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Made to stick summary

Made to stick – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Welcome to this new book summary. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is an amazing book by The Heath Brothers: Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Many of us struggle with how to communicate ideas effectively, how to get our ideas to make a difference.

Good ideas often have a hard time succeeding in the world.

Is it possible to make a true, worthwhile idea circulate as effectively as this false idea?

The authors share a way to communicate an idea so that people would listen and care, the type of idea that sticks.

The authors wrote this book to help you make your ideas stick. By “stick,” they mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact—they change your audience’s opinions or behavior.

How to design an idea that sticks?

In made to stick, according to the authors Chip and Dan Heath, there are six principles of sticky ideas.

To help you easily remember these six principles, here is a checklist: a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story. A clever observer will note that this sentence can be compacted into the acronym SUCCESs

The principles then are simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories.


Made to stick summary


Made to stick Chapter 1: Simplicity

It’s never easy to get the audience to buy into our ideas, especially in a noisy, unpredictable and chaotic environment.  To succeed, our first watchword must be: Simplicity. Not “simple” like “simplistic” or “reductive”. But rather simplicity as our ability to capture the essence of the idea we are defending.

Imagine that you are a great wartime reporter and you can only telegraph one piece of information before the line is cut, what information would you send?  You have to choose.

The people we talk to are constantly being asked to make decisions in an uncertain environment. The need to choose will prolong them in anguish. Setting priorities saves the individual from the agony of decision making. This is why it is so important to identify the core of your ideas.

A simple idea can be summed up in 3 points:

  •         It only has one idea to communicate: in particular to reduce indecision, because “too much choice kills choice”
  •         It has a concise message: like a proverb
  •         It is a useful message: in order to incite action

Example of a simple idea: THE low cost airline.


Made to stick Chapter 2: Unexpected

How do you get your audience’s attention?

Capturing the attention of your audience is the purpose of an unexpected idea. To do so, you need to break a pattern that is well anchored in the minds of your interlocutors. To achieve this, you must:

  •         Be at odds with common sense
  •         Arouse surprise and curiosity
  •         Ask questions to your audience

An example of an unexpected idea: Santa Claus would have been invented by Coca-Cola for an advertisement.

Actually, we perceive the world through the mental representations we make of it, and these patterns work like a guessing machine. They help us to predict what is going to happen and therefore how to make our decisions.

We get surprised when our schemas fail. It prepares us to understand why they failed. This is why unexpected ideas are more likely to stick because surprise leads us to pay attention and think.

Conversely, common sense is the sworn enemy of sticky messages. When a message breathes common sense, it enters through one ear and exits through the other.

How do you keep your attention?

Curiosity arises when we feel a void in our knowledge and lacks create suffering. We sit patiently in front of bad movies because it would be too painful not to know the end.

We have to create gaps before we fill them. Gaps in our knowledge arouse curiosity.


feeling surprised


Made to stick Chapter 3: Concrete things

Abstraction makes ideas more difficult to understand and memorize.

It’s even more difficult when we work with others. They will interpret things differently. Concrete ideas protect us from these bad interpretations.

Concrete language helps individuals, especially novices and neophytes, to understand new concepts.

Abstraction is the luxury of the expert, the specialist. Have you ever read a technical or scientific article, or even a colleague’s memo, and found yourself getting upset with the author and begging him to give you a concrete example?

It might be superficial to talk in a concrete manner about subjects we have known for years. But if we make this effort we will be rewarded: our audience will understand what we are saying and they will remember it.

In summary, abstract” ideas are more difficult to understand and memorize. Concreteness is achieved by addressing your message to novices, not specialists.

According to Chip and Dan Heath, a concrete idea creates a common “domain” where individuals can collaborate.

An example of a concrete idea: too much sun exposure causes skin aging. It’s better than: the harms of excessive sun exposure are cumulative and irreversible.


Made to stick Chapter 4: Credibility

Our beliefs come from our parents, our friends, our religion, our personal experiences. Relying on the trust we have in the authorities (doctor, lawyer, experts…) and being recommended by them can help to make an idea credible and have one of those ideas that stick.

