create compelling, conversion-driven content.

It was this quest for better communication that led us to Made to Stick.

made-to-stick.jpgMade to Stick

Written by Chip and Dan Heath, Made to Stick attempts to unravel and quantify why some messages — like conspiracy theories, urban legends, and public-health scares — are so quick to spread and “stick” in people’s minds.

The authors suggest that by using the “six principles of stickiness,” complex and important ideas can have the same staying power as the “viral” stories that survive organically.

Six Principles of Stickiness

1. Simple

Simplicity is important for making any message stick. The authors recommend honing in on the “core” of whatever your idea is, and to continue refining until you’ve reached what the book describes as a “profoundly compact idea.”

Simplifying your message also helps to avoid the “Curse of Knowledge,” which the book describes as knowing so much about your specialty or service that your high-level messages go right over the heads of your audience. Keeping things simple is the first step toward making your idea stick.

2. Unexpected

The classic stories that stick in your head often include a sense of mystery or surprise. That element of unexpectedness creates a need for closure that will keeps your audience’s attention and make your message memorable.

horse-tongue.jpg3. Concrete

Ideas or messages with concrete details are more likely to stick in our minds than abstract thoughts.

For example, “be grateful for what you get” is a nice sentiment, but “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” offers the same lesson by creating a detailed, and therefore more concrete, picture in your mind.

4. Credible

Communicating a new or important idea is always going to require winning over some skeptics. Sticky messages establish credibility by using real people and vivid details to give their story a tangible human element. This type of “social proof” allows normal people to become authorities because of their experience.

5. Emotions

Similar to the Credibility principle, Made to Stick states that for your message to connect with your audience, there has to be an emotional connection. In short, people have to care.

And what do people care about the most? Themselves.

kid-bible.jpgWhat the text refers to as “The Power of Self-Interest” is another version of that old marketing question — “What’s In It For Me?” If your message gets people to care and personally invest in the outcome, you’ve gone a long way toward creating a sticky message.

6. Stories

The book tells us that stories are powerful because they offer wisdom in a easy-to-digest way. From the parables of the Bible to modern infomercials, stories are mental simulations that take an audience along with them, rather than making abstract points to argue over.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what Made to Stick has to offer. The book dives deep into what makes a “sticky” message work, and the suggestions are applicable to everyone from teachers to politicians to humble website builders.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your communication and make your message stand out from the crowd, Made to Stick is a great place to start.

Book image via Amazon

Topics: book review

Kyle Cavaness

Written by Kyle Cavaness

Kyle is approachable, friendly, and professional – and the dude can write, which doesn’t hurt. Kyle helps our online marketing clients by writing unique, keyword-rich blog posts and landing pages. During non-working hours, he writes stories for OC Weekly and songs for his band, The Vespertines.

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