Chip Heath & Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, are interested in how effective ideas are constructed—what make some ideas stick and others disappear. In this way, they tell us that what stick is systematic creativity.
Highly creative ads are more predictable than uncreative ones. It’s like Tolstoy’s quote: ‘All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ All creative ads resemble one another, but each loser is uncreative in its own way.But if creative ads consistently make use of the same basic set of templates, perhaps ‘creativity’ can be taught. Perhaps even novices—with no creative experience—could produce better ideas if they understood the templates.
Prioritization rescues people from the quicksand of decision angst, and that’s why finding the core is so valuable. The people who listen to us will be constantly making decisions in an environtment of uncertainty. They will suffer anxiety from the need to choose –even when the choice is between two good options.Core messages help people avoid bad choices by reminding them of what’s important.
In 1994, George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University, provided the most comprehensive account of situational interest. It is surprisingly simple. Curiosity, he says, happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge.Loewenstein argues that gaps cause pain. When we want to know something but don’t, it’s like having an itch that we need to scratch. To take away the pain, we need to fill the knowledge gap. We sit patiently through bad movies, even though they may be painful to watch, because it’s too painful not to know how they end.This ‘gap theory’ of interest seems to explain why some domains create fanatical interest: They naturally create knowledge gaps.
Concreteness makes targets transparent. Even experts need transparency.Consider a software start-up whose goal is to build ‘the next great search engine.’ Within the start-up are two programmers with nearly identical knowledge, working in neighboring cubes. To one ‘the next great search engine’ means completeness, ensuring that the search engine returns everything on the Web that might be relevant, no matter how obscure. To the other it means speed, ensuring pretty good results very fast. Their efforts will not be fully aligned until the goal is made concrete.
A person’s knowledge of details is often a good proxy for her expertise. Think of how a history buff can quickly establish her credibility by telling an interesting Civil War anecdote. But concrete details don’t just lend credibility to authorities who provide them; they lend credibility to the idea itself. The Civil War anecdote, with lots of interesting details, is credible in anyone’s telling. By making a claim tangible and concrete, details make it seem more real, more believable.
The goal of making messages “emotional” is to make people care. Feelings inspire people to act.