How to make a message credible?


There are two categories of people who traditionally have the power to be authoritative.

The first is specialists – the kind of individuals who are showered with degrees, honors and awards and are authoritative in their field of expertise.

The other consists of those commonly referred to as “stars” whose status produces a halo of authority.

What if one is not a recognized authority?

Honesty and impartiality

Honesty and impartiality can turn a stranger into an effective spokesperson. Your audience can detect his honesty with certainty. Sometimes this can even be more effective than celebrities and other experts.

For example: “I’ve been addicted to drugs for 10 years now. I’ve lost my job, my home and my loved ones have moved away from me. I am here today to explain why you should never start taking drugs, even to try”.

In this fictional example, there is no doubt that the speaker has experienced what they are talking about. He has lived his story. He is authentic and credible.

The details

An individual’s knowledge of the details of an event or thing is often good evidence of his or her expertise. Coloring a story with details makes it more alive and credible.


Accompanying an idea with a statistic gives it weight, provided that it does not throw a single number, but rather illustrates what the statistic means by providing the context and appropriate elements for comparison. For example: “1 child in the world dies of tuberculosis every 10 seconds. By the end of my intervention, 30 children will have died of this disease. At the end of the day, it will be 450 children. “.

Testable credentials

For example: “My company provides security for Fort Knox Prison” or “I am the official caterer for the White House”.

In either case, it is likely that you will have no trouble getting other contracts. Verifiable references” can be a great way to build credibility by allowing your audience to “test before you buy”.

Made to stick Chapter 5: Emotion

Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Like Mother Teresa, many individuals feel concerned about what is close to them. An emotional idea must therefore appeal to the interest and benefits that the person can derive from it.

Believing is important but it is not enough for people to act, they must feel concerned. By trying to give emotional content to the message, the goal is to get people involved. Feelings motivate us to act.

How can we make our audience feel concerned about our messages? Let’s rejoice: it’s “enough” to know how to be a little opportunistic, i.e. to associate our ideas with emotions that already exist; to show how our ideas are associated with things that already motivate them; by talking about their personal interest but also about their identity – not only their current identity but also the one they would like to be.

To do this, concretely you can:

  •         Create empathy
  •         Use what people are interested in (the pyramid of Maslow can help you identify a need)

Example of an emotional idea

You will feel safe with Michelin tires. (Need for safety)

Made to stick Chapter 6: A Story

These ideas that stick are ultimately stories that we love to tell. And good stories make people act.

In marketing, you can read “All Marketers Are Liars” by Seth Godin to be convinced.

Telling a story allows you to simulate the past events of each individual and to challenge your listeners: creating intrigue. Involving your audience will make your story even more captivating.

The power of story

The power of story is twofold.

First of all, story is a simulation (which explains how to act). Passive audiences do not exist. When we listen to a story, our mind moves from room to room. When we listen to a story, we simulate it.

Simulation works because we cannot imagine events or sequences without stimulating the modules of our brain that are stimulated by real physical activity. If mental simulation is not as beneficial as real practice of the thing itself, it is not far off.

Second, the story is a source of inspiration which acts as a motivation to act.

You will notice that these two benefits, simulation and inspiration, have in common that they both motivate action.

These stories, these store talks, help us to tame the world.

The problem when you get right to the point is that people feel attacked and respond by defending themselves.

The way you deliver the message to them is an indication of how they should respond.

When you make an argument, you are implicitly asking them to evaluate your argument – to judge it, discuss it, criticize it – and then make their own.

But in a story you engage your audience – you involve them in the idea, asking them to participate with you. They are more open and are likely to welcome your ideas.


Packed with examples and good stories, Chip and Dan Heath’s Sticky Ideas is a first step for anyone trying to understand how our human brain works when it receives a new idea.

In six principles, the authors help their readers spread ideas around them to be remembered.

A winning idea must therefore be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and have the form of a story.

And if tomorrow morning you wake up shouting “Eureka!” you’ll now be able to make your idea sticky.

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