Made to Stick by Chip Heath [Book Summary – Review]

Brilliant ideas do not always finish up with accomplishment. But brilliant thoughts always go unappreciated and end up collecting dust on the bookshelves. 

At the same time, even less useful concepts, such as gossip and popular myths, quickly spread. 

The fear in America about the presence of an additive Halloween candy may be given as an example. Thousands of families were anxious about unidentified villains gave their kids dangerous sweets or razor blades.

The reality that they did not even know that gossip was an irrational misconception of the modern environment.

What is the reason behind the dissemination of this news so fast? And why are they so hard to eliminate?

In basic terms, two significant things are shared by them: they are unforgettable and people want to spread them quickly.

Any concept can be built to be durable and common by getting the benefit of these two concepts.

Some medical organizations decided to raise consciousness in America a couple of years ago that movie popcorn, made with coconut oil at the time, included disproportionately high levels of saturated fat, making it highly harmful.

It was useless to inform customers that a packet of popcorn contained 37 g of saturated fat because the number was too flat and scientific for people to keep in mind.

But they attempted a stickier thing: 

”In a typical neighborhood movie theater, a medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and lunch fries, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings-combined!” 

This dynamic statement stuck, spread, and ultimately resulted in all successful U.s. theater companies replacing coconut oil with healthier options.

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Chapter 1 – A sticky idea should be simple. 

Trying to describe an idea as deeply as possible is exciting. But, too much detail is problematic when it comes to stickiness. 

Alternatively, cut the definition down to only one simple statement; any more explanation, together with the main idea behind it all, will be easily forgotten. A basic declaration makes it possible to absorb and comprehend a concept.

This doesn’t mean that an idea should be overly dumbed down. The essence of simplification is to summarise the central idea without altering the context in terms that everyone can comprehend. Though this can be somewhat difficult, it allows for sticky ideas. 

Journalists have to be an expert to come up with a big press that attracts the attention that it deserves from viewers and expresses the essence of an actual story in just a few sentences. Journalists recognize that a poor headline will impede the achievement of a wonderful story. 

The phrase “THE Low Fare Airline” by Southwest Airlines is a brilliant example from the business world.

Such a catchy phrase would stick. It will immediately forget a complicated statistical overview of their prices and struggle to make an impact.

Chapter 2 – A sticky term has to be unpredictable.

By working on autopilot whenever possible, the brain likes to conserve resources. This implies that it causes data to just amble past unremembered. It does this by subconsciously paying no attention to usual or predicted items.

After all, when faced with the unpredictable, the brain jolts out of autopilot and into manual control; our entire concentration is obtained by the unpredictable.

Visualize the regular pre-flight safety demonstration being offered by a flight attendant. The regular flyers on board know all the details so they don’t even listen to the script. However, if she were to abruptly break from the usual briefing and say, “While there might be 50 ways to leave your lover, there’s only one way off this plane,” all the passengers would start to listen to her.   

It’s shocking how easily people come to ignore routine things. It gets the publicity it deserves by introducing an idea unpredictably or memorably. 

Chapter 3 – Gaps in curiosity help to make an idea stick.

The two biggest obstacles in promoting an idea are getting and keeping people’s attention. Using gaps in curiosity will help to resolve both of these barriers.

People let themselves go through daily life on autopilot because, to some point, they feel that they know almost whatever they need to learn to get them throughout the day.

The most powerful way to catch someone’s interest is to indicate that they don’t know something significant yet. By creating curiosity gaps, this instantly jolts them out of autopilot. Empty spaces in the perception of people that they have an obsessive need to fill, even though they were not relevant to the topic before.

The best instance of this is detective stories, using fascinating clues and misdirections to make the audience guessing “whodunit?”. The curiosity gap strategy is so effective that it is frequently used on the front page many times by celebrity news magazines; it is known to improve sales. 

That’s because the only way to fulfill the desire to fill the curiosity gap and it happens when you read the rest of the novel.

Curiosity gaps can be produced only by something unforeseen. Surprising facts and statistics are good for this and are also an effective way for any concept to open up a great pitch or presentation. For example, “Why do 40 percent of our clients only make up 10 percent of our total sales?” It sticks in the minds of the target audience instantly and makes them want to know much more about the central idea. 

Chapter 4 – Sticky ideas are definitive and concrete.

People want to explain themselves abstractly. The more we understand about a topic, the more we use explanations in abstract terms. 

Generally, it is because it is difficult for most people to think like the listener or to ask themselves, “How does what I say sound to the other person?”

Here is a typical experiment that shows this impact: a participant was asked to tap the rhythm of a given song (e.g., Jingle Bells) with their hands on a table, while another participant listened and tried to identify the song’s title.

While only the tapping on the table was heard by the participant, the tapper heard the melody in his mind as well. Just because of that, the tappers predicted that fifty percent of the time, on average, the listeners were able to properly identify the song, while the real total was only 2.5 percent. 

The issue is, people seem to forget that not everybody knows much about a subject like they do, whether it is a melody in their mind or the specifics of a concept.

The same influence applies to verbal communication; abstract words express the meaning and tapping on a table expresses a melody.  We can only be sure that the message will be interpreted when we use concrete, descriptive words. 

Providing examples or using depictive imagery to help illustrate a point is also useful.

Concrete and visually depictive phrases are not only simpler to comprehend, they also stick.

