Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath, Dan Heath


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The instant classic about why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to improve your idea’s chances—essential reading in the “fake news” era.
Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus news stories circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas—entrepreneurs, teachers, politicians, and journalists—struggle to make them “stick.” 

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds—from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony—draw their power from the same six traits.

Made to Stick will transform the way you communicate. It’s a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures): the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice.
Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas—and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400064281
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/02/2007
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 47,703
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, teaching courses on strategy and organizations. He has helped over 450 startups hone their business strategy and messages. He lives in Los Gatos, California. 
Dan Heath is a senior fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, which supports entrepreneurs fighting for social good. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Together, Chip and Dan have written three New York Times bestselling books: Made to StickSwitch, and Decisive. Their books have sold over two million copies worldwide and have been translated into thirty-three languages, including Thai, Arabic, and Lithuanian. Their most recent book is The Power of Moments.

Read an Excerpt



A friend of a friend of ours is a frequent business traveler. Let’s call him Dave. Dave was recently in Atlantic City for an important meeting with clients. Afterward, he had some time to kill before his flight, so he went to a local bar for a drink. 
He’d just finished one drink when an attractive woman approached and asked if she could buy him another. He was surprised but flattered. Sure, he said. The woman walked to the bar and brought back two more drinks—one for her and one for him. He thanked her and took a sip. And that was the last thing he remembered. 
Rather, that was the last thing he remembered until he woke up, disoriented, lying in a hotel bathtub, his body submerged in ice. 
He looked around frantically, trying to figure out where he was and how he got there. Then he spotted the note: don’t move. call 911. 
A cell phone rested on a small table beside the bathtub. He picked it up and called 911, his fingers numb and clumsy from the ice. The operator seemed oddly familiar with his situation. She said, “Sir, I want you to reach behind you, slowly and carefully. Is there a tube protruding from your lower back?” 
Anxious, he felt around behind him. Sure enough, there was a tube. 
The operator said, “Sir, don’t panic, but one of your kidneys has been harvested. There’s a ring of organ thieves operating in this city, and they got to you. Paramedics are on their way. Don’t move until they arrive.”

You’ve just read one of the most successful urban legends of the past fifteen years. The first clue is the classic urban-legend opening: “A friend of a friend . . .” Have you ever noticed that our friends’ friends have much more interesting lives than our friends themselves? 
You’ve probably heard the Kidney Heist tale before. There are hundreds of versions in circulation, and all of them share a core of three elements: (1) the drugged drink, (2) the ice-filled bathtub, and (3) the kidney-theft punch line. One version features a married man who receives the drugged drink from a prostitute he has invited to his room in Las Vegas. It’s a morality play with kidneys.
Imagine that you closed the book right now, took an hourlong break, then called a friend and told the story, without rereading it. Chances are you could tell it almost perfectly. You might forget that the traveler was in Atlantic City for “an important meeting with clients”—who cares about that? But you’d remember all the important stuff. 
The Kidney Heist is a story that sticks. We understand it, we remember it, and we can retell it later. And if we believe it’ s true, it might change our behavior permanently—at least in terms of accepting drinks from attractive strangers. 
Contrast the Kidney Heist story with this passage, drawn from a paper distributed by a nonprofit organization. “Comprehensive community building naturally lends itself to a return-on-investment rationale that can be modeled, drawing on existing practice,” it begins, going on to argue that “[a] factor constraining the flow of resources to CCIs is that funders must often resort to targeting or categorical requirements in grant making to ensure accountability.” 
Imagine that you closed the book right now and took an hourlong break. In fact, don’t even take a break; just call up a friend and retell that passage without rereading it. Good luck. 
Is this a fair comparison—an urban legend to a cherry-picked bad passage? Of course not. But here’s where things get interesting: Think of our two examples as two poles on a spectrum of memorability. Which sounds closer to the communications you encounter at work? If you’re like most people, your workplace gravitates toward the nonprofit pole as though it were the North Star. 
Maybe this is perfectly natural; some ideas are inherently interesting and some are inherently uninteresting. A gang of organ thieves—inherently interesting! Nonprofit financial strategy—inherently uninteresting! It’s the nature versus nurture debate applied to ideas: Are ideas born interesting or made interesting? 
Well, this is a nurture book. 
So how do we nurture our ideas so they’ll succeed in the world? Many of us struggle with how to communicate ideas effectively, how to get our ideas to make a difference. A biology teacher spends an hour explaining mitosis, and a week later only three kids remember what it is. A manager makes a speech unveiling a new strategy as the staffers nod their heads enthusiastically, and the next day the frontline employees are observed cheerfully implementing the old one. 
Good ideas often have a hard time succeeding in the world. Yet the ridiculous Kidney Heist tale keeps circulating, with no resources whatsoever to support it. 
Why? Is it simply because hijacked kidneys sell better than other topics? Or is it possible to make a true, worthwhile idea circulate as effectively as this false idea?

