Read This Book: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

Over the years, I’ve been a huge fan of fiction but I’ve only really read non-fiction during my degrees. Yet, since working for myself, I’ve got into business and pop psychology books.

Nearly everything I’ve read has been helpful in some way so I thought I’d write-up a few reviews and spread them over a number of blog posts. I hope you find them useful and either go and get yourself a copy – or save yourself several wasted hours if you don’t like the sound of it.

On the list so far are:

Made To Stick – Chip & Dan Heath

The Beermat Entrepreneur – Mike Southon & Chris West

Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing – George Cloutier

Think And Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

If you can add to it or suggest any books you think I might like please let me know in the Comments at the bottom of the page.

made to stick review

In this first post, I’m looking at Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (once I’ve convinced you how great it is you can order it here on Amazon).

Chip and Dan look at what makes some ideas ‘sticky’. They borrowed the idea of ‘stickiness’ from Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point’ – another great book (oh, I’ll put it on the list).

How come, for example, Aesop’s fables have been passed on across thousands of years when most of what we communicate is forgotten within minutes or even seconds?

The book looks at a myriad of different messages, ideas and communication of all sorts – from urban myths to corporate slogans – to work out what makes them stick.

And they come up with six determining factors:

S = Simple

U = Unexpected

C = Concrete

C = Credible

E = Emotional

Ss = Stories

Why do we remember charity adverts on TV? Because they’re emotional. Which part of the conversation you had with your friend last night do you remember most? The bit when they told you a story about someone?

I found the book absolutely fascinating, and Chip and Dan manage to do exactly what they’re talking about – use loads of examples and stories to explain everything, which then stay with you.

It was this book that introduced me to and inspired me to write a blog about ‘the Curse of Knowledge’, which is basically the idea that when you are communicating something, you have a huge amount of knowledge that your listener – or reader – doesn’t have.

The curse of knowledge and the SUCCESs theory have applications if you work for yourself (among lots of other things) – the importance of using concrete examples, using emotion (something you try to do as a writer all the time), making things credible and keeping things simple.

When sharks don’t attack

One of Chip and Dan’s stories that stuck with me was about the perceived level of shark attacks. I love animals of all varieties and I’ve always hated those ‘When Sharks Attack’ and ‘The Most Deadly Animals on the Planet’ programmes. Animals are just true to their nature in my opinion.

I digress… the point is, shark attacks are extremely rare. In fact, you’re more likely to drown on a beach protected by a lifeguard than you are to come face to face with a shark.

That fact could change people’s perceptions about the level of shark attacks but what about this…

You are 300 times more likely to be killed by a deer (when it runs into your car) than by a shark.

It’s an almost perfect example of SUCCESs: it’s simple, unexpected (who knew Bambi was a killer), concrete, credible (nice statistic from a reliable source – the Florida Museum of Natural History) and emotional (talking about deer and sharks and death). It’s not a story but you can imagine the tale you could tell to add flavour.

And there you have a great antidote to the perceived wisdom that sharks are deadly and prolific killers that, I bet, sticks with you like it did with me.

This is just one tiny example and I haven’t got space to write them all, so basically…

Buy this book!

I would MASSIVELY recommend you read it if you’re interested in ideas, stories, psychology, business messaging or communication. It has so many practical applications but it’s also just really interesting and you’ll learn stuff you’ve never thought about before.

If you do read it, please let me know what you think of it in the Comments or get in touch. And I’ll bring you book two in a future post.

Thanks for reading.


11 thoughts on “Read This Book: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

  1. Ha, I’ve always thoughts sharks could do with a better PR agent. Possibly the one hired by the meerkats!

    Heard a lot about this book over the past 12 months or so and, having bought a few books on recommendations before, 4-Hour Work Week and Crush It, I’ve stayed clear of reading other recommendations. But, I’ll give this one a try on your recommendation. Partly because it’s so down-to-earth. No “This book is AWESOME!” lines in it.


  2. Ha ha! I’ll ask a few sharks if they’d like my help.

    I’m flattered you’re giving it a go, please let me know what you think. Have you read Freakonomics or Outliers? I really like both of them too, they make you see the world from a slightly different angle, they’re awesome ; )

    I hope you enjoy it.


  3. Yes, Outliers is on my list. Not sure about Freakonomics. I’m leaning towards We’re All Weird by Seth Godin.

    Will let you know re: Made To Stick. Have just reserved it online at my local library 🙂

  4. Freakonomics is good if you’re interested in economics – not for everyone I guess! It explains things like why value ranges are so cheap yet few people buy them – or used to, I reckon the world may have turned since it was written – it has some interesting implications for running a business. I haven’t heard of We’re All Weird but I like Seth Godin so I’ll look it up – thanks for that.

    Great, enjoy 🙂

  5. Hi Sally,

    I always like to hear of good books. I am actually listening to Made to Stick at the moment!

    My current recommendations are “The Edge- How the Best get Better” by Michael Heppell and “How to Be a Productivity Ninja” by Graham Allcott. Both British authors too.

    many thanks


  6. Hi Leanne,
    Really? What a coincidence! Are you enjoying it?
    Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll get hold of those. I’m loving my business books at the moment.


  7. Hi Jules,
    Great, thanks for the recommendation, Ill give that a try. I’ve read everything on my list bar one I think, I’d better get writing those blogs I mentioned…

    Are you reading them right?! My reading hasn’t made me rich either but I do find it all fascinating.


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