Henrik speaking at a conference

Hi, I’m Henrik Joreteg

Mobile web consultant, developer, and speaker

all posts | twitter | email | hire | book | tutorials

Sticky Ideas, lessons learned from "Made to Stick"


Why is it that some arguably worthless, incorrect, ideas such as urban legends spread like wild-fire while other far more intelligent and worthy ideas don’t get anywhere.

They’re not sticky! Companies spend so much time trying to say things that are descriptive or include all the messages they want to broadcast, but they often fail to spend the time tweaking the presentation of the idea to make it interesting… to make it stick.

That’s what the book “Made to Stick”, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is all about. It’s about deconstructing what makes ideas sticky.

The book gives the example of a man who worked for a non-profit group that educates the public about nutrition. His organization discovered that a typical medium sized bag of movie popcorn contains 37 grams of saturated fat. So what?!?!

In reality 37 grams is a tremendously unhealthy amount to consume in one sitting.

This man’s job was to turn that statistic into a captivating story. The typical numeric explanation or graph would not have made much of a stir. The line he came up with was:

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

The story was a sensation! It made the front pages of USA Today, the LA Times, and The Washington Post’s Style section. It was featured on all kinds of news casts and the end result was a noticeable drop in popcorn sales and ultimately several major theater chains changed the type of oil they used!

The idea stuck! It’s a fairly uninteresting stat, but it was crafted into a very “sticky” idea. That’s the crux of effective marketing. Build a captivating idea, focus on how it needs to be presented, and take the time to make it “sticky”.

The book concludes that sticky ideas generally need to have these characteristics:

  1. Simplicity

  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness
  • Credibility (real or implied)
  • Emotions
  • Stories
  • The authors expand on this significantly. But that’s the gist of it. It’s a compelling concept.