Making Your Ideas Stick

Making Your Ideas Stick

Throughout human history, people have always come up with different ideas on how to change the world or make an impact.

It might be a product, a service, or a philosophy.

While some of these ideas go on to make radical impacts, some fizzle out along the way (compare Facebook with Google Buzz, Friendster, and Myspace).

The quality of the idea, the level of advertising, or the price of the product or service don’t necessarily explain the differences between the successful ideas and the less successful ones.

In many cases, the determining factor is whether the idea sticks with the public. How the public receives and thinks about an idea can be the difference between success and failure.

Therefore, the task of business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketers is to make their ideas stick with the public. When a message sticks with the people, they will be the biggest driver of its growth. To make ideas stick, therefore, it is important to understand the psychology or behavior of the consumers.

Whatever else we learn in marketing, behavioral science must be somewhere at the top.

How do you make your ideas stick? Let’s find out.

Keep It Simple

It is easier for people to remember one thing than ten things.

The more the information you give people to deal with, the lesser their ability to remember. The more memorable an idea is, the greater the possibility it will stick. 

Therefore, one way to make your idea stick is to keep it simple and memorable.

This ties in to the concept of a unique selling point or value proposition.

What is the one thing that is unique about your idea (from the customers’ perspective)? Telling people five things about your idea (product, service, or philosophy) is less powerful than focusing on one unique selling point.

Jonah Berger, a Professor of Marketing used Apple’s MacBook Air advert to illustrate this point. Instead of focusing on the different features of the product, the ad had one single focus – to convince the public that the laptop is thin.

The USP of the MacBook Air is that it is thin (so thin it can fit into an envelope). If you watched that ad, you will leave with that single point – it is thin.

When creating your ads, designing your landing page, or planning your content strategy, keep that USP in mind. Keeping it simple sticks because simpler ideas are more memorable.

Leonardo da Vinci was right, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Hans Hoffman said it best, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

Make it Concrete

Show not tell” is one of the common mantras in the marketing world. It is a concept we need to remember always. Concreate ideas are more memorable than abstract ideas. The more we can visualize it, the better.

In the business world, we use many buzzwords that consumers cannot visualize. These buzzwords have been part of the business vocabulary for ages and we transfer them to our marketing.

Words like strategic, logistical, cost-based, synergy, leverage, streamline, etc. are part of the normal business environment.

While these words may make business executives look smart, they might not be the best for marketing purposes. Instead of using these buzzwords, marketers must focus on using words that are concrete and easy for the customers to visualize.

Consider these examples from Altitude Marketing:

  • ABC Systems intelligent software solutions help companies overcome their biggest challenges, empowering innovation and driving business forward.
  • ABC Systems builds custom software solutions that help accounting departments streamline operations by automating manual, redundant processes
  • ABC software helps accounting teams work faster by automating the tasks they don’t have time for.

The third example is easier to visualize (and therefore more memorable) than the first two.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Use Emotional Stories

One way to make an idea more concrete is to tell emotional stories.

Marketing is not only about the data and objective facts. In fact, marketing is primarily about the emotions. The more you can get the public to care about your idea, the greater the possibility that the idea will stick.

We talk about the things about which we care. To get your idea at the forefront, it is important to use the power of emotional stories.

Telling emotional stories is not manipulating people but making your ideas more concrete so they can better visualize and remember it.

The first thing to do is get to the emotional core of your product or service.

Ask the question, “Why will someone buy this product or service? If you sell a toilet cleaner, you know that people will buy your product because they want clean toilets.

However, you cannot stop here. To get to the emotional core, you need to keep asking the why question. “Why should someone have a clean toilet?” Clean toilets reduces the likelihood of having toilet infections. Why should someone avoid toilet infections?

They can cause pain, frequent hospital visitations, and higher medical bill. Going deeper in this way will help you to discover the emotional core of your product. Tell a story around this emotional core.

As Tom Fishburne puts it, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” The legendary Seth Godin himself said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.

The Power of Surprise

An idea cannot stick unless it gets attention.

Things that are novel or surprising tend to get our attention more than things that follow a pattern.

Those who know how to violate expectations by breaking a pattern get attention. Doing things that are unexpected, surprising, or novel creates a curiosity gap that draws people in.

Suja Juice, a beverage company, looked up people on Instagram with hashtags like #sick #Monday blues #hungover #Lack of sleep #is it Friday yet and delivered their juice to these individuals for free.

Double Tree is another company that use the power of surprise. Double Tree is a mid-priced, business traveler hotel. They have all the things you would expect from a normal mid-priced, business traveler hotel.

However, they decided to add an element of surprise – they give customers fresh baked chocolate chip cookies when they check in.

Everything else about the hotel is pretty normal but people will always remember the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies because it was unexpected.

The goal here is to get people’s attention to your idea. By breaking a pattern and doing something unique, you will get attention and create a curiosity gap.


Why do some ideas stick and others don’t? The ideas that stick are simple and concrete; they employ emotional stories and the power of surprise.

I can’t promise that you will come up with the next Amazon or Tesla, but if you consistently implement these tips, you may be close.

Which of these ideas do you plan to implement first in your marketing? Let me know in the comments.

Go out there, make your ideas simple, find its emotional core, make it concrete, and use the power of surprise.

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