The books opens with a story about a friend, Dave. Dave who is a frequent business traveller.
One night, he was sitting at a hotel bar when a young, attractive woman walks up to him and
offers to him a drink. He accepts, and takes a sip. The next thing he remembers is waking up on
a bathtub filled with ice, his body – freezing cold, his mind – completely disoriented. He looks
around, confused and scared, and spots a note saying,
“DON’T MOVE. CALL 911.”
A phone rested on a small table. He picked it up and clumsily dialed 911 with hius numb fingers.
He narrated the entire incident to the officer at tghe other end of the line. The officer,
unusually unfazed, asks Dave to see if there is a tube protruding from his lower back. An
anxious Dave feels around behind him and finds a tube. The officer says, “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.”
Good ideas, great ideas, phenomenal ideas don’t have the kind of virality that urban legends
have. People may not refrain from smoking on seeing the repulsive cancer ads. But following
the spread of the kidney heist story, people started rejecting drinks from strangers.
A little context.
In 2007, two brothers, Chip and Dan Heath wrote their first book, Made to Stick, that went on
to spent two years on the Business Week bestseller list and made such a huge impact that
people still talk about it thirteen years hence.
So…what was the book about?
Made to Stick dealt in what makes ideas “understandable, memorable, and effective in
changing thought or behaviour”. In short, what makes them “sticky” – so that they stick with
you like the duct tape on the cover, mess with you, don’t leave you until you’ve got up and
done something about it.
The brothers did extensive research on sticky ideas – from all domains of life – . Ranging from
urban legends, to corporate strategies that affect the behaviours of frontlines employees, to
marketing campaigns that convinced teenagers not to start smoking. The same six traits started
coming up over and over again – the six traits of sticky ideas. They arranged them in an
So here’s what a sticky idea should be:
A sticky idea should be SIMPLE
A sticky idea should be UNEXPECTED
A sticky idea should be CONCRETE
A sticky idea should be CREDIBLE
A sticky idea should be EMOTIONAL
A sticky idea should be STORIES
Let’s elaborate on these traits.
In 1969, President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy made a speech that
organised the efforts of an entire nation towards reaching one goal. The idea was SIMPLE. It
talked in easy language what the president wanted for his nation – to put a man on the Moon
and bring him back safely to Earth, before the decade was out. The idea was UNEXPECTED,
because it sounded like science fiction at the time to most people. The idea was CONCRETE,
because it gave everyone the same picture of success to root for – man on the moon. The idea
was CREDIBLE, coming from the charismatic president. The idea was EMOTIONAL, as it talked
about the entire nation going on a journey together, and winning. The idea was essentially a
STORY, the story where there is a journey, there’s an obstacle, an enemy (the Soviet Union),
and the ultimate success.
JFK’s idea scored six out of six on the stickiness scale. But Dan and Chip say, not all of us can
accomplish that all the time. But they do promise that an idea that ticks four of the SUCCES
boxes will do better in terms of stickiness than an idea that ticks only two of those boxes. So, to
make your idea its stickiness best, try to tick all the six boxes because the many boxes you leave
out, the less sticky your idea’s going to be.
The book is still a huge success. Afterall, it talks about ideas that go on to become huge
successes. The writers, true to their words, have applied their ‘SUCCES’ formula in their book as
well! I choose to trust their formula because it already feels like the ideas in the book are stuck
with me, and will continue to, for a long time to come – until the time someone comes up with
something ‘stickier'. And that is saying something.
Sulagna is a student of Public Relations at SCoRe, and aspires to make it big in the world of PR. She’s a passionate learner who likes to read, write and listen, and loves spending time with children. TEDTalks inspire her and she dreams of being a motivational speaker one day, giving one of her own TED talks.