Made to Stick

  • Mazda's Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
  • Frying an egg - "This is your brain on drugs"
  • Three frogs saying "bud-weis-er"
  • Nice guys finish last
What made these phrases memorable, even after all these years? Why do some ideas stay trapped in the inventors head? Made to Stick analyzes and explains why ideas are remembered. These essential SUCCES principles engrave ideas into our minds:

Simple — find the core of any idea
Unexpected — grab people's attention by surprising them
Concrete — make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
Credibility — give an idea believability
Emotion — help people see the importance of an idea
Stories — empower people to use an idea through narrative
[Wikipedia]

Made to Stick is a collection of gripping stories that use elements of SUCCES. You can see the results for yourself as you read the book. Consider the case of Nordstrom employees, or "Nordies." Nordstrom strives for world class customer service. But "world class customer service" doesn't really say much or exemplify anything special. Now what about a Nordie who offered to gift wrap a customer's dress purchased from Macy's? Easily understandable and instantly sticky. How did the UNICEF director who wanted leaders to solve dehydration via Oral Rehydration Therapy tell his story? He could have easily recited thousands of statistics to try and convince world leaders that the problem was worth solving. Instead he carried a teaspoon, salt, and sugar asking them if they knew a cheap solution that cost less than a cup of tea. Message delivered.

Of course you and I are not trying to change a thousand lives, but we have the same goal. We need people to remember our ideas. I'm lucky enough to give a presentation on trace compilation at the Virtual Execution Environments (VEE) conference. The important question for me is, how do you package trace compilation in an accessible manner? Saying a trace is a "hot path through code" is so ambiguous. Nor sticky. A better method is ask the audience to imagine a trace as "lightning in the rain", or "a path through a maze". While not yet the best analogies, they are magnitudes more vivid and sticky than a "hot execution path through code".

And that's really what the whole book is about: Examples of people with abstract ideas crafting memorable messages. When you're reading the book, your brain races to figure out how to create a message that sticks. You're thinking about presenting your idea in that meeting with the boss. Or how you're going to deliver a presentation in front of 100 people leaving them obsessed with your idea. Maybe you are even blessed enough to pitch to a venture capitalist. You want him to empty his gold-laced pockets. Whatever the reason, your idea has to jam itself into someone's head. Made to Stick gives you a hammer.