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Write stickier-than-bubble-gum copy that stops your readers dead in their tracks

Which message grabs your attention more: 

“A typical bag of popcorn at the movies has 37 grams of saturated fat.” 

OR 

“A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings-combined!” 

Both messages say the same thing, but the second one will probably make you think twice before ordering that movie-theater popcorn next time, huh?

The second message also dominated the news, was joked about by Leno and Letterman, and caused the sales of popcorn in movie theaters to plummet until eventually, the country’s largest theater chains announced that they would stop using coconut oil to make their popcorn (hooray!).

So how can you craft messages (and copy) like THAT? So sticky that it stays in your readers’ mind long after they’ve read it AND gets them to take (immediate) action?

The book, Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, answers that question. Too lazy to read the whole book? Lucky for you, I compiled the most important takeaways in this blog post (AND how you can apply them to your copywriting).

So put those sweats on, start brewing that coffee and let’s dive in.

Prefer to skip around? This Table of Contents should help:

Table Of Contents

The Curse of Knowledge

Let’s hop in a time machine and head back to 1990. 

A Stanford University grad student, Elizabeth Newton, performed an experiment where she divided students up into two groups: tappers and listeners.

The tappers had to think of a song and then tap the rhythym to it, while the listeners tried to guess the song.

The tappers thought, with 50% certainty, that the listeners would be able to identify the song. In reality, just 2.5% of the listeners could figure out the song.

The tappers thought it would be WAY easier to understand them than it actually was.

You see, they suffered from the Curse of Knowledge, which is the cognitive bias whereby once we know something, it becomes hard to unknow it. We assume that everyone else knows the same things that we do and we’re unable to see the situation from our listener (or reader)’s perspective.

This helps explain why your doctor speaks to you like, “So your CBC came back normal, but your LDTs were slightly elevated so we’ll need to keep an eye on them…”

Huh?

Meanwhile, you’re nodding along pretending like you know what she’s talking about. Don’t tell me you haven’t been there before.

But it’s not just doctors. EVERYONE falls victim to the Curse of Knowledge.

The problem is that the Curse of Knowledge is the barrier to sticky ideas (and good copy).

But here’s the good news: You CAN beat it. All you have to do is:

  • Skip the fancy words and industry jargon when talking to your audience. Put yourself in their shoes and speak to them in their lingo.
  • Use the Made to Stick principles outlined in this blog post.

Easy peasy, right?

Everyone can learn to write sticky copy

Here’s proof:

In 1999, an Israeli research team studied 200 highly successful ads. They found that 89% of the ads fit into six categories, the majority of which related to unexpectedness.

They then brought in three groups of people. The first group created ads without any training. People rated their ads as “annoying”.

The second group was trained for two hours by a creativity expert, who gave the participants techniques on how to get their creative juices flowing. These ads were rated as less annoying than the first group, but no more creative.

The third group was trained for two hours on how to use six creative templates. Audiences rated their ads as 50% more creative and had a 55% more positive attitude towards the products advertised.

Translation: If you feel that you don’t have a clue how to write memorable copy, don’t sing the blues just yet. Because there are methodical ways to generate creative ideas (and become a good great copywriter).

How?

Follow the Made to Stick principles (we’re getting there now…promise).

The 6 Made to Stick principles

So, there are six principles to sticky messages. They should be: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and tell a story. 

Let’s go over each one, shall we?

1. Simple

Sticky ideas are simple. Meaning that they’re focused and as meaningful as proverbs.

It’s about elegance and prioritization, not dumbing down.

So how can you make your message simple (and not dumbed down)? There are a few ways.

Find the core of the idea 

The Dunn Daily Record is a massively successful local newspaper in Dunn, North Carolina. At one point, they had a 117% penetration record, meaning that each household bought MORE THAN ONE newspaper. For a small local paper, that’s pretty incredible.

So what explains its success?

“Names, names and names,” according to the founder, Hoover Adams. 

The newspaper has always had a singular focus: to feature as many local people (names) as possible. Hoover knew they couldn’t compete with The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. But they could be the best local paper out there. 

So, if you’re an editor choosing between a beautiful photo of the local park at sunset or a really boring photo of 9 people around a conference room table, which are you gonna publish? The boring one, because it lets you mention nine names in the caption.

Hoover Adams

Thanks to the “names, names, names” philosophy, editors and journalists don’t face decision paralysis.