The Truth About Movie Popcorn 

Art Silverman stared at a bag of movie popcorn. It looked out of place sitting on his desk. His office had long since filled up with fake-butter fumes. Silverman knew, because of his organization’ s research, that the popcorn on his desk was unhealthy. Shockingly unhealthy, in fact. His job was to figure out a way to communicate this message to the unsuspecting moviegoers of America. 
Silverman worked for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit group that educates the public about nutrition. The CSPI sent bags of movie popcorn from a dozen theaters in three major cities to a lab for nutritional analysis. The results surprised everyone. 
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that a normal diet contain no more than 20 grams of saturated fat each day. According to the lab results, the typical bag of popcorn had 37 grams. 
The culprit was coconut oil, which theaters used to pop their popcorn. Coconut oil had some big advantages over other oils. It gave the popcorn a nice, silky texture, and released a more pleasant and natural aroma than the alternative oils. Unfortunately, as the lab results showed, coconut oil was also brimming with saturated fat. 
The single serving of popcorn on Silverman’s desk—a snack someone might scarf down between meals—had nearly two days’ worth of saturated fat. And those 37 grams of saturated fat were packed into a medium-sized serving of popcorn. No doubt a decentsized bucket could have cleared triple digits. 
The challenge, Silverman realized, was that few people know what “37 grams of saturated fat” means. Most of us don’t memorize the USDA’s daily nutrition recommendations. Is 37 grams good or bad? And even if we have an intuition that it’s bad, we’d wonder if it was “bad bad” (like cigarettes) or “normal bad” (like a cookie or a milk shake). 
Even the phrase “37 grams of saturated fat” by itself was enough to cause most people’s eyes to glaze over. “Saturated fat has zero appeal,” Silverman says. “It’s dry, it’s academic, who cares?” 
Silverman could have created some kind of visual comparison— perhaps an advertisement comparing the amount of saturated fat in the popcorn with the USDA’ s recommended daily allowance. Think of a bar graph, with one of the bars stretching twice as high as the other. 
But that was too scientific somehow. Too rational. The amount of fat in this popcorn was, in some sense, not rational. It was ludicrous. The CSPI needed a way to shape the message in a way that fully communicated this ludicrousness.
Silverman came up with a solution. 

CSPI called a press conference on September 27, 1992. Here’s the message it presented: “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 folks at CSPI didn’t neglect the visuals—they laid out the full buffet of greasy food for the television cameras. An entire day’ s worth of unhealthy eating, displayed on a table. All that saturated fat— stuffed into a single bag of popcorn.
The story was an immediate sensation, featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN. It made the front pages of USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post’s Style section. Leno and Letterman cracked jokes about fat-soaked popcorn, and headline writers trotted out some doozies: “Popcorn Gets an ‘R’ Rating,” “Lights, Action, Cholesterol!” “Theater Popcorn is Double Feature of Fat.” 
The idea stuck. Moviegoers, repulsed by these findings, avoided popcorn in droves. Sales plunged. The service staff at movie houses grew accustomed to fielding questions about whether the popcorn was popped in the “bad” oil. Soon after, most of the nation’ s biggest theater chains—including United Artists, AMC, and Loews— announced that they would stop using coconut oil.

