• David de Souza

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Updated: Jul 14


The biggest takeaway from this book for me was the discovery that 90% of award-winning ads used the same 6 templates. When a group of novices were trained for 2 hours on how to use a template, their ads were 50% more creative compared to the professionals. This made me wonder: What other templates can we learn in life?

Want to dig deeper than the core principles? Check out:


Core Principles:


I have summarised 'Made to Stick', distilling the book into 17 core principles:

  1. If you try and argue 10 different points, none will be remembered. Find the single most important point.

  2. Use ideas & concepts that people already understand. Schemas increase memory and comprehension.

  3. Mysteries are powerful because they create a desire for closure.

  4. 'Mystery is created not from an unexpected moment but from an unexpected journey. We know where we're headed - we want to solve the mystery- but we're not sure how we'll get there.

  5. The gap theory: Gaps cause pain that we try and fix/close.

  6. Abstract nouns are not as easy to remember as concrete ones: Car vs empathy.

  7. Asking someone to test a claim is powerful for persuasion.

  8. Statistics don't produce emotion. Bring them to life by making them more relatable or human.

  9. People make decisions based on their identity, norms, and principles. They ask themselves: What do people like me (environmentalist/mothers/Firemen) do in situations like this?

  10. We often try and increase accuracy to the point of uselessness. We should provide enough information to be useful and then a little more as needed.

  11. Urban legends don't have to be repeated. If you have to repeat something maybe it wasn't interesting or sticky.

  12. Folk legends are credible because local details are added.

  13. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. People will often respond by fighting back to a direct message. Stories are an indirect form of messaging that work under the radar of persuasion.

  14. 90% of award-winning ads used the same 6 templates. A group of novices was trained for 2 hours on how to use a template. Their ads were 50% more creative compared to the professionals.

  15. There are 3 basic templates that account for 60-80% of all stories. The Challenge Plot: Contains obstacles that are daunting. This story inspires using courage and perseverance to overcome the obstacles. The Connection Plot: A story about people that connects between different demographics. This plot makes us want to help and be tolerant of others. This plot is about relationships with people. The Creativity Plot: This story plot involves solving a problem that has been around for a long time.

  16. We can make people care about our ideas by: Not being analytical. Creating empathy for 1 specific person (not a group). Highlight that the idea is associated with something they already feel strongly about. Appeal to self-interest. Appeal to their current identities. Appeal to the person they want to be.

  17. Six Principles of sticky ideas = SUCCESs

  • Simple

  • Unexpected

  • Concrete

  • Credible

  • Emotional

  • Stories


Let me know how these summaries can be improved? Contact me via Email (david@thisdomain.co) or on Twitter.



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