Topic: Book Club

Made To Stick, Used For Good Or Evil?

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
It’s clear that the methods described in Made to Stick are not always used for noble purposes. Details, stories, and metaphors don’t even need to be relevant or true in order to get a message to stick, as is proved by the urban legends are still pervasive in our society. What is the best defense against sticky ideas, and as a marketer, how do you react when a competitor utilizes a sticky idea inappropriately?

Moderator Note: This discussion refers to the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (topic: communications). Click the title to learn more. Then join the conversation. We'd LOVE for you to participate!

To continue reading this question and the solution, sign up ... it's free!


  • Posted on Accepted
    Smile. When a competitor brings attention or awareness to something, or an idea or service - GREAT! It is truly like free publicity. If you have to be deceptive in order to get a point across, others will realize that. What comes around goes around and there is nothing wrong with a little competition. My philosophy is to keep it clean. Do unto others as you would have done to you. If you are engaging in unethical practices - eventually that will catch up to you and be your downfall.
  • Posted on Accepted
    First it depends upon the degree of wrongdoing to your company--if it's a blatant lie that could harm you or scare your customers then a statement should be issued.

    But, in the name of competition I'm reminded of the P.T. Barnum story (which I think is actually a fable). When he wanted to sell "white" salmon (as there is white salmon and pink salmon) he needed a strategy as it was 'foreign' to buyers to buy salmon that wasn't pink. So he got sneaky and came out with "Guaranteed NOT to turn pink in the can!" and customers bought into it as it discredited the pink salmon they were eating (again this is likely a fable but work with me).

    His competition...miffed by his using their coloring against them...turned around with "No bleaching used in our product".

    And so it went that the competitors battled it out for market share. Was that unethical? It certainly was sneaky...and purportedly quite sticky. (even tho' it's likely a fable, the story has stuck-it-out through the ages).
  • Posted on Accepted
    If the sticky idea, is truly a good idea, the only defense I can think of is to come up with a stickier idea to undermine his/her idea. Just make sure the stickier idea is a good one.

    If the idea is sticky, yet is NOT a good idea, it will "all come out in the wash" as my beloved grandmother used to say.

    A perfect example, the informercial. The ideas of being thin and rich with no effort and minimal financial sacrifice are certainly sticky ideas, which explains why the informercial is still a late night staple in all the major markets.

  • Posted on Author
    Chip - I don't know... and the question has been bothering me since I read your book. My first instinct was to "fight fire with fire," but that has its limits, doesn't it? As you demonstrated, just because an idea is true doesn't mean it will be presented in a manner that sticks with others. Conversely, just because an idea has achieved popular consensus through the use of sticky ideas, it doesn't mean the underlying idea is true.

    In the book "The Non-Designer's Design Book," Robin Williams (the designer, not the actor) stated that once we know what something is, we are more likely to recognize it and be able to describe it to others, even if we've seen it a million times before (her example was the Yucca tree).

    This is why everyone needs to read this book. That way, when someone sees these techniques being used, they will be more likely able to tell if someone is trying to yank their chain.

    It's not a full-proof defense, but it tips the scales in the right direction.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Cam, per your lines of: "As you demonstrated, just because an idea is true doesn't mean it will be presented in a manner that sticks with others. Conversely, just because an idea has achieved popular consensus through the use of sticky ideas, it doesn't mean the underlying idea is true."

    So I guess we need clever in addition to the truth (and that, unfortunately, clever trumps truth). I liked it when Al Ries cited "Sunlight as the best disinfectant" in the last book (when we were debating the success potential of divergence over convergence) but, like with all great ideas, they need great marketing. Which is both good and bad.

    Really appreciate Chip's example of the theory of disease (to think of all the bloodletting that occurred as a result just makes me wonder what current practices they'll gasp at 200 years from now).
  • Posted on Accepted
    Wouldn't we simply spar with the credibility of false claims? And if outright silly, don't pay it mind as if you're playing defense on the issue. Instead, smile and change tactics in macro outbound messaging to focus on quality. That way, in the long run...people will find the troubling message inconsistent with current perception and the net effect could at least be turned neutral.
  • Posted on Author
    Mario - Great point, and this is where we run into problems. It can be incredibly difficult to overcome a truly sticky message.

    On my other thread, for instance, we're talking about Gore's global warming message, that the "planet has a fever." Others have brought up his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" and several core themes from that. One of his arguments from his movie is that there is a correlation between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and temperature. To him and the other true believers, that means it is a slam dunk. No more questions. End of debate.

    But hold on.

    I saw ANOTHER documentary that drew a different conclusion from that same data. Apparently there is some confusion about what caused what. In other words, the core samples taken to measure this correlation show that the higher temperatures came before the increases in carbon dioxide - by about 25 years if memory serves.


    Doesn't that suggest the increased temperatures caused the increase in carbon dioxide, not the other way around?

    Well that just violates our entire schema, doesn't it?

    If the second documentary's argument is true, then Gore engaged in what was called a "post hoc" fallacy. Post hoc fallacies are apparently effective, or else logicians would have never had to develop a name for it to refute such things.

    Gore's defenders picked out a couple of inconsequential inaccuracies from that second documentary to criticize and discredit, but none of them affected the central argument. They objected to the garnish, not the main meal.

    In fact, the most effective tool Gore seems to have is the one that claims loudly and wildly that "the debate is over." If you don't believe Gore's side, in other words, you're a loon. "If you're a skeptic, you're stupid. Stop questioning and let us reach into your pocket to pay for things that even we don't believe will have any effect on the outcome. But we'll go ahead and get rich by alarming you. Er. I mean. Through our "public service."

    And I DO have a serious problem with that.

    Second point... I do believe that smoking is bad for you. I don't do it. I discourage others from doing it. However, I also believe the way anti-smoking advocates use statistics is misleading.

    A great uncle from my wife's family just passed away this week. He had emphazima for the last ten years. Undoubtedly, his death will be credited to that emphazima for the statistics used to discourage smoking. However, he was nearly 96 years old. By the time he was diagnosed, he had already outlived his life expectancy by over ten years. It's misleading to use his death indiscriminately to buttress their case - Even if the crux of their point is correct.

    The propensity of people to choose "clever" over "true," in fact, scares the Hell out of me. And now that I've been convinced that these tools are so powerful, I worry about them being used by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Don't you?
  • Posted on Author
    Thank you, everyone, for your responses. I'm going to shut it down now.

Post a Comment