We use only 10% of our brains; everyone knows that. Funny, isn’t it, how we all know that, and remember it, even though it’s not true? It’s a very ‘sticky’ idea. It stays with us, like the stories about our next door neighbour’s cousin waking up in a bathtub missing a kidney, or how Neil Armstrong walking on the moon was just a hoax.
We’ve all heard such urban legends and have little trouble recalling them, even though they’re not the stuff of TV and newspaper ads. So how can community groups, businesses and others use this to help spread their own messages?
Chip Heath and Dan Heath explain the s-u-c-c-e-s technique in their book Made to Stick. Along the way they mention the Velcro Theory of Memory, the Curse of Knowledge, and curiosity gaps.
When you talk or write about your organisation and the work it does, how can you incorporate the following features of ‘stickiness’?
- Simple — find the core of the idea and express it compactly. Here today; gone tomorrow. Toitu he whenua, whatungarongaro he tangata — The land is permanent, man disappears.
- Unexpected — seize the power of surprise. We can’t demand attention; we must attract it. Watch to the end of this 1 minute video clip: www.youtube.com/watch?v=obdd31Q9PqA.
- Concrete — make your audience experience the idea. The cost of the US war in Iraq is an incomprehensible $275 million per day (source: www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home). More concretely, “The money [the USA] spend in Iraq in about 40 minutes would feed one million needy American families for a month.” — (www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-plait/the-cost-of-terror-600_b_78800.html)
- Credible — people believe experts, authorities, and celebrities. John Kirwan and Mahinarangi Tocker talking about mental illness, for example. Truthful, core details add credibility as well as concreteness. Human-scale statistics are another winner: “More than 6,000 children lose a parent to AIDS every day”.
- Emotional — tap into things your audience care about. An emotional idea makes people care. “War on terror”, “War on drugs”, “nuclear free”, “clean green”.
- Stories — we love stories. We want to know what happened next, how the characters felt and responded. The right story makes people act. Examples are everywhere: books, TV shows, movies, even ads.
So now we have a curiosity gap: what’s the Curse of Knowledge? www.madetostick.com answers that question.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, February 2008.