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Made to Stick 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The single most practical and useful book i ever read on this subject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a recently converted enthusiast of Made to Stick, and I firmly believe that its principles can be useful in any profession or academic discipline in which the communication of ideas is vital. Chip Heath and Dan Heath explain ¿why some ideas survive and others die¿ and present six principles that define successful communication ¿ whether one is communicating an idea to impart information, persuade, call to action, or make a lasting impression. They use a simple acronym to convey their central thesis: SUCCESs in communicating ideas is defined by Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, and Stories. One of the great strengths of the book is its structure. The Brothers Heath craft the book according to the very theories they are presenting. Their method of communicating about stickiness is itself sticky. The table of contents gives the chapter titles with sound bites for each listed beneath, followed by an introduction, which previews the principles of SUCCESs in conveying ideas. The core chapters ¿ one for each of the six ingredients of stickiness ¿ give further explanation of SUCCESs, with idea ¿clinics¿ at the end of each chapter. Throughout the book, meaningful case studies and practical examples are used to exemplify failure and success in communicating. The epilogue further reinforces the six principles and provides a ¿sticky checklist,¿ and the reference guide at the end includes a simple outline of the book with catchphrases for each principle ¿ a good place to go if you need a quick refresher of the six principles. On the whole, the structure of the book makes it easy for the reader to grasp the main thesis, realize the significance of stickiness, and begin to put their methods into use. The principles of SUCCESs directly apply to my profession in the areas of teaching, preaching, mentoring, and managing. As a pastor, I am challenged to make transcendent ideas accessible and meaningful for my congregation, and Made to Stick has helped give me a framework for how I communicate. I would advocate this book to any teacher or speaker looking for fresh ways of imparting lasting ideas. Furthermore, I would recommend this book as a textbook for introductory communication classes. The sticky ways of the Brothers Heath translate to a sticky book on a sticky subject. You will remember these principles, and your own teaching and speaking and writing will be transformed as you employ these methods.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chip and Dan Heath did a great job of creating a well-organized framework for understanding, recognizing and creating ideas that stick. It's a quick read immediately applicable.
BrynS-D More than 1 year ago
I found the notion of sticky stories very compelling. It has continued to resonate with me as I've recently read Malcolm Gladwell's books... which I think do exactly what Made to Stick recommends. If you need to create a memorable/compelling pitch for anything, read this book first!
SummerEyes More than 1 year ago
Wonderful stories. Surprising research results. Simple and prescriptive. It will forever change the way I think about presentations. Just a plesure to read
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
As a corporate director of human resources, I am continually engaged in sharing data with the field and also with my superiors.

The techniques and tips in this book have been successfully deployed in my recent presentations. The improved feedback and real world observations prove that I am doing a better job at communicating our ideas.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that is engaged in a dynamic field such as human resources where the guide posts seem to move each week.

