Review: Made to Stick


This weekend, I finished reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  Sticky ideas (also known as ideas that resonate) are so integral to persuasion that I plan on incorporating the Heath brothers’ message into my ethos, pathos, and logos lecture tomorrow.

So how does Made to Stick relate to Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion?  The same way Nancy Duarte’s resonate does: because ideas that are remembered are ideas that can more easily and effectively persuade an audience.

The Heath brothers explain that sticky ideas contain six qualities: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional, and stories.  It’s easy to remember these when you think about Chip and Dan Heath’s acronym: SUCCES.  A successful idea that sticks will apply these principles.

The most critical review I’ve seen argues that Made to Stick doesn’t follow it’s own acronym; however, I disagree completely.  The text is simple in many ways.  It has clear, concise chapters written in plain, easy-to-read English.  Each chapter is divided into a few subheadings – in bold – which outline the chapter’s goal in a simple and clear fashion.  In terms of the unexpected, Made to Stick best applies this principle with the examples used and with the “Idea Clinics” appearing in each chapter.  The Heath brothers explain that “Idea Clinics” are to “model the process of making ideas stickier […] Think about each message and consider how you would improve it using the principles in the book” (Source).  I like the unexpected jolt I felt between reading and application.  Third, the text is concrete because it does not use abstract language or examples.  The Heath brothers use detailed, specific support for their ideas in the form of company slogans, advertising campaigns, and many other stories.  The proof and support in the text is concrete, but it is also credible.  The notes in the back pages of the book show the Heath brothers’ reliable resources: newspaper articles, books, dissertations, and research among others.  Emotional examples touch on familiar stories, parables, and urban legends that remind us of places and people we know in our lives.  In conjunction with emotion, the stories told definitely resonate with us because we’ve heard most of them.  The story of Jared, the Subway spokesman, is only one example of the proof in the form of story.

This text also works because of the Heath brothers’ effective use of ethos, pathos, and logos.  Ideas that stick touch on all three of the modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos.  Ideas that stick are logical (simple, concrete, credible).  Ideas that stick are emotional (unexpected, emotional, stories).  Ideas that stick have character and credibility (credible).  There is so much to learn, and I cannot wait to give the book another reading very soon.


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