In their book, “Made to Stick,” Chip and Dan Heath share their insights on how you can make your ideas “stick.”
Sticky ideas are those that “are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact – they change your audience’s opinion or behavior.”
Sticky ideas have six traits. They are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and told as stories (or S-U-C-C-E-S).
The trait that “stuck” out to me the most is concrete.
They say, “Concreteness creates a shared ‘turf’ on which people can collaborate. Everybody in the room feels comfortable that they’re tackling the same challenge.”
Just as our brains are wired to notice differences, they’re also wired to remember concrete data.
Many of our ideas fail to resonate because they’re presented in abstract terms, language unconnected to a specific person, object, or situation. When they are abstract, they become harder to grasp and remember and can be interpreted in different ways.
Tale as old as time...
Fables are a great example of using “concrete” ideas. In the book Dan and Chip retell of one of Aesop’s fables “The Fox and the Grapes.” (The fox assumes the grapes are sour because he cannot reach them and is disappointed).
This is a story that has withstood the test of time not only because it relates a truth that resonates but also because of its use of simple imagery – a fox, an orchard, grapes, a hot summer day.
Anyone can picture it.
Contrast that with the dense lingo, jargon, and acronyms that are everywhere, and it is clear to see why people often leave feeling more confused than enlightened.
It is also why metaphors are so effective in marketing.
In “The Science of Storytelling”, Will Storr says:
“When participants in one study read the words ‘he had a rough day’, their neural regions involved in feeling textures became more activated, compared with those who read ‘he had a bad day…It works because it activates extra neural models that give the language additional meaning and sensation.”
Specificity is another excellent way to make something concrete.
The words “long-lasting” are abstract. “Energizer Bunny” is concrete. “Innovative projects” are abstract. “Elon Musk’s Space X project” is concrete.
Using the Velcro Theory
Our memory is not like the folders on your computer.
It works like Velcro with thousands of tiny loops and hooks: build more hooks into the idea to help it stick better in our memory.
Are you building enough “Concreteness” into your ideas? Are they sticking?
💡 Big Idea: To get your ideas to “stick” make sure they are presented in non-abstract ways. Use specificity, and as many “hooks” as you can. Make them concrete.