So I recently picked up a book titled “Made to Stick” by the Heath Brothers, it’s an amazing book which I consider one of the most profound books any person running a small business or trying to build a solid brand should read. It’s already sold over 2 million copies worldwide and has being translated into 30 languages.
And I thought I’d share those ideas with you in this article.


Mary as had a passion for hair for a long time, which what has driven her to start her latest line of shampoo products, made from all organic substances which would be out in 3 months. But there is a problem: there are already so many other shampoo products on the market. Now the question is how can she get her product noticed and differentiate it from the rest of the crowd?

Senator Jimbo is a selfless leader that has proven himself by representing his constituency for two terms in the National Assembly but he feel he as more he can do for his people so he has decided to run for Governor of his state. But there is a problem: he is an underdog. There are three other individuals including the present governor of the state running against him! Now he and his team have got to begin crafting a message that can resonate with the people and win their support.

These situations are basic examples of where the ideas taught in this book come into play. Because in the world today, there is so much noise, so many people and brands trying to get other people to do something, so the question we need to answer is: “How do we get people to pay attention to what we have to say and take action after we say it?”

The Curse of Knowledge

As an entrepreneur we know why exactly what our products or services are made of, we know what makes them just as good and even better than others. But the problem is that your customers, friends and even sometimes your employees don’t really know why your brand is awesome. So the goal (and sometimes the frustration) of every business owner is to take what is already in their head and make other people see and believe the same ideas.

What makes an idea stick?

According to the authors there are 5 major principles needed in creating an idea people would remember:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness
  • Crediblity
  • Emotions

If these principles are taken into consideration when try to deliver an message or idea to an audience, you would have a higher chance of people remembering it and taken the desired action.


The first principle we need to learn is how to strip down a message to it’s very CORE, delivering only say what truly matters.
An example is the Southwest Airlines in the US (the most profitable airline in the US), their motto which is “The LOW-cost airline”. So decision they want to take revolves around that simple core message.

Now going back Mary’s case, there might be so much she’d to say about the new line of shampoos she’s bringing out:

  • It makes you hair longer
  • It makes your hair softer
  • It is very foamy
  • And so on…

But if she really wants the idea to stick with her audience she’s got to get rid of all the other features of the product and focus on the core idea of what makes the shampoo line truly special. That’s what she’s got to scream, chant and make noise about.

She could decide to focus on the core being the fact that the shampoo is made entirely from organic ingredients, and craft all her other campaign ideas out of that core.

Note: The best way to find the core of your product or service is not to build a product and start looking for it’s core but to decide on a core idea and build your product to achieve that specialization.


Take a look at this commercial:

It’s about a normal family driving after a long day, just chilling in their car, then out of no where, BOOM! They get hit by another car.

The whole message of the video is always fasten your seat belt, you don’t know when disaster might strike.

This is an advert that explains this second principle very well, Unexpectedness.

We find it hard to remember things that don’t break the norm, i.e we’ve seen or heard continuously. Just think about the most memorable events in your life, you’ll realise most if not all where events that we never saw coming or couldn’t predict. That’s just how our brain is wired.

There are two aspects in applying the principle of Unexpectedness to create a sticky idea:

  • Drawing attention
  • Keeping attention

Drawing Attention

If we want to draw people’s attention towards something we’ve got to utilize the element of surprise.

This is one of the reasons why it is always very important when creating videos for social media adverts to make sure the first 5-10 secs of the video get people thinking “wow”, cause nobody has time or data to be watching something they’ve seen before.

Once you figure out how to draw people’s attention, this leads us to the second step:

Keeping people’s attention

Have you ever wondered why you can’t get enough of game of thrones (am so guilt of this ­čśü) or you don’t want to stand up during a movie even when you really have to use the toilet. That’s the very definition of holding a person’s attention.

And element keeps us in these states: Curiosity.

We aren’t sure about how it all ends and we really want to know. The moment we know how the narration ends we won’t be as interested as if we didn’t.


Concreteness as to do with your ability to make people understand what you are trying to tell them.

Many times as marketers, we might get caught up in all the technical or meaningless mobojombo, and forget to talk in a language that our audiences understand and can relate to.

Take for example, the hair shampoo we are trying to launch. We decide that it major selling point is the fact that it makes you hear silky and so smooth. So we go around advertising the fact that it has caramel inside. Caramel actually makes your hair smoother but most people don’t know that.

Rather than that we decide to create a simple before and after video that proves the shampoos effective. This more concrete because I as the audience can visibly see the effects of my shampoo in action.

The major goal of the concreteness element is make sure your audience understands your message.


The question is why should I believe what you are saying?

1. Authority

Authorities are people considered experts in their fields. So if we wanted to use an authority for our shampoo we would hire a hair expert and tell him/her to verify our claims if they are true and then send it out to the audience.

Think about this Oral B’s strategy

2. Influencers

These are people that are loved by many people e.g. celebrities. If I wanted to use this to make my shampoo claims more credible, I would hire someone like actress Adesua, to be the star of my shampoo.

Adesua with the amazing natural hair

3. Antiauthority

This involves introducing someone that was experiencing the problem you are trying to solve and was able to solve it with your product.

Example, someone with rough hair uses your shampoo now she as smooth hair.

4. Using Statistics

5. The Sinatra Test

How this works is the concept of if so and so uses this product and it works for them, who are you that it wouldn’t work for you.

If I make deliveries for a company as big as Disney, why would my logistics company not be able to deliver for your SME.


The question you are trying to answer is why should I care?

1. The Appeal to Identity

Many times we might not know it  people make decisions based on identity i.e what would a person like me do or what would a person like me buy.

Chevrolet’s assertion that real Americans drive Chevys.

2. Appeal to a greater good

What am doing is bigger than me, I’m helping to change the world.

Tom’s For One, Another campaign


These elements might not give you a 100% successful ad guarantee but they would definitely give you a higher chance than if you didn’t utilize them.

So when next you are working on a campaign or commercial, keep these elements at the back of your mind.

Thanks for reading, hope it helps.