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Made to Stick—Story-related Thoughts

This entry was originally posted on July 6, 2007 at the old Brandstory blog.

I recently finished reading Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (I know, I’m a little late to this party). Anyone involved in telling brand stories (marketers, advertisers, customer service agents, CEOs, PR people, bloggers) should not only read, but ingest, what the Heaths have to say about communicating messages in a way that makes them “sticky”.

They retell a variety of stories to make their points: from urban legends to familiar advertising tales like Subway’s Jared and The American Legacy Foundation’s Truth campaign.

In crafting stories that stick, the authors recommend that you create messages that are Simple (not dumb, but the core of the idea), Unexpected, Concrete (using details to hook the message into memory), Credible, Emotional (the need for analysis is the enemy of stickiness), and follow a Story line. The use the acronym SUCCESS to help you remember the steps.

From the book:

“[Stories] …naturally embody most of the SUCCESSs framework. Stories are almost always Concrete. Most of them have Emotional and Unexpected elements. The hardest part of using stories effectively is making sure that they’re Simple—that they reflect your core message. It’s not enough to tell a great story; the story has to reflect your agenda… Stories have the amazing dual power to simulate and to inspire. And most of the time we don’t even have to use much creativity to harness these powers—we just need to be ready to spot the good ones that life generates every day.”

Chip and Dan note three types of story plots that resonate best. They are: 1. The Challenge Plot (underdog, rags to riches, willpower): think Southwest Airlines, Pepsi Challenge, or Richard Branson. 2. The Connection Plot: think Coke’s Mean Joe Green or Hallmark. 3. The Creativity Plot (solving problems in new ways): think ZipCar or Post-its.

Great stuff. I highly recommend this book.

From a branding standpoint, don’t miss what the Heaths have to say about the curse of knowledge and how to overcome it. Hint: well-told stories can help.

Check out these other Made to Stick links:
1. Good PDF summary of the main points of the book.
2. Chip and Dan’s Blog.
3. You can read a book excerpt here.
4. Reviews from Brand Autopsy, Time, USNews, BusinessPundit. One more here.
5. Podcasts from HBR, Ducttape Marketing.
6. An interviews from Guy Kawasaki. Another interview here.
7. The Made to Stick Change This manifesto.
8. The Made to Stick SlideShare.
9. And of course, you can buy the book here (recommended).

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