When you have to get it right - EEOC, ADA, FMLA, etc., you want to ensure it sticks. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting well written book. There are great examples of marketing that make you really think. It is amusing but factual. I couldn't put the book down. It has helped me think about my company and what I do in a completely different way
CEJ2200 More than 1 year ago
As a small business owner, it's critical my message get across to my targeted audience. The Heath's provide valid points to current and aspiring entrepreneurs who desire to increase their business prospects, influence potential customers and clients, and gain an advantage over their competitors. The helpful summary section at the end of the book provides a quick reference when needed. If you are having trouble getting YOUR word out, this book would be of great benefit to you.
KimberlyTogman More than 1 year ago
As an executive and career coach, I keep up to date with business trends and books on leadership and development. This book is hands down the one I recommend most to clients who are trying to become more impactful, make better presentations and to present themselves better in an ever more competitive world. The concepts and anecdotes used really drive the points home.
Kkessler5 More than 1 year ago
As an entrepreneur, and an "idea" man, I found this book extremely helpful! I recommend this to anyone out there who tends to have good ideas. This book will help you figure out if your ideas are worth pursuing, and then it will tell you how to go about making them happen successfully! Another book I highly recommend is POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything by Sam Horn. This book is great for learning how to do exactly what the title says, create perfect pitches, titles, and taglines for anything. These two books have helped me get my business off the ground with a running start!
DarcieHarris More than 1 year ago
As business owners, what we say and how we frame the message is critically important to building a brand. This book is particularly helpful to those involved in any area of marketing. For business consultants & trainers like me, it's particilarly helpful when designing workshop, articles & speeches. But it's also relevant to internal company communication. Many business owners wonder why employees "don't get it" and why they have to repeat themselves with regard to copmany values or key initiatives. Following the Heath brother's specific recommendations will improve all company communication, internal & external. Darcie Harris CEO, EWF International
Guest More than 1 year ago
I develop leaders at a University and I'm always looking for the best books dealing with how to be an effective leader. This book was so good that I'm going to use it as the main textbook for a class I'm teaching in the fall. If what we say as leaders is forgotten, then we just wasted everybody's time therefore, it's of great importance that we ensure our message will stick in the minds of the people we hope to lead. Malcolm Gladwell talk about this in The Tipping Point, but it was probably the weakest chapter of his book. Thankfully Made to Stick was able to expand on the Stickiness Factor and did a much better job of illustrating it than Gladwell did. I strongly disagree with the reviews stating how hard this book was to finish. I didn't find it draggin on, in fact, I had a hard time putting the book down. It was very easy to read and had many references to studies much like The Tipping Point, Blink, or Freakonomics. What made this book better than those is that this book had idea clinics where you could actually practice what they were talking about. These clinics made this book much more applicabale then the others that I mentioned earlier. If you're want to make sure that what you say doesn't go in one ear and out the other, this is the best book you can find.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an elegant masterpiece of simple and crucial insights -- and it's a joy to read. I had assumed that it would be relevant to marketers and their ilk, but I'm amazed how relevant it is to me 'as a university professor'. I will use the book to improve my lectures, my conference presentations, my grad student advising, my scholarly articles, etc. Anybody involved in education will benefit from reading this outstanding book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This will be the best business book I¿ll read all year. I know that already. And if you need to communicate with other people (who doesn¿t?), it may be one of your top picks also. Made to Stick has the telling subtitle, Why some ideas survive and others die. The main thesis is this: there are ways to package your ideas that allow them to stick in the minds of your audience. Building on a key concept (¿stickiness¿) from Malcolm Gladwell¿s seminal book, The Tipping Point, authors Chip and Dan Heath uncover the anatomy of ideas that embed themselves into the minds and hearts of people. The book is clearly written, very approachable, and filled with memorable examples that, of course, exemplify the main intent of the book. The principles outlined are nothing earth-shatteringly new, but they are presented in such a way as to provide a practical call to arms for more skillful and creative expression. According to the authors, communication that sticks needs to maximize simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional connection, and the use of stories. When you think of some of the world¿s best communicators, you see these practices all over their preserved productions. This is a passion of mine ¿ distilling down to the core idea and expressing it well, whether in writing, public speaking, teaching, or any other format. I see this skill as the key success factor in creating good branding ¿ but I think the principle applies equally to training, copywriting, and even parenting. I recommend this book highly to anyone who seeks to communicate more effectively.
ebethe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pithy, but fun for the most part.