They don’t have to wonder things like, “should we feature the earthquake in California or the local wedding?” They know immediately that the answer is the wedding.

Don’t bury the lead 

Burying the lead is when you ramble on about unimportant details, neglecting to highlight the most important part of your message. And so…your readers miss the point. 

To prevent this from happening, ask yourself: What’s the main idea that I want to get across? And let that dictate your writing. 

When you say three things, you say nothing. When your remote control has fifty buttons, you can’t change the channel anymore.

Use schemas 

Let’s say your friend is visiting from Brazil. You tell her you’re craving tangerines, and she goes “huh, what’s that?”

Which definition do you think would be easier for her to understand: 

“It’s a red orange-colored citrus fruit made up of a mix of mandarin oranges. It has a loose rind and a sweet taste.”

Or “It’s basically a small, sweeter version of an orange.” 

The second definition is easier to explain and understand ’cause it relies on schemas, which is a thought pattern that organizes our knowledge into categories. Let’s put it this way:

Schemas are mental shortcuts that help us think faster. 

But…don’t BOTH definitions use schemas? Sure, but the second example relies on higher-level schemas (a schema made up of another schema) that’s easier to understand. 

Or…use analogies

Hollywood movie pitches always rely on analogies (ie: Speed Die Hard on a bus).

When pitching a movie to a producer, analogies are a much simpler way of explaining the plot than going into detail about what happens.

So when the producer hears that this movie called Speed is “Die hard on a bus,” she automatically knows that it’s going to be an on-the-edge-of-your-seat, action-packed, probably high-budget film.

Use generative metaphors

Guess what? Disney doesn’t have employees.

They have “cast members,” whose uniforms are “costumes.”

And they don’t have customers either. They have “guests.”

These “generative metaphors” aren’t just cool-sounding. They’ve also helped guide the behavior of everyone working at Disney.

Cast members are always on stage when walking around the park. They’re expected to look sharp and treat customers with the same hospitality that they would treat friends staying in their home. 

Make your copy stick

  • Make it simple and easy to understand. Focus on the core of your message as you’re writing. Don’t get lost in a gazillion different features and benefits.
  • Also don’t assume that your readers know what you’re talking about. Use schemas, analogies, and generative metaphors to get your message across.

2. Unexpected 

Ever notice that the things you remember the most are also the most unexpected? 

The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern. Humans adapt incredibly quickly to consistent patterns. Consistent sensory stimulation makes us tune out: Think of the hum of an air-conditioner, or traffic noise, or the smell of a candle, or the sight of a bookshelf. We may become consciously aware of these things only when something changes: The air-conditioner shuts off. Your spouse rearranges the books. 

So first, you have to get your readers’ attention. THEN you’ve gotta keep it.

Get people to notice (the surprise)

In order to get people to perk up, you’ve gotta:

  1. Identify the main message you need to communicate (find the core). 
  2. Figure out what’s surprising about the message (what are the unexpected suggestions of your core message?) 
  3. Communicate your message in a way that “breaks your audience’s guessing machines.”
  4. Then, help them “refine their machines.”

BUT the surprise should always be relevant to the message. Otherwise, it can feel gimmicky (and you definitely don’t want that).

Do it the Nordstrom way

Nordstrom’s philosophy is to “make customers happy even at the expense of efficiency.”

Managers could just tell their employees to provide customers with “great customer service.” But let’s be honest–that’s boring and forgettable. ‘Cause every business tells their employees that. 

Instead, it would be more powerful to give employees unexpected examples of the lengths they’re expected to go to provide that customer service. Like warming up customers’ cars in the winter. Or gift-wrapping items that weren’t even purchased at Nordstrom.

NOW employees probably have a better idea of the service to provide.

Those messages are unexpected. But *not* gimmicky because Nordstrom lives and breathes customer service.

If, on the other hand, a store like Walmart were spewing out those types of stories, that unexpectedness would probably feel gimmicky…because honestly, when’s the last time a Walmart employee has gone out of their way to help you? (No offense if you work at Walmart).

Keep peoples’ attention (interest)

So you’ve managed to get your audience to perk up their ears (or eyes). Now how do you get them to stick around (aka keep their eyes glued to your copy)?

Open a gap (and then close it)

The gap theory says that we become curious when there’s a gap in our knowledge. It’s like an itch we need to scratch.

