Friday, September 18, 2009

Make your idea stick


In the book Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell ( my review ) says "stickiness" of an idea is an important criteria for the idea to tip.

"Made to stick" by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, is an offshoot of the stickiness chapter of Tipping Point where the authors  analyze how and why ideas stick. They have even formed a mnemonic for it - SUCCES. Each one by itself will not guarantee your idea to stick - but if rightly applied together, the probability of your idea sticking is higher.

Simple : For an idea to stick, it has to be simple.For that you need to tear apart the unnecessary layers and go to the core of it.

Nike - Just do it.
FedEx - The World on Time
Audi - Vorsprung durch Technik ( ok this is an exception, and being Audi they can make anything stick :) )   Jokes apart it explains very well what Audi does - when tranlated it means - Advancement through technology.

Unexpected : The idea should rattle the listeners up. It should break pre conceived notions. Anything unusual is sticky.

When Apple launched Macbook Air, Steve Jobs pulled the Macbook Air out of an envelope in his keynote address.  He did not dish out the numbers about the weight or the thickness of the laptop. Just that image - the unexpectedness of a laptop coming out of an envelope was enough to establish the product in everyone's mind - the thinnest laptop in the world.

Concrete : If your idea is abstract or vague or is like a puzzle, the probability of it sticking is hard. It should be direct and should not have any ambiguities about it.

Ratan Tata made a statement a couple of years back - "We will produce a car under Rs. 1 Lakh". It was a concrete statement with no ambiguities. It motivated his team to build this car and they launched a car - with 4 doors which is quite safe, efficient and adequately powerful. All this for under Rs 1 lakh - an incredible feat.

Credible : The idea to stick needs to have the  backing of credible people. Quoting customer testimonials is the best example in this regard. If you notice most of the products will proudly present the awards, experts comments and opinions in their website and product brochure.

Emotional : We associate emotions to every incident,thought,object. If an idea generates emotion in your listener, then the probability of the idea being remembered and spread is higher. Try recollecting your favorite TV commercials - the successful ones will invariably appeal to one emotion or the other.

Stories : No one remembers facts, but we all remember stories. We all remember the moral values found in the stories of Panchatantra, Ramayan and Mahabarath. Imagine if we were just sermoned on just the moral values - will we remember any?

The book is filled with lots of anecdotes and case studies.  You will never get bored reading  this and it will give you many ideas to make your idea stick :)

Some quotations from the book :

"In Hollywood, people use core ideas called 'high-concept pitches.' You've probably heard some of them. Speed was 'Die Hard on a bus.'"

"Becoming an expert in something means that we become more and more fascinated by nuance and complexity. That's when the Curse of Knowledge kicks in, and we start to forget what it's like not to know what we know."

"Stories are like flight simulators for the brain."

"The most basic way to get someone's attention is this: Break a pattern."


  1. This is definitely one of your best posts till now Venkat.

    It's amazing how Apple manages to create products that fulfill all the requirements of stickiness as defined in the book. Even the last element of 'stories' is relevant as the way it takes over, or finds a unique niche in each market it enters, are compelling tales by themselves.

  2. Great post, informative, keep up the good work.

  3. Thank you Kunal and Sudesh for your kind comments!