4cebwu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It would be a horrible pun to say this book has stuck with me like no other, but it's true. I'm generally not a fan of kind of how-to-books particularly business books, but I was pleasantly surprised. The author's ideas are presented in a way that make an impression. I am already thinking of ways to incorporate stickiness. It just so happens that we are in the middle of a planning and strategy session and I have already tried to interject some stickiness by copying the SUCCESs template for management..
Jcambridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because it came highly recommended by someone whom I hold in high regard. I have to say, however, that I was quite disappointed. I agree with another reviewer who said so much of what's in this book has been said/written before -- I found nothing new in what I read. I did find reference to an individual I actually know and did find that "story" interesting. Add this to the pile of similar self-help books on how to sell yourself and your ideas, but I would not put it at the top of the pile...
GShuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have listened to. It delivers on its title of how to convey ideas to others so they stick. I listened to this a couple of years ago and it seems to be even better the second time. As an added bonus he summarizes the key parts of the book on his website.
davedonelson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a writer and speaker, I love stories. I love to tell them, to write them, and I love to read them. I also like to read about stories, what makes them work, how they excite our imagination, how we use them to enrich our communications. Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive And Others Die is about all that and more. Good salespeople, advertisers, marketers, PR professionals, even managers wanting to motivate their employees and entrepreneurs needing to excite their investors can make good use of the techniques described in this book. The authors achieved their goal, " help you make your ideas...understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact...." In other words, they help you make your ideas "stick." As the author of several books about persuasion in business myself, I took away several great points: "Belief counts for a lot, but belief isn't enough. For people to take action, they have to care." "We appeal to their self-interest, but we also appeal to their identities--not only to the people they are right now but also to the people they would like to be." "One of the worst things about knowing a lot, or having access to a lot of information, is that we're tempted to share it all." Chip and Dan Heath dissect everything from urban legends to ad campaigns to explain what makes a message resonate in the audience's mind. In the process, they not only show the reader how to use successful strategies, they do it in an entertaining fashion that makes the book a pleasure to read.
mknute on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Made to Stick is an exceptional book that all marketing professionals and educators should read. The authors offer concrete tips for helping people remember your messages
BizCoach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good (and entertaining) analysis of how to communicate an idea so it "sticks" in people's heads, hearts, and memory. The book is enlightening, has enough academic hooks to make it credible but is entirely practical.For anyone who has to / wants to present ideas to another person for any reason.
librarythingaliba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this one, obviously. It was placed as a sort of capstone to my research and background reading on memetics, so it was perfectly positioned to be a modern summary of applications of the ideas I have been reviewing. I have found myself quoting the book and specific ideas from it (such as the idea of a "commanders intent") in our strategy sessions at work and to me that is always a great indicator of the quality of the book like this : immediate application. I have been and will certainly continue reviewing my communications to help me develop stickier habits and to improve the chances of my meme's survival! Definitely a recommended read ... for just about anyone, or at least anyone who wants to be heard and have their message survive!
pastorjeffmyers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Finished Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath the other day. This is definitely a book worth checking out. Not a Christian book per se, but every preacher/teacher should read it. It's a book about what it takes to get ideas to stick with people and becoming a better communicator. In short, their premise is that in order for an idea to stick it needs to be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and incorporate stories.Honestly, for a preacher this book is a goldmine. Not only for teaching you to be better at your craft, but because it's also chock full of great stories and illustrations.
tgraettinger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent books for writers, speakers, or anyone with ideas to communicate to others. The authors do a great job of explaining the tools and structure necessary to make an idea stick with a reader or audience. The SUCCESs (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories) approach they propose seems to work for me in the couple of instances (so far) that I've tried to use it. I could go on and on. It's worth reading and re-reading. Highly recommended.
fingerpost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not many business books that I would read, much less read and enjoy! The stories the Heath brothers tell, the stories that stick, are fun and fascinating and memorable. And that is their point. When we have a message to deliver, we usually don't deliver it well. To have served its purpose, then our message must be remembered, cared about, and acted upon, and how we deliver that message will determine if we succeed.