Six Steps to a Sticky Message

I just finished reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in getting their message heard in this noisy, hyper-caffeinated, message messy world.

We are inundated with messages – as many as 3,000 a day according to some experts.  In this kind of environment, it is very difficult to make an impact with your target audience.  One way you can do that is by making your message memorable, or “sticky” as the Heaths and The Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell recommend.

But creating sticky messages doesn’t come easy to many people.  And because creativity is involved, many believe that it cannot be effectively taught or learned.  Fortunately, the Heaths turn that notion on its head and have developed the following six principles for creating a more sticky message: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotion and Stories (SUCCESs…get it?).

Fans of The Tipping Point will find a lot to like in Made to Stick.  Written in a breezy, engaging style it nonetheless includes real world examples that illustrate these six principles in action.  And like another of my favorite marketing and communications books, Influence by Robert Cialdini, it backs up many of its claims with data from psychological and other medical journals.

If you’re having a tough time getting your message heard, Made to Stick may be the right place to start.

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Everybody’s Doing It…Why Aren’t You?

One of my favorite books is Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.  It not only explains the psychology of why people say “yes,” but gives concrete advice on how to apply these principles to your company, cause or candidate.

I was thinking about Cialdini when I read about Red’s Eats, a seafood shack in Wiscasset, Maine.  In many ways, there’s nothing unusual about Red’s.  It’s a roadside shack that sells lobster rolls, fried clams and other summertime staples.  Having spent many summers in Maine, I can attest to the ubiquity of these establishments.

But Red’s is different.  As reported in The New York Times this summer, every day people line up and wait to order, sometimes for an hour or more.  Traffic has become so congested by the popularity’s of Red’s that the Wiscasset town council is considering building a bypass that avoids that stretch of Route 1.

What makes it different?  I’m hard pressed to believe the lobster roll is that much better than anywhere else.  Instead, what I think is going on here is an example of Cialdini’s principle of “social proof.”  By that, Cialdini means that “we view behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”  In other words, the actions of those around us influence how we act.

Because of its proximity to Route 1, even a small amount of customers can back up traffic on the highway.  And delayed drivers are sure to take notice of that.  “Look at the line of people waiting to eat at Red’s,” you can imagine someone saying, “they must have some great food.  Let’s try it.”

And what develops is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The more people that see the lines, the more they want to experience it.  And the more people that experience it, the greater the lines become. Of course, it helps if you also have good food and service, which Red’s undoubtedly possesses in no small degree.

You can see evidence of “social proof” in The New York Times article.  According to Patrick McMenemy of Saco, Me., he can’t help stopping at Red’s every time he passes through Wiscasset.  “You figure if the lines are that long,” he said, “it has to be good.”

How can you use “social proof” to get your customers and members to say “yes” to your requests?  When I send an action alert, for example, I like to highlight how other advocates have already responded to my requests.  My thinking is that if someone sees a peer or a colleague taking action, they’ll be more likely to act as well.

Cialdini offers many other examples of “social proof” in Influence, which has been called the “most important” book for marketers in the last ten years and sold more than 1.5 million copies.  And if that’s not enough “social proof” for you to read his book, I don’t know what is.

10 Tips for Bonding with Customers, Clients and Members

Over the last year, I’ve become more interested in the psychology of decision-making.  In other words, (a) how do our basic psychological needs influence the decisions we make and (b) are there ways to adjust our communications and marketing strategies to take advantage of these needs.

The best book I’ve read on this subject is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.  In it, he identifies six “weapons of influence” that can be used to increase compliance with your requests.

These are extremely valuable weapons whether you are trying to convince someone to purchase your product or an convince an advocate to take action in support of your cause.

Brian Martin, the Founder and CEO of Brand Communications, expands that list to 10 in a recent issue of Advertising Age.  “Fortunately,” he writes, “when it comes to identifying what people want, we aren’t particularly complex. Direct your actions toward meeting as many as possible, and your brand will grow exponentially.”

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