News anchors rely on the gap theory all the time when they preview headline stories at the start of the show or before commercial breaks: Stay tuned to find out how a 100-year old woman from Iowa traveled around the world in 30 days–by herself! Find out why one woman married a 300-year old pirate ghost! (this actually happened)

So how can you open that gap (and get your readers salivating for more)?

Make them aware of something they don’t know. If your readers don’t know anything about the subject, then you’ll have to give them a bit of context or background info before opening the gap.

Create a mystery as gripping as The Da Vinci Code. Then tease your audience as together, you put the pieces of the puzzle together (dun dun dun…).

Oh and don’t worry about the topic not being interesting enough, because:

our minds are extremely generous when it comes to mysteries–the format is inherently appealing.

Make your copy stick

  • Make your audience aware of something they don’t know (open a gap), so that they’ll be STARVING to find out more.
  • Don’t ask yourself “what information do I need to get across?” Instead, ask, “what questions do I want my readers to ask?”
  • Surprise your readers with unexpected words that they don’t see every day (like slang words or again, interesting analogies, similes, metaphors and rhetorical devices).

3. Concrete

Abstraction is the arch-enemy of sticky messaging. Because when a message is abstract, people can interpret it any way they want.

(What does “maximize revenue” or “create a high-performing team” even mean?) 

Concrete—which is when you use words that engage your readers’ senses—helps avoid any potential confusion (and lowers the chances of putting your readers’ to sleep).

For example, a V8 engine is concrete…a high-powered engine is abstract. See the difference?

For the most part, concrete is when specific people do specific things (like the Nordstrom employee who irons a customer’s shirt).

Concrete helps break the Curse of Knowledge: it’s safe if you’re speaking to people who aren’t familiar with the subject matter. Concrete is the universal language.

Why concreteness works

Research has shown that people are better at remembering concrete words (like “avocado” or “bicycle”) than abstract ones (“justice” or “personality”).

Why?

‘Cause memory is like velcro. The more hooks an idea has, the more it clings to your memory. Concrete helps us simulate experiences. And simulating an experience creates many hooks in your brain (which explains why your childhood home has about a gazillion hooks in your brain, while your phone number has just one).

It can be hard to write concretely if you’re already familiar with a subject (oh hey, Curse of Knowledge), but doing so will ensure that your audience understands and remembers your copy (winner winner, chicken dinner).

Get a lil’ (concrete) inspiration

So HOW can you make your copy more concrete? Here are a few stories from the book for inspiration…

Making accounting interesting

Accounting is a pretty boring topic. I don’t think I’ll find many people who disagree with me on that.

Professors at George State University, Carol Springer and Faye Borthick, wanted to teach accounting in a more interesting (aka concrete) way. So they created a case study for their students to participate in.

The case study centered around imaginary college students, Kris and Sandy, who launched a fictitious business, called Safe Night Out. Over the semester, the students helped Kris and Sandy with their cash flow, profit and balance sheets. They helped them grow their business and deal with any pitfalls along the way.

So did this method of teaching work?

You betcha. The students who worked on the case study were not only more likely to go on to study accounting, but they also scored noticeably higher on the accounting exam two years later (so it REALLY stuck with them).

Teaching a lesson on racism

Jane Elliot was an elementary schoolteacher who wanted to teach her kids a lesson about racism. So the day after Martin Luther King Jr. died, she divided her kids into two groups: brown-eyed kids and blue-eyed kids.

Jane then informed her students that the brown-eyed kids were superior and more intelligent than the blue-eyed kids. She put collars on the necks of the blue-eyed kids so that they would stand out like sore little thumbs. She gave the brown-eyed kids privileges, like more time at recess and extra helpings at lunch.

And she watched how the kids’ behavior changed overnight. The brown-eyed children suddenly became nasty and cruel to the blue-eyed students. Friendships evaporated into thin air.

The next day, the teacher said that she was wrong, that the blue-eyed kids were actually superior to the brown-eyed kids. And immediately, the situation reversed.

The “superior” kids even scored higher on tests. The first day, it took the blue-eyed students 5.5 minutes to complete a task that it took them just 2.5 minutes to do the next day.

So just how sticky WAS this exercise? Very. Studies conducted 10-20 years later showed that Jane’s students were significantly less prejudiced than those who hadn’t been through the exercise. 

