Now I cannot take the overall credit for these six principles, they come from a really awesome book that I cannot recommend enough – it is called 'Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath. This book actually cemented for me what creativity needs to be, I think a lot of it was there already in my head, but having it so clearly broken down with such awesome real life examples makes it stick – proving they are practicing what they are preaching!
It is important to reiterate that to be creative does not require qualifications – it is open for everyone to be creative. A great example is one of the most prolific film makers of all time – Quentin Tarantino – he did not go to film school. He states he ‘went to films’ – by working in a video rental store (a history lesson may be required here for our younger readers – this is pre Netflix!) he had first hand access to talk to people about what they liked and didn’t like. This made him the director he is today.
So, let’s do this – what are the 6 principles and why do they make ideas and content memorable?
Simplicity is key to everything in marketing, and in particular content. It has been said that ‘if you say three things, you don’t say anything’ as you create decision paralysis. This is true though, I am sure we can all relate to being given too many options and not being able to take anything away from it or make a decision on which is best.
I mentioned in Monday’s article about ‘Commanders Intent’ – this is such a great way to look at content. The Commander’s intent is the overarching goal and needs to be in your mind at all times when creating content. It is the intent behind why you are creating what you are creating, without going into detail. Once you have your idea, make sure you question, is the intent simple? Do this again once you have created your content.
Breaking a pattern makes us think, and depending on how well it is done it makes us remember. By being unexpected or doing things differently it helps grab the persons attention and it tends to result in holding their interest.
A great real life example is from Karen Wood, a flight attendant. Now we have no doubt been on many flights in our lives, but how often do you pay attention to the safety announcement? Karen Wood realised this and instead of continuing with the normal script she changed it a little. A snippet of this is ‘As the song goes there might be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 6 ways to leave this aircraft - two forward exits, two over wing and two exits at the back.’
By doing this, people listened, no doubt had a little giggle, but stayed engaged and heard more of the announcement than I imagine they ever had before. I know personally the only one that gets me is Thomson’s with the children doing the announcement– video clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syozl4DAPs4
Concrete is real, it is tangible, it is proven. By demonstrating a concrete idea the person reading or viewing the content can make a lot more sense of it and it is factual. For example a V8 engine would be concrete, but calling it ‘high performance’ is subjective. In the modern age we live in, with answers from Google at our fingertips, audiences like fact.
It has also been proven that by learning things in context we take things on board so much better. A test was conducted of young students learning subtraction. Those that learnt in context progressed so much quicker e.g. you have £10, you buy a £3 sticker book, how much do you have left?
Ensuring your content and idea has credibility is extremely important in helping to build trust with your brand. Credibility is all about demonstrating why you are saying what you are saying and ensuring there is fair reasoning. Think about what makes people believe ideas and ensure you have ticked those boxes. Or can you back up your message with statistics, outside testimonials, real credentials or awards?
A great example of taking proof to the absolute maximum comes from Marshall and Warren in Australia in the 1980’s. They had discovered that stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria and therefore could be cured - this was groundbreaking, before this point it was not believed they could be cured.
On announcing this though there were no celebrations as no one believed them. They were not high profile, no-one had heard of them and one was not even a doctor.
In 1984 Marshall’s patience ran out, he drank a glass filled with bacteria - in his words it tasted like swamp water. Within a few days he had all of the symptoms of an early stage ulcer.
He then cured himself with antibiotics. This demonstration still did not convince everyone as skeptics said he had treated it before it had become a full blown ulcer, so it was not a fair case.
It took until 1994 for the idea to be full accepted and antibiotics to be made the preferred treatment for ulcers.
In 2005 they received a Nobel Prize for their work.
Now I do not believe anyone should need to take things this far to demonstrate they are credible, but this just shows how important proof can be to make an idea cut through.
We all respond to emotion, this is the part where you need to question – why would someone care about my content? Feelings inspire people to act, therefore it is important if you want them to do something because of your content that it makes them feel something. Your message does not need to be emotional; it just needs to make the reader or viewer care about what you have told them.
A great experiment was run in the US in 2004. In a US study around charity, members of the public were paid $5 to answer a survey and after doing so they were given two different letters from Save the Children - one focused on statistics worldwide about the help needed and one about a specific girl in need of help in Africa.
The participants that had the letter about the individual girl gave more than twice as much as those who read about the overall statistics. The researchers theorised that the statistics made people think more analytically and therefore were not as bought into the cause as they were with the emotional plight of this young girl.
They re-ran the study and instead of a survey they had two different questions for the different groups, one a math style question and one asking for them to write down their feelings to the word baby.
After this they were all given the letter about the girl and asked to donate, shockingly this proved what they learnt from the first experiment, the analytical question lead people to donating about 50% less than the emotional question.
This does slightly confuse my thoughts on statistics, as I do believe we live in a very statistical driven world now in 2017 with the rise of infographics and stats in general from the changes in technology. It would be interesting to re-run this study in modern day to see what would happen now. But I do believe emotion and making people care is key to successful content.
Stories contain wisdom, they offer context and in general humans love stories! Mental stimulation works, we can’t imagine events or sequences without accessing the same modules of the brain that are evoked in real physical activity. This activity is not always mental, people who imagine looking at the Eiffel tower can’t resist moving their eyes upwards.
By telling stories we help make our message a reality in the person’s mind, which by offering context, makes it easier to remember. You will notice I have tried to back up each of these points with stories and this is what the Heath brothers do so well in Made to Stick, they tell stories as demonstrations, which in turn proves the point that stories stick!
I hope this has been interesting and I do highly recommend you go out and buy Made to Stick – I have ruined the suspense of their 6 ideas here, but there are so many more examples in the book – it really is worth reading!
It’s time to move the game on.
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