Why do we remember some advertising jingles and not others? How did we learn to wear seatbelts? Why do we scan food labels looking for trans fats? Because of sticky ideas, the memorable messages that catch and hold our attention. Dan Heath, an educational publisher, and Chip Heath, a Stanford Business School professor, offer these examples and many more in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The brothers Heath praise companies such as Southwest Airlines, Wendy's and Subway for making their company identities memorable. (Who can forget Southwest's peanuts, the phrase Where's the Beef? or Jared, the man who lost weight by eating only Subway sandwiches?) The chapters are devoted to the principles of stickiness (a concept derived from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point): simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. Naturally, the book itself is full of unforgettable phrases, such as, the Sinatra test, which divines whether one example alone will prove a point, named in honor of Frank Sinatra's assertion that if he can make it in New York, he can make it anywhere.

Fantasy, the Heaths write, is an important part of creating unforgettable ideas. When you go to a store, for instance, and the employees are called team members while you are referred to as a guest, you can enjoy the fantasy that you're not really there to exchange your hard-earned money for overpriced goods; you're visiting with a collegial bunch of pals.

Made to Stick is about achieving aspirations, both in business and in our personal lives. How do we make people care about our ideas?, the Heaths ask. We appeal to their self-interest, but we also appeal to their identities not only to the people they are right now but also to the people they would like to be. Eliza McGraw is a writer living in Washington, D.C.

comments powered by Disqus