May 22, 2008

Using Credibility to Create a “Sticky” Message

Filed under: Uncategorized — jameslutes @ 12:42 pm

Earlier this week I listed the six principles of creating a “sticky” message as outlined by Chip and Dan Heath in their book, “Made to Stick.” Last post I discussed the principle of “concreteness,” and today I’ll examine how “credibility” can be utilized to craft a message that sticks.

Without credibility, new research, thoughts or ideas have a difficult time becoming recognized as true by the public. In fact, some of the world’s most universally accepted truths were discounted as false by the vast majority of the public at one time or another. For example, when the Greek mathematician Pythagoras first proposed the world was round instead of flat, the idea was largely ignored among the public because it was in stark contradiction with the “flat-disc” Mesopotamian maps of the era. Due to the pervasiveness of “flat-disc” Mesopotamian maps in ancient Greek culture, they carried more credibility than the radical opinions of one Greek philosopher. This story makes evident that a lack of credibility can trump a message or idea no matter how obvious it may become in hind-sight.

So when crafting a message, what are some strategies we can use to establish credibility? “Made to Stick” outlines several approaches. The first, and probably most difficult, is to receive the endorsement of an authority figure. Tiger Woods can more effectively convince people that Nike Golf makes the best drivers than I could. But for most of us, this tactic is fairly unrealistic because we’re not in contact with any major authorities.

Another way to establish credibility is by using what the Heath brothers call an “anti-authority.” An anti-authority is an individual who may lack any type of status or celebrity, but is perceived as honest and trustworthy. An example of an anti-authority used in “Made to Stick” was Pam Laffin, an emphysemic smoker who became the star of nationwide anti-smoking campaign. Because Laffin didn’t have any recognizable agenda, the public was more receptive to her anti-smoking message.

You could also try offering “testable credentials” to establish credibility. The Heath Brothers recount the 1984 Wendys ad campaign, “Where’s the Beef?” In the “Where’s the Beef?” campaign, fast food customers were challenged to compare the size of Wendys’ burger patties to McDonalds’ and Burger King’s. When people made the comparisons, they saw that Wendys did in fact offer the largest burger patties, and Wendys’ revenues began to soar. This is an excellent example illustrating how testable credentials can effectively create credibility. (Click here to see the “Where’s the Beef?” television ad.)

“Made to Stick” offers several other methods, such as adding extra details and humanizing numerical statistics, that can help make your message more credible. By employing any one of these strategies (or perhaps several of them) it is possible to develop a message that will “stick” out in the minds of your audiences.



  1. Speaking of Tiger Woods, did you know he’s endorsing a new Gatorade drink? It’s called Gatorade Tiger. The packaging states, “One part mind. One part body. All parts cool. That’s what it takes to come through in the clutch with millions watching.” Later, it says, “Formulated for Tiger Woods.”
    But how does Tiger lend credibility to Gatorade? Gatorade usually shows athletes sweating in rainbows. Now it tries to appeal to golfers with a cleaner, less sweaty campaign.
    All told, Tiger Woods is turning into the Nascar driver of golf professionals.

    Comment by benson09oregon — May 26, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  2. Thanks for your comment I really enjoyed reading your post as well. I think that our idea was definitely the most creative and could be very visually appealing. Hopefully everyone laughing doesn’t stifle our creative genius lol.

    Comment by sdaland2 — May 28, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

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