The Ferrari family goes to Disney World

In 2002, a corporate strategist by the name of Stone Yamashita was approached by Hewlett-Packard. HP wanted to partner with Disney and asked Stone to prepare a proposal that would highlight HP research and demonstrate how their technology could help Disney run their theme parks.

But Stone didn’t turn sleep-inducing research into a lifeless presentation. Instead, he created an entire fictitious family, called the Ferraris, and built an actual exhibit around their life and visit to Disney World.

The exhibit showed how HP technology helped the Ferrari family purchase tickets, sped their entry into the park, booked dinner reservations, and snapped digital pictures they could take home with them.

That way, Disney decision-makers were able to see firsthand how HP could help improve their parks and more them more efficient.

Sharing UNICEF’s message

More than half a million children die from diarrhea each year. But this can be prevented with something called Oral Rehydration Therapy.

James Grant, the visionary director of UNICEF from 1980 to 1995, always traveled with a packet of one teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar (the ingredients for Oral Rehydration Therapy when mixed with a liter of water).

When he met with prime ministers of developing countries, he would hold the packet up and say, “Do you know that this costs less than a cup of tea and can save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives in your country?”

Pretty compelling stuff, huh?

The prop was concrete and the contrast was concrete, unexpected, and relevant (a cup of tea is something that those guys probably drank every day, which made the cost of the Oral Rehydration Therapy seem trivial).

Make your copy stick

Simulate a reality for your readers, so your message creates many hooks in their brains. Use comparisons that are relevant to THEM.

And whatever you do…Don’t be vague. Use specific examples that your readers can see, hear, or feel. Paint a pretty picture for them, like the safety app, Citizen, does here:

 

Instead of just saying something like “stay in the know” or “know what the commotion is all about,” Citizen specifically states the type of commotion (“helicopters overhead,” “police activity” and “road closures”).

Much more convincing, huh?

4. Credible 

If your audience doesn’t believe what you’re saying, then your message doesn’t stand a chance in hell of sticking.

So…how do you GET them to believe you?

You can rely on either internal or external credibility.

External credibility

External credibility comes from an association with someone your audience finds credible. Like:

  • Their beliefs: Personal experiences, family or faith
  • Authorities: Experts, celebs
  • Antiauthorities: people who have been through the situation you’re referring to and can speak from their own experience

Don’t underestimate the power of antiauthorities. They can sometimes be even MORE credible than authorities.

…And internal credibility

Internal credibility relies on your message (not outside figures) to convince your audience. There are a few ways to add more internal credibility to your message:

Share vivid details

It’s a fact: Adding details to a message makes it more credible.

‘Cause when your message becomes more concrete, people are able to visualize it. And so…it becomes more believable.

Share statistics

BUT

“Statistics are rarely meaningful in and of themselves. Statistics will, and should, almost always be used to illustrate a relationship. It’s more important for people to remember the relationship than the number.”

So for example, Cisco had to decide whether to add a wireless network for its employees. The cost of maintaining the network was around $500 per year per employee.

One Cisco employee put it this way: “if you believe you can increase an employee’s productivity by one to two minutes a day, you’ve paid back the cost of the wireless.”

That’s much easier to understand than “if you believe you can increase the employees’ productivity by 5% each day…”

The not-so-danger of sharks

Or…Let’s say that you want to tell people that sharks aren’t all that dangerous. You could say:

“You’re more likely to drown on the beach in an area protected by a lifeguard than you are to be attacked by a shark, much less killed by one. In the US in 2000, 12 people died in lifeguard-protected areas. There were no fatalities from sharks (in a typical year there are only .4 fatalities).”

Meh. It’s okay but doesn’t drive the point home that well, does it? For starters, drowning isn’t a great comparison. Many people think drowning is common, so it’s *not* unexpected. And a college lifeguard doesn’t exactly scream “safety,” so that doesn’t add much credibility. The statistic is okay, but it doesn’t stick.

Now how about this:

“Which of these animals is more likely to kill you? A shark or a deer? Answer: A deer is more likely to kill you. In fact, it’s 300 times more likely to kill you (via a collision with your car).”

This message is surprising (who would have thought that a deer is 300 times more likely to kill you than a shark?!). People don’t fear deer much when they’re driving, ergo…they shouldn’t fear sharks either.

Take the Sinatra test

“If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…”

You pass the Sinatra test when one example alone is enough to establish credibility in a certain area. Sooooo if you’ve played for the Yankees, you can play for ANY baseball team. If you’ve written copy for Apple, then you can write copy for any company.

