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Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

“Made To Stick” – Make messages that connect

Advertising is more often than not, about interrupting people. A lot of it is imitating what someone else has done and what other ads look like for that same type of product or service. There’s a straight and narrow path and plenty of people that would prefer to walk down it. For them, it’s not about connecting with people, it’s about being safe.

For these scared few, their creedo can be summed up simply:  CYA BAE, or “Cover your ass, before anything else.”

Making meaningful, original, honest work that aims to connect the brand/team with the client isn’t high on that list of motivations. If asked, they’d answer that they’d love to connect with people, and many may believe that their benign work is doing just that.

I’m in the business of housing college students, so being relate-able scores major points with our customers. In addition, our students have grown up with the internet since birth – and having ads thrown at them through every medium their entire lives is a constant. Originality goes a long way towards breaking through their defenses. Honesty has immense value.

I saw the following two flyers on ebaumsworld.com and immediately fell in love.

Set Rations to "Meager" and Pace to "Grueling"

Set Rations to “Meager” and Pace to “Grueling”

If you’re anything like me, you LOVED Oregon Trail as a kid. There’s an immediate emotional connection, coupled with the unexpected and the humorous. I’m hooked. I’m connected. Granted, it’s not advertising anything, but imagine a little logo in the corner and this posted at your property’s crosswalk across from campus? It’s enough to highlight the sense of you humor of your team, and to show that you’re human.

The next is a little rougher around the edges as far as language is concerned, so if you’re easily offended by light cursing, might I suggest skipping this one.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Probably without realizing it, Caroline totally nails the bulk of the Six principles of Dan & Chip Heath’s best seller, “Made to Stickwhich I wrote about in the past.

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

To wit:

1. Simple: She’s got a simple message! “I fix your paper so it doesn’t suck!”

2. Unexpected: You didn’t expect this, and certainly not with the cat picture.

3. Concrete: Caroline. Edits. Papers. Got it?

4. Credible: There’s a decent sample of her writing, so you could argue she’s credible, though her target customer wouldn’t know that for sure.

5. Emotional: She’s funny! By stating bluntly what she’s thinking she makes an emotional connection to her audience – especially  the type that’s likely to purchase her services.

6. Stories: She tells one for sure. She even gives example of exchanges she’s likely to have with you.

Essentially, the Heath brothers analyzed all kinds of messages to find out which ones stuck with people and which didn’t – and what qualities they possessed. You don’t need all six apparently for a compelling message, but the more the better. Caroline is almost perfect here. If asked weeks later, you could tell that; Caroline edits papers, won’t do so after 9pm because her meds wear off then, and that it’ll run you $15 and hour.

That’s a sticky message.

What would you have told Caroline if she’d made these for you and wanted to place them around campus, but YOU owned the editing service? Would you have said it’s too risky? That you’d prefer something a little safer? Maybe just straightforward – “editing services, $15/hour, call Caroline.” You could have, but then you wouldn’t have nearly 2.5 million views on imgur.

Understood, this doesn’t work everywhere and for everything. We’re not going to run the same style ad here, but the lesson is important – take away the reasons why it works and apply to your own marketing and advertising. Resist the urge to play it too safe next time. Aim to make a connection and get your message to stick!

We’re all Liars?

Seth Godin’s book, “All Marketers Are Liars” is available in audio format for free on Youtube.

It’s a great synthesis of a lot of his recent ideas from TED talks and various interviews. I’m in love with his message of authenticity, honesty, and story telling. These really are my favorite things and my sticking points constantly in our dealings with Team Members and Customers alike.

Do yourself a favor and give it a listen while you’re working today, or on your next decent car ride and then talk about the ideas with a co-worker or your significant other.

Enjoy!

Like the “Tipping Point” but, you know, with Science.

Did you like Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” or Dan & Chip Heath’s “Made to Stick?” You did? Both, are totally great works that opened our eyes to how ideas get spread. Of the two, “Made to Stick” was the better manual for attributing what is “sticky” vs. what is passably interesting.

Now, Professor Jonah Berger has codified why certain things go viral in a way that does much more to explain the phenomenon than these earlier works. I really can’t wait to try out this process and see how we can best apply it to our product.

I’ll be presenting this video and materials tomorrow in our Leadership Series (held bi-weekly) with all of our Managers and we’re going to try the workbook on making things contagious. It’s available when you subscribe to the Prof’s blog at http://www.JonahBerger.com – which is totally worth it.

