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Home » Random

Stickier than glue

Creative Commons License photo credit: timsnell

My wife called me the other day and told me that someone she worked with was telling her that a family out shopping in an Asda store in Thurmaston, Leicester had lost their little girl whilst out shopping.

Apparently it is Asda’s policy that they have a complete lock down in such circumstances (ie no one can get in or out). After a thorough search of the store, the child was found in the toilets with a Romanian couple shaving it’s head in the attempt to smuggle the child out as a boy.

Unbeknown to my wife however, this story is completely untrue. It is an urban myth and has been circulating in some guise for about 10 years – prompting Asda to issue a press release when the story appeared again.

Now imagine an idea, a business, a product or a message you want to get across. Wouldn’t you want it to have the same effect as an urban myth and have people talking about it and passing the message on to others?

Brothers Dan and Chip Heath writing in their book Made to Stick examine the key elements of an urban myth and what makes messages sticky – ie what makes messages understandable, memorable, and effective in changing thought or behaviour.

More importantly, Dan and Chip describe how you can apply these lessons in your messages.

According to the brothers, there are six principles in creating sticky messages – which they call SUCCESs.

In this post you will learn the elements which makes messages sticky and how you can apply them.




Firstly, you need to find the core of the message. What’s the most important thing you want to get across? Using the above example – the core of the message is Romanian’s attempt to abduct a little girl in Asda.


Get attention – the element of surprise – Romanian’s shaving child’s head. Once you have the attention, you need to hold the reader or listeners interest. Why are they attempting to abduct the child?


Help people understand and remember – put people into the story. The parents of the little girl, the little girl. People can relate to the story. People help understand and remember because the story is set in a specific store in Leicester.


The story becomes credible because my wife was told the story by someone she works with who in turn was told by a friend of his.


If the story was about a number of children being abducted across the country then the story might not have had such a big impact. If people believe that this is going on everywhere, then they may not be as sensitive to it. The fact that it happened to one family in one store which they may know someone who has shopped in makes it all the more believable. Take for example adverts for charity. Have you noticed that the charities often feature a case study of an individual who the charity has helped? Why do they do this? Because it works. If the charities said millions of people across Africa don’t have access to water, then you may think that providing water is an impossible task. But if you know you are helping ‘Joshua’ and his family to dig a well and install a pump you are more likely to give – create emotional bonds.


What’s your story? People remember stories much better than facts. So consequently you need to tell stories which get people to act.

If you adopt the SUCCESs principles you’ll craft more effective messages which will help get your message across more successfully. Consequently if you are involved in creating messages you need to become familiar with these principles.

Dan and Chip Heath’s Made to Stick : why some ideas survive and others die is a highly readable and enjoyable book, and should be key addition to your bookshelf as it is to ours.

So what do you think?

How do you make your ideas stick?

You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking the image below.