Book Review – “Made To Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The messages from this book have ‘stuck’ to me over seven years. I remember this book very well and have been implicitly and explicitly guided by concepts that I learnt when I read the book long ago.

The authors have managed to implement what they are trying to teach :-)!

The full title of the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck – makes the intent of the authors very clear. It is about conveying ideas and messages more effectively to achieve whatever you are trying to achieve Anyway, here is a passage from the Introduction of the book:

“We wrote this book to help you make your ideas stick. By ‘stick’, we mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact – they change your audience’s opinions and behavior.”

 — Introduction: What Sticks? – Made to Stick

Details of Made to Stick

Made to Stick Book Cover
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck

Authors: Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Publishing Date: 2007

Publisher: Arrow Books

Formats Available In: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart

This book is an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Extremely well-written, it uses the principles that are proposed in the book for effectively making ideas stick with the audience. It continues with the idea of ‘stickiness’ earlier popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point.

The book contains a number of examples, cases, urban legends, personal stories, and analysis that are used to support the principles of effective communication proposed by the authors. The “Clinic” in each Chapter is used to illustrate the application of the principles discussed to a specific case study or idea.

According to the book, there are six principles of effective communication that combine to form the acronym SUCCES (the last S from “success” is absent). These six principles are:

  • Simplicity. Strip an idea to its core. Keep prioritizing the ideas till you have something simple and profound.
  • Unexpectedness. Use surprise to grab the audience’s attention.
  • Concreteness. Avoid the abstract. Avoid ambiguity. Use vivid images.
  • Credibility. Use whatever will make people believe in the idea. This could be the ‘messenger’ or the way the message is conveyed. (“For instance, if you have the security contract for Fort Knox, you are in the running for any security contract“)
  • Emotional. Form an association between something they do care about to connect to things they don’t yet care about. (The most frequent reason for unsuccessful advertising is advertisers who are so full of their own accomplishments – ‘the world’s best seed!’ – that they forget to tell us why we should buy it  – ‘to have the world’s best lawn!‘)
  • Stories. People remember stories compared to abstract messages. (For example, Subway used the story of a man who lost a lot of weight while eating their diet sandwich instead of providing data on calories and fat content of the sandwich).

There are over a hundred examples of successful messaging to illustrate each of the six principles. The book is extremely easy to read and difficult to put down once you start.

I strongly recommend at least one read of the book to following professionals – they can keep the principles in mind while crafting messages and campaigns:

  • Executive management
  • Marketing/ sales folks
  • HR Policy makers
  • Consultants/ Trainers
  • People trying to handle change management

The book is available in multiple formats at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart. The book should be equally readable in all the formats – I read the paperback format.

About the authors

Chip Heath is a Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. His research examines why certain ideas – ranging from urban legends to folk medical cures, from Chicken Soup for the Soul stories to business strategy myths – survive and prosper in the social marketplace of ideas.

Dan Heath is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, which supports entrepreneurs who are fighting for social good.

Chip and Dan Heath have jointly co-authored another book Switch: How to change things when change is hard.

You can also view this 4:44 min video where the authors Chip and Dan Heath are being interviewed (uploaded on youtube):

If the clip does not load click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zlld9TA-Vg

The book is available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart

Quick Quiz

In the two you tube clips below, can you figure out which of the principles of SUCCES are most prominently used?

Clip-1: Series of “You Don’t Mess With Texas” ads used to address littering in the state of Texas with celebrities conveying the message

If the clip does not load, use http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYp1gc5joQg&list=PLilaP-sCTPd2aCHcVHdnNpNT7AXXKXxO5

Clip-2: A “Belt Up” ad that won a lot of awards

If the clip does not load, use http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ2EKswyTao

Please use the comment feature below to send in your responses.

Other Book Reviews

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.