Concreteness implies avoiding needless terminology when talking about actual individuals or events. The retail worker has not only “provided excellent customer service”: they have offered a customer a refund on a top although it was purchased at some other location of the shop.

The fox has not “altered his tastes to suit his means”; he is assured that he can not hit the fruits which are too sour. 

The more concrete and effective an idea is presented, the more likely it will stick and be shared.

Chapter 5 – A sticky idea has to be credible.

In general, if they are believable, ideas only spread only when they are believable; otherwise, they are automatically rejected by others.

Credibility can be obtained in many respects.

A tried-and-tested strategy should have experts to back the story up. An expert does not always have to be a doctor in a white jacket. For example for the anti-smoking campaign that featured a female who had smoked since the age of 10 in her mid-twenties. She seemed like a fragile, old lady now awaiting her second lung transplant. Her presence itself applied to her story with credibility. 

People trust stories told by genuine, trustworthy individuals.

The use of actual statistics and numbers to explain the argument is another way of adding credibility to a story, but only if they create a concrete, non-abstract image. A frequent and misleading mistake is overly relying on statistics.

The anti-war organization, which says that the world’s combined present nuclear arsenal has five thousand times the destructive capacity of the bomb that damaged Hiroshima, is an illustration of the successful use of statistics. This offers the viewer a common point of reference (the picture of Hiroshima’s damage) and pushes them to visualize this power five thousand times. Because this is inherently nonsensical, their main idea is underlined: that nuclear proliferation has gone too far.

The viewer now has a prepared statistic to use to transmit the message to others, as an extra benefit. 

It is incredibly useful to use the audience itself as a guide to offer credibility. The political slogan of Ronald Reagan targeted voters directly: “Ask yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?” ” 

People always rely on their judgment more than they rely on authority, so it is especially trustworthy if the audience can individually confirm your message.

Chapter 6 – Emotional appeals make individuals take action.  

If you want other people to help to donate to hungry African children, there are two potential methods: 

Either present statistics and numbers that demonstrate effectively how many millions of children are hungry and how many die each day, or offer an image of only one kid truly needy who may be rescued by a donation.

The first method refers to the logical portion of the brain. We will accept the figures if they are credible but possibly will not take any action. 

The second method refers directly to our thoughts. We find it just as convincing as the first method and besides, we are seeing with our own eyes a person who is starving – but most specifically, it encourages us to take action. 

That’s because, rather than reason and facts, feelings are the major driving force behind human action.

Therefore, if the intention is to get individuals to act, the message needs to explicitly refer to emotions. If it displays photographs of people whose life and health have been ruined by smoking, an anti-smoking campaign can have a greater effect; these types of images drive the viewer, while statistics and facts have hardly any emotional influence. 

In presenting a concept, concentrate on emotional sparks, not on the dry truth.

Chapter 7 – Arouse the interest in action are most successful if the viewer has something in it.

Emotional interests work because humans are more involved in other humans than in facts and statistics. 

But humans are most focused on one individual in particular: themselves. 

People always wonder, before deciding to do something, “What’s in it for me?”  So an appeal would be much more powerful if it can prove to people that there’s something for the viewer in it.

To profit from this, a company shouldn’t just mention the functionality of its latest television; it should show consumers how these functions will help them directly.  

The customer should be able to picture themselves, in their mind’s eye, relaxed on the living room couch,  enjoying the advantages of these wonderful additional features.

In a campaign in Texas that seeking to stop young people from littering, this attitude was used. It created the name, “Don’t mess with Texas,” and had Texan stars and regional sports team players read it out that the teenage Texans might relate with. 

What’s in there for me? In this scenario, it was for young folks through their actions to feel associated with their cultural icons. “Real Texans like me don’t leave litter on the sidewalk,” the campaign led them to believe.

Chapter 8 – When they’re told like stories, ideas stick.

For the mind, a story similar to a flight simulator.  It helps us to get within the action and predict how we will respond in a similar situation.  

Usually, people make the critical mistake of choosing a meaningless slogan over a good story while attempting to promote an idea.

While slogans can help have an idea to stick, they are not very helpful in encouraging individuals to take action. This is where stories and explanations are most powerful.

The fast-food chain Subway, for example, benefited significantly from the real story of Jared Fogle, a massively overweight man who succeeded to lose weight to a healthier size with a basic diet of two Subway foods a day,  

No slogan can run against a story like this one. 

Almost all of the strong stories accompany common themes.

The challenge where a “David” takes on a “Goliath” is a classic example. Stories like these encourage so many individuals to act immediately, following the example of “David.” 

Where a “Good Samaritan” helps a random person truly needy, another common theme is reaching out. In general, this sort of story is great at encouraging stronger social actions.

Creativity stories, like the apple landing on Newton’s head and influencing his gravity theory, make individuals see the world from a different angle or think beyond the limit. 

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath, Dan Heath Book Review

In this book, the primary point is that any idea may be presented so that it sticks. In particular, popular stories, promotional campaigns, and sticking ideas have recognizable features that can be summarized in the mnemonic SUCCESs.

Simple – find the essence of every idea 

Unexpected – catch the attention of people by shocking them 

Concrete – ensure that an idea can be understood and later remembered 

Credible – give an idea of credibility 

Emotional – help people to see the value of an idea 

Story – empower people to use an idea through a story 

SUCCESs is the formula for sticky ideas.

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Savaş Ateş

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