Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Do you ever have the impression that no one takes your ideas seriously? Why is it so difficult to get our great ideas across while urban legends and conspiracy theories circulate so effortlessly?

It turns out these ideas and stories — the ones that spread like wildfire — all share some identical common principles. That means we can learn and apply these principles to make our own ideas more appealing and successful.

In this posting, Litemind reader Johan Dhaeseleer shares with us a mind map summary of the 2007 bestseller Made to Stick. The book presents the common traits of successful ideas, turning them into a simple formula we can use to make our own ideas stick.

From Great Ideas to Sticky Ideas

What’s the story with ‘sticky ideas’? According to the authors, Chip and Dan Heath, it means that “your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact — they change your audience’s opinions or behavior”.

If you want people to do something — to actually use — your ideas, it doesn’t matter how great those ideas are: if you can’t get them across effectively, nobody will care about them. As obvious as it is, this is an error creative people make all the time: we care too much about developing our ideas and too little about communicating them effectively.

A Checklist for Successful Ideas

By analyzing numerous case studies, Chip and Dan show us the underlying principles that lead to ‘sticky’ ideas, noting that the more these principles are expressed in an idea, the more likely it is to become successful.

The formula is conveniently summarized by the acronym SUCCES, meaning:

  • Simple: What’s the essential core of the idea?
  • Unexpected: Does the idea grab people’s attention?
  • Concrete: Is the idea clear? Isn’t it abstract?
  • Credible: Will people believe the idea?
  • Emotion: Will people care about the idea?
  • Story: Does the idea inspire people? Will they act on it?

A Quick Example

To understand how the formula works, let’s take a look at one of the case studies in the book: You do know Jared, the 425-pound fast-food dieter, don’t you?

If you live in the US you certainly know about him. For those who don’t, Jared is the central character in one of the most successful ad campaigns of the decade, created for fast-food chain Subway. The ad campaign is about how Jared shed almost 100 pounds (45 kg) in just 3 months by eating mostly at Subway. (You can check the original ad here).

So, how did the ‘Jared’ ad campaign become so immensely successful? Here’s how it fits in Made to Stick‘s SUCCES formula:

  • Simple: Eat sandwiches and lose weight.
  • Unexpected: A guy lost a lot of weight by eating fast food!
  • Concrete: He shows his oversized pants, mentions specific sandwiches.
  • Credible: We can see how a guy who used to wear 60-inch pants and XXXXXXL shirts is now slender.
  • Emotional: We care more about an individual — Jared — than about a faceless person in a crowd.
  • Story: The protagonist overcomes big odds to triumph. He inspires the rest of us to do the same.

If you think about this formula, you’ll see that you can use it to make just about any idea more appealing.

Book Summary

Find below the summary of Made to Stick in mind map format.

The mind map is courtesy of Litemind reader Johan DHaeseleer, and is Johan’s second contribution to our growing gallery. (Make sure you check his previous mind map on Brain Rules — another truly amazing book.)

Made to Stick Book

Get the mind map for Made to Stick:

A Short Digression on Mind Map Formats: Introducing XMind

A while ago, another amazing Litemind reader, Bruno Unna (round of applause, please), recommended the XMind mind mapping application. After playing with it for a while, I was impressed.

XMind is free, open-source, multi-platform, portable and much easier to use than Freemind (not to mention that the resulting mind maps are much more elegant!)

Although my primary mind mapping application of choice continues to be MindManager, XMind now comes as a close second.

I always like to offer open, platform-independent mind maps to readers — that’s why I’ve been including mind maps in Freemind format. If I don’t find any showstoppers, I’ll share them using XMind from now on.


What I enjoy the most about Made to Stick is that Chip and Dan practice what they preach: the book is packed with great stories and examples, so it’s not only very informative but a great and fun read.

That’s probably why it became a successful, ‘sticky’ hit, and has been on many “must read” book lists (like in Jack Covert’s compilation 100 most influential books of all time and many others).

If you’re interested in Made to Stick, you can get more information in the official website or buy it directly from

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