Book Review: Made To Stick

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Heath, Chip and Dan Heath. Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die.
Random House, 2007.

Several weeks ago, a staff member at Fuqua sent an email to the “everyone” list warning drivers to avoid flashing their lights to oncoming cars, or they may be shot by a gang member. In reply another staff member noted that this was an urban legend that had been around for some time. The sender acknowledged that the story may not be true but still felt the warning was worth sending. This left me wondering — Why is this urban legend so successful? What is it about this story that makes it stick?

Written by Chip Heath, formerly a faculty member at Fuqua and now at Stanford, and his brother Dan, a consultant at Duke Corporate Education, Made to Stick explores why some ideas thrive and others fade away.

The authors analyze hundreds of sticky ideas, including compelling stories, persistent rumors, urban legends, conspiracy theories, proverbs and jokes. What emerges is a common set of six traits normally present in a successful idea. The 1992 Clinton campaign’s slogan “It’s the economy, stupid,” is an example of the simplicity principle. Urban legends often combine a vivid concrete image, an unexpected outcome and an emotional ending, such as the man who wakes up in an icy bathtub with no kidneys. Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” commercials from the mid-80’s draw on the credibility principle as consumers are invited to see for themselves.

Finally in the epilogue, the authors suggest ways to transform and communicate ideas to make them more successful.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business. All rights reserved.


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