As ad-folk, we’re always trying to come up with ways to make things sticky. We want viral videos to gain traction. We want people to stick around on our site and read our content. And we want to come up with radical ideas that become public sensations. With Made to Stick on shelves, and “Stickiness” running rampant through the heads of business-folk, it’s interesting to consider what makes things sticky in real life. Tape is sticky. Glass is not. Why?
Apparently it’s viscoelasticity:
Viscoelasticity describes materials that exhibit both viscous and elastic characteristics when undergoing plastic deformation. Viscous materials, like honey, resist shear flow and strain linearly with time when a stress is applied. Elastic materials strain instantaneously when stretched and just as quickly return to their original state once the stress is removed. Viscoelastic materials have elements of both of these properties and, as such, exhibit time dependent strain. [WIKIPEDIA]
Basically, it’s the capability of a material to flow and stretch. As I learned today in Tierney Lab on NYT.com, the flowing (viscosity) aspect allows the sticky material to get traction on the surface it’s sticking to, and the stretching (elasticity) makes it hold on tight and resist forces in the opposite direction. You can measure stickiness by measuring the stiffness of a material. A material needs to have enough stiffness to resist breaking. For instance, water flows but doesn’t have the stiffness to be sticky.
Stiffness is measured by a unit called a pascal (named after the French scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal, who also has a computer programming language named after him). Aluminum has a stiffness of order 100 billion pascal. Rubber is 1 million to 10 million pascal. A sticky material — one that is “viscoelastic” — has a stiffness of less than 300,000 pascal. Above that, a material loses its tackiness. [NYT/Tierney Lab]
I have no idea what the Heaths have written in “Made to Stick“, but I’ve found if you’re looking to understand complex concepts like “stickiness of ideas”, it’s a good idea to check out how things work in the physical, natural world.
Using that analysis… if you want to make something sticky:
- Make it flexible. We all should know how to do this one. Allow real people to play with and help you improve your idea. If they have a good suggestion, use it to make a change.
- Make sure it can flow. If a material can’t get its molecules into the nooks and crannies of another material, it can’t grab hold. Your idea (whatever it is, product, service, activity, whatever) should be able to get pretty deep into specific crevasses in people’s lives.
- Make sure it has enough internal strength to provide resistance. That is, the brand should have a strong foundation, built upon understanding of customers, research, high product quality, etc.