It is perhaps a truism to suggest that people are more in thrall to stories than products, but it’s no less a telling an observation for it. The Heath brothers – Dan a professor at Stanford's business school, Chip a teacher and textbook publisher – pool their various communications expertise into a book that offers a dynamic study on the point, shining a light on the means by which some products’ message “sticks” and others melt away into the ether, unremembered outside of a cabal of marketing professionals who mistakenly crafted them. Messages, they stress, need to be simple, surprising, three-dimensional, credible and need to appeal to core human emotions.
Using considerable amounts of psychological studies to underline how people relate to commercial messages, the brothers create an invaluable companion to any marketing or branding initiative. They open the book with an anecdotal case study that compares the urban legend of the man in South-East Asia who, after a night in a bar, awakes in a bath of ice with his key organs missing, to a paragraph of typical dry business blurb full of phrases like “comprehensive community building” and “return-on-investment rationale.” It’s obvious which sticks in the mind longer and, as a result, offers the chance to be retold and perpetuated.
The book might veer occasionally into repackaged common sense, but the real-world examples come thick and fast, and the energetic delivery and sheer readability make this not just an important read but a good one, too.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck by Dan and Chip Heath (Random House), 2007