Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I could move the world, Archimedes famously said. But what if the goal is to move public opinions? Are there principles of leverage to help move a mass of minds?
We have one advantage that eluded Archimedes. We can stand on the Internet and reach the world. At least in theory. In practice, however, it’s so easy to create and disseminate messages that the trick becomes getting people to heed your signal amidst the noise (that conundrum lies at the heart of a concept called the Attention Economy.)
Fortunately for those who would try to change the mental inertia that is the enemy of new ideas, an article in Stanford Business magazine reveals a few of the secrets from a book titled, Made to Stick, which seeks to understand why some ideas succeed while others fail. Hint. Think proverb.
Simple ideas with substance work best, say authors Dan and Chip Heath. Not sound bytes. They may be glib but they don’t have the stickiness that comes from a simple idea that resonates with some truth we had sensed before it was articulated. It’s as if the words are the key to unlocking what the person thought but had not found a way to express.
So choose such words with care! Make slogans and messages like provers which, the article reminds us, are “short sentences drawn from long experience,” in the words of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.
So if you also want to tilt at windmils here is the excerpt from the Stanford article (and ultimately from the book) that would be most prescriptive:
“As we pored over hundreds of sticky ideas, we saw, over and over again, the same six principles at work. We found that ideas that stick are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and they tell a Story. (A clever observer will note that these principles can be compacted into the acronym SUCCESs.)”
Please read the article to see how the authors use the Subway sandwich promotion (a sub a day makes the weight melt away) as an example of a SUCCESsful idea. Okay, so that’s not your agenda but it’s not a bad example. Changing the world, one waistline at a time. Has a ring.