Why do we remember urban legends dozens of years after a spooky slumber party? How do we recall the plots of iconic movies like The Godfather when we can't tell someone what we ate for lunch yesterday? When did you first hear the story of Goldilocks and the three bears? Could you pinpoint the first Budweiser Super Bowl ad you watched?
What do these all have in common? The stories they tell are sticky – i.e. memorable. And, what's a story if no one remembers it?
In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath lay out the formula for stickiness through 6 key principles that can be applied at the core of any strong communication and marketing campaign. In today's viral universe, one could argue that stickiness is relevant now more than ever.
The Heath brothers break down stickiness into 6 easy steps (which also make up a beautifully memorable acronym: "SUCCESS".
Step 1) Simple – find the core of any idea:
Countless publications have lauded the benefits of simple communication, but Made to Stick poses an intriguing solution: an idea is simple if every single piece of information that you share supports it, or every decision you make is backed by it. Southwest Airlines' mantra is a great example: "We are THE low cost airline."
Step 2) Unexpected – grab people's attention by surprising:
It doesn't get much more unexpected than Betty White playing tackle football in a Snickers ad. Grab people's attention by surprising them. Don't think of this as a story telling gimmick; this is your chance to reinforce your simple message by drawing attention to its unexpected implications.
Step 3) Concrete – ensure an idea can be grasped and remembered later:
Make a story concrete by bringing it to life: the image of a black lung next to a healthy pink lung has long been held as a visual metaphor for health campaigns against smoking.
Step 4) Credible – make your idea believable:
There are several ways to make your idea credible; an expert's opinion, concrete details, or statistics all help improve believability: "4 out of 5 dentists recommend Crest". "Tide has 6X the cleaning power of the leading competitor". These claims help us to believe in the idea that these products are superior.
Step 5) Emotional – help people see the importance of an idea:
This step isn't about appealing to emotional vulnerability; consumers can see right through it. Instead, appeal to higher levels of self-interest. The iconic "don't mess with Texas" is a superb example of this; the slogan was an appeal to reduce highway littering.
Step 6) Stories – use an idea through narrative:
Once you have a simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional idea, weave it into a narrative to ensure it's memorable. Subway's powerful story of Jared and his incredible weight loss is a great example of a memorable narrative reiterated to create a memorable ad campaign.
With the Heath brothers' six steps to SUCCESS, you will be weaving memorable stories in no time!