Use a testable credential

A “testable credential” is where you let your audience try something out for themselves.

One example is Wendy’s 1984 “Where’s the Beef” commercial. In the ad, three old ladies carefully examine a hamburger with a massive bun and tiny burger and ask “where’s the beef?”

 

The ad was convincing because viewers could compare the burgers themselves and see for themselves that Wendy’s actually DID have beefier patties than the other fast food joints. Beat that, Micky D’s.

Make your copy stick

Use authorities and antiauthorities to boost the credibility of your copy.

Share concrete details and statistics (with context, so readers don’t even. have. to. think).

So DON’T say, “The app helped boost revenue by an average of 19%”.

DO say “The app helped boost revenue by an average of 19%, which means companies that used to make $10,000 a month are now making $11,900 per month (which translates to an extra $22,800 per year)…and the best part? It takes just 5 minutes to get up and running.”

The first example makes readers have to think: how much is 19%? It doesn’t sound like THAT much. The statistic makes them hesitate. The second example spells the statistic out for them, so that signing up becomes a no-brainer: $22,800 extra per year and just 5 minutes of my time? Hell yes.

Also…see if your brand passes the Sinatra test (if so, mention that).

And challenge your audience to test your product or idea for themselves.

5. Emotional 

Credibility isn’t enough. If you want people to act, you have to get them to CARE.

Everyone knows that smoking is bad, but that doesn’t stop many teenagers from picking up the nasty habit.

So how can you get people to give a damn about your message?

Prime people to feel (not calculate)

If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at one, I will.”

Mother Theresa

According to research, most people are like Mother Theresa–more inclined to help when they hear about one person suffering than when they hear statistics about many.

Statistics put people into an analytical state of mind. One study found that when people were primed to calculate, they donated less than when they were primed to feel.

Ask people to imagine

Just asking people to imagine themselves doing something can be enough to get them to do it. And…

…It may be the tangibility, rather than the magnitude, of the benefits that makes people care. You don’t have to promise riches and sex appeal and magnetic personalities. It may be enough to promise reasonable benefits that people can easily imagine themselves doing

Cable TV in Tempe

In 1982, psychologists conducted a study on persuasion with some homeowners in Tempe, Arizona.

One group was sent information on why cable TV was worthwhile and the second group was asked to imagine their lives with cable TV. The message to the second group also used “you” throughout.

Can you guess which group had a higher signup rate?

If you guessed the second, you’re spot on: 20% of homeowners who got information about cable TV subscribed…and 47% of the ones who imagined themselves subscribing signed up.

Avoid the “semantic stretch”

When terms and concepts are used repeatedly, they become as diluted as watered down coffee.

The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) found that the term “sportsmanship” had lost its meaning over the years. It had come to signify just getting through the game without throwing a tantrum.

So they created a new phrase, called “Honoring the Game,” that reminded players to have a little respect for the sport.

And it actually had an impact: Those three words drastically reduced the number of fouls and people thrown out of the game for bad behavior. 

Don’t (always) appeal to self-interest

You know Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? This thing here:

Image Source

Turns out, it’s bogus. People pursue all needs at the same time (think: starving artist).

Many people think that everyone’s stuck in Maslow’s basement…except for them. They think other people are motivated by money and security, but they’re motivated by learning and self-actualization.

People also falsely presume that everyone’s motivated by self-interest. Sure, many people are…

But news flash: Group interest can sometimes be even more powerful.

Here are a few examples that prove that.

The firefighters who got angry about free gifts

A marketer was trying to promote a new educational film on fire safety. She came up with free giveaways for the firefighters, one of which was a popcorn popper. She called up two firefighters, offering them the film and giveaway, but both angrily hung up on her.

So what gives? You’d think that they’d be happy to get a free gift. But they were probably thinking: we save lives for a living! why would we want a stupid popcorn popper??

In other words, they were motivated by group interest (acting like a firefighter), NOT self-interest.

The algebra teacher who got skeptical students to respect algebra

Many students don’t understand why they need to learn algebra (pretty sure I was one of them).