If we’re successful applying the principles to our business, I’ll be sure to share the results and give you some step-by-step insight into what worked and how we got there. I think this is going to be one of the easiest to implement processes we’ve encountered yet.

Success is Simply Luck?

What is talent? Malcolm Gladwell, somewhat famously, has said he believes talent to be the innate love of some particular pursuit – more so than most other people. Listening to Penn Jillette’s new audio book “God, No!” he states that the real trick to doing magic is simply the willingness of the magician to spend an insane amount of time learning something that no one else would think would be so important. And simply for the sake of pulling off this “trick.” 

success has a thousand fathers

Most people don’t care that much, thus they don’t display the “talent” for magic that someone else does who has put in thousands upon thousands of hours.  Gladwell believes similarly, noting that Wayne Gretzky so loved hockey that he thought about it incessantly. In fact, he thought about it so much that he was the first to score a goal by picking up the puck with his stick and flipping it in from behind the net. That’s love. The same, of course, would be said of Michael Jordan who was famously cut from his High School basketball team but put in intense amounts of work to get back on, and to secure a scholarship to UNC. 

Gladwell also notes, through his best selling book “Outliers” that many famous successes were due to being in the right place at the right time, or even being born at the right time. No doubt that it is helpful to turn up in situations that are primed for success. By definition though, these success stories that he focuses his attention on, are true outliers in that they’re statistically abnormal. The vast multitude of successes and failures that occur each day are of the far more normal variety, not involving some extreme set of criteria. 

During the Summer of 2012, a speech by the President declared “If you got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Setting off a discussion about success and its roots, the likes of which hadn’t occurred before in such a public way. Of course, conservative leaning people were up in arms, declaring that they had in fact “built that” and that success isn’t reducible to  simple luck. Likewise, failure isn’t the result of bad luck necessarily.

Clearly, liberally minded individuals tend to disagree with their conservative counterparts. Gladwell is dismissive of the greatest of successes as being too much a manifestation of luck, be it genetic, chronological, or cultural. There is something to be said for noting the obvious advantages the cases in Outliers enjoyed. However, I don’t think that’s the most effective way to think about success.

When we say to ourselves, success is the product of luck, we’ve let all motivation out the window. If we’re not responsible for our success, if there is no credit to be taken for having worked hard and succeeded – especially where others have failed, then what’s the point? For the collective good? Take a good look at Russia and tell me how that’s working out.

The United States makes up 22.5% of the Global economy despite our making up only 4% of the population. Oh, and we didn’t exist as a country more than 250 years ago. How old is Egypt? Europe? China? Rank of GDP by Country Ours has been an economic system of opportunity to do whatever you like and to create value for those around you. Starting a business and putting in the long hours is not an easy road to hoe, regardless of what kind of background and normative advantages you have. If success was entirely luck, how then to explain for the out-sized success of a 237 year old country vs the other 180 or so? The US has been that lucky for all this time?! Year in, year out?!

Obviously, the young science student who was born to well-off, educated parents, who provide her with the financial, emotional, and cultural support to attend a University in pursuit of a STEM degree has a little help in the pursuit of her success, but she still has to love it. Like Gretzky, Jordan, or Penn Jillette, she has to be willing to spend her time and energy on difficult studies. Is it a little easier for her than the son of a single parent who is working three jobs to help pay for text books? Certainly – but she still has to do the work. If you tell her that after she’s completed school, gotten a job as an engineer and finally secured herself some success at the age of 40, that she didn’t really earn it, what are you doing to the motivation to keep going? Is telling her that her success is not hers done so to benefit those that do not achieve? To help alleviate their bruised feelings as they wait for their good luck (or more likely, bad luck) to arrive?

I know people like that. They’ve never found success of any real sort, and generally struggle through life. Nothing much interested them enough to move beyond the comfort zone of sacking out in front of the couch. Reading seemed tedious and pointless. Besides, success and wealth just sort of happen to people, right? It’s not the same thing as people trying and failing – that’s worthy of the greatest of respect. Trying and failing is what has made our economic success so powerful – we take risks and we get back up off the floor and try again. No, the real shame is telling some portion of our population that they’re not responsible for their successes or failures, that things just… happen.  As much as I respect Mr. Gladwell, and hold his work in the highest regard, I can’t agree with his outlook in this instance.

What do you think? Is success largely the result of the conditions one comes up in? Or is success as much, or more dependent on individual effort and the strive to achieve?

"Knowing neither victory nor defeat"

“Knowing neither victory nor defeat”