6 Essential Elements to Get Your Idea Across – Part 1

I just started reading the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath which is about why some ideas take off and others don’t. It’s actually blowing me away. The thought of making an idea stick is not just for advertising people but it should be on the minds of anyone trying to get a point across. For example if you are a teacher presenting to students or a student doing a presentation, an entrepreneur selling a new concept or trying to spread an idea. The possible applications are endless.

The authors analyzed a number of pitches, stories, urban legends, marketing campaigns etc to look for the common elements that made ideas “stick” with the public. An idea “sticks” if it’s easy to recall and stays with you for a long time. For instance they reference an urban legend which discusses a man who goes to a bar and accepts a drink from an attractive lady only to wake the next morning in a bathtub filled with ice and a tube sticking out of his back. He’d been drugged and had one of his kidneys stolen! Of course this story is a myth but it has been around for many years and keeps spreading because it has many of the elements that they say people look for in a “sticky” story or concept.

What makes an idea stick? There are six elements which they describe with the cheesy acronym S.U.C.C.E.S. (yes they’re missing an S).  In part one of this review I will look at the first three elements of a successful idea.

Simplicity - To get an idea across it should be straightforward and direct, i.e. it should be simple. As Guy Kawasaki would say “No one cares about your patent pending, mind bending, curve jumping, exponential growth product!”. We don’t care about all the details and the market potential, we just want to know what it can do FOR US.  I surf a lot of sites and the ones that catch my attention are clean and it’s simple to understand what they do.

I think a couple great examples of a simple story are Nike and Apple computer. These are two of the most successful brands around. Their messages are very simple – Think Different and Just Do It! What could be more simple and effective than this?

Unexpected - People are bombarded with tons of ideas everyday. We all have expectations of what’s coming when someone is pitching us, so for an idea to stick you have to provide some shock to your listeners. Here’s one example that came to mind right away. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

Concrete - Simpleness and being concrete are similar but not exactly the same. An idea can be simple but not really concrete. For instance, “Think Different” is simple but it’s not concrete since does anyone really know what that means? How do you “Think Different”? Different than whom? It’s a catchy slogan but doesn’t really convene something specific. Of course a successful idea doesn’t need ALL of theses elements since as I said Nike and Apple are both hugely successful brands. For an idea to stick it has to tell you something specific.

In part 2 of this series I will discuss the last three elements of a successful idea. Do you agree with these ideas? What ideas stick with you?

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Tags: communication, dan, effective, heath, made, presentations, skills, stick, teaching, to


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