So one clever teacher came up with a way to explain it to them. Here’s what he said:

You will never use this. I then go on to remind them that people don’t lift weights so that they will be prepared should, one day [someone] knock them over on the street and lay a barbell across their chests. You lift weights so that you can knock over a defensive lineman, or carry your groceries or lift your grandchildren without being sore the next day. You do math exercises so that you can improve your ability to think logically, so that you can be a better lawyer, doctor, architect, prison warden or parent. MATH IS MENTAL WEIGHT TRAINING. It is a means to an end (for most people, not an end in itself

-Random Algebra Teacher

Pop quiz: Can you tell what makes this message so sticky?

To start with, it’s unexpected: He says right off the bat that algebra is useless. The weight training analogy is also something that many students can probably relate to. Then at the end there, he appeals to the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, like learning and self-actualization.

The campaign that succeeded in reducing litter (when others failed)

Texas was spending $25 million per year on litter and costs were going up 15% per year. The “Please don’t litter” signs and even the emotional appeals to save animals weren’t doing a darn thing.

Dan Syrek, a litter researcher, knew that campaigns focused on guilt and shame wouldn’t work since they would just be “preaching to the choir.”

He wanted to reach the 18-30-year-old, pickup-driving males who liked sports and were anti-authority. He thought a fear-based approach could backfire with these folks…sooo he created a different type of campaign.

One ad featured famous Dallas Cowboy players, picking up roadside trash as they said to the camera, “don’t mess with Texas.”

Within one month of the campaign, litter dropped by 29%. And in five years, roadside litter declined 72%.

So what happened here?

The pickup-driving guys identified with the macho football players in the campaign and thought that if their group didn’t litter, then they didn’t want to either. They responded more to an identity appeal than a rational self-interest appeal. 

Make your copy stick

Get your readers to care about your message and:

  • Don’t be analytical or talk statistics.
  • Avoid the “semantic stretch”. Replace boring, overused words with novel ones, like Copyhackers does here:

  • Appeal to self-interest and get your readers to IMAGINE themselves with your product or offer.
  • Appeal to their group identity.
  • Think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and ask yourself what would get your audience to take action. This comes down to KNOWING. your. audience.

6. Stories 

A credible idea gets people to believe. An emotional one gets people to care. And a story gets people to ACT.

Research has found that when we hear a story, we simulate it. We become a part of the story. In other words, there’s no such thing as a passive audience.

Tell a story

There are three basic plots that make up most stories: Challenge plot, Connection plot and Creativity plot.

The Challenge plot, which is where the protagonist overcomes a daunting challenge and succeeds, inspires us to act (ie: rags to riches, underpower, willpower in adversity).

The Connection plot is where people develop a relationship that bridges a gap (racial, demographic, class, ethnic etc). Think: Good Samaritan, Titanic. But the plot doesn’t have to be about life and death–it can be as trivial as two people connecting over a beer.

The Creativity plot involves some sort of mental breakthrough or innovative problem-solving. It makes us want to experiment with new approaches (ie: the company that does an innovative Drag Test before launching to test the product). 

Simulate events

Get this: When imagining events or situations, we use the same parts of our brain as when we’re actually experiencing it. Research has found that mental practice alone (like picturing yourself completing a task from start to finish) produces ⅔ of the benefits of actual physical practice.

And no, sadly that doesn’t mean you can quit going to the gym and expect to get arms as toned as Demi Moore. Although that’d be nice.

But mental practice IS powerful.

Wanna know what’s even more powerful than simulating future events? Simulating PAST events.

In one study, people were asked about a problem they had. They were then asked to retrace the events that led to the problem, step by step.

Believe it or not, but this group of people was more likely to solve their problem, have a positive attitude, and grow from the experience than those who focused on the desired outcome or thought about how to deal with the problem.

So, as the authors say, financial gurus should stop telling us to imagine that we’re filthy rich. Instead, they should tell us to retrace the steps that led to us being poor.

Make your copy stick

Use the Challenge, Connection or Creativity plot to tell a story to your audience. But make sure you choose the RIGHT plot for them.

If you’re selling online courses, then a Challenge plot might work to inspire your readers and get them to take action (buy the course). A connection plot? Maybe not.

The Made to Stick framework 

So let’s recap. For an idea (and your copy) to stick, it’s gotta be simple, compact and make your audience: 

  1. Pay attention (unexpected)
  2. Understand and remember it (concrete) 
  3. Agree/believe (credible)
  4. Care (emotional)
  5. Be able to act on it (story)

Got it? K great. Now go on and create that stickier-than-bubble-gum copy.

But first…

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