Marketing 101 - 3 best sellers review

Marketing 101 - 3 best sellers review

Pretty often I have seen that my ideas would not land, people just don’t grasp them, don’t see them the way I do. The same applies to my pet projects, startups, day-to-day work. So I decided to read more about marketing and how to make my idea more contagious and easy to spread. (In context of this review, “idea” and “product” are used interchangeably)

I picked 3 books:

Tipping point

A very short and straightforward book. The author compares the spread of new trends with an epidemy. To kick it off you need 3 types of people:

  1. Connectors - people who know a lot of people, have many acquaintances
  2. Maven - people who like to learn new information and share it. Read local news and pay attention to discounts, promotions and genuinely share it with everybody else
  3. Salesman - people who will convince you when you are in doubt

Besides that epidemy need to confront the rules:

  • Law of few - all epidemy start with a few people, few outliers, proactive transmitter
  • Stickiness factor - an idea will “stick” if it is personal, actionable, and emotional;
  • Power of context - (Theory of broken windows) - context matters. Keep track of self-rising trends and what caused them. The author shared a story of NY subways, by just removing graffiti from cars they managed to drastically decrease vandalism and crime rate. This is the power of context.

Made to Stick

From the very beginning, the author reveals the mystery, secret behind the sticky idea. There are 6 principles idea should follow to stick:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness, counter-intuitive
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

Let’s look into each point.


We cannot simply explain things that we know because of the curse of knowledge. When we know something we don’t know how it was when we did not know it. Therefore we show apply beginner mind when share idea, transform them to make understandable for everybody.


Don’t bear the lead - be specific. A common mistake is to give too many details, which makes your story lost its direction. Irrelevant uncertainty can impact decisions making process, many alternatives paralyze people.

If you say 3 things - you don’t say anything.

Apply reversed pyramid - headline should deliver the most important part of a story. The message needs to be compact and doesn’t use any jargon.

Abstraction is the luxury of experts.


We cannot demand attention - we should attract it. To get attention - break a pattern, a brain designed to pay attention to changes in patterns and logic. And when you break the guessing machine - people start to pay attention. Make your surprise postdictive - people figure out what you mean after you reveal a secret in the end. Give some unexpected implications in your message.

Start story with a mystery

Give some information that will tell the audience that they don’t know something, open a gap - attract attention.


There are a few ways to make your credibility, one of them is the Sinatra test - gaining credibility by using a very challenging reference.

If you can cater to King’s audience, you can cater for any wedding.

Credibility can be provided by the authority like a government, family, friends, or public figures whom you trust. People may grant you credibility via knowing you better - “try it before you buy it”.


There are a few ways to make your idea create emotions. A simple way to achieve this is to associate ideas with existing emotions and patterns. Example: have a break, have a KitKat

Focus on personal benefits, rather than a feature. What customer is looking for: best seed or best lawn? Note that people in general vote for non-personal benefits in the long perspective but prefer for personal benefit, self-interest in short term. Example: end world hunger in 10 years but win a lottery today.

When you are working with numbers and statistics - make numbers emotional. Put them in perspective with something understandable. Example: What is more simple to imagine? Distance from Sun to Earth or distance from LA to NY?

Convince that other people do the same. Aks: What someone like me will do in this situation?


Telling stories is the best way to deliver a message, that is why use-case learning sticks. A story should raise some questions, create a gap in the knowledge and close it at the end of the story. Nobody likes knowing that they don’t know something. At the same time, it should have personal details to rise some empathy.

Two most important pieces of advice from the author

  • Ideas are often spotted not created. Every second thousand of new ideas are created in the world - learns how to spot them./u>
  • Idea framework: useful, understandable, easy to agree upon, care about it, and enable to act on it.


Virality is not bord it is made.

The author emphasizes the importance of “word of mouth” (gossips) as one of the main drivers of product popularity. Word of mouth is the primary reason behind 20 to 50 % of all purchasing decisions. And surprisingly only 7% of word of mouth happens online. We overestimate online word of mouth because it is more visible to us.

Next, to make a product or idea contagious, you need 6 ingredients

Social currency - we share things that make us look good in front of others

Give people a way to look good while promoting their products and ideas. Research says that people talk 40% of the time about their personal experiences and relationship. Some research found that sharing personal opinions activated the same brain circuit that responds to rewards like food and money. Rewards, promotions, customers clubs - all can help boost the social currency. Recipients of rewards love boasting about them - it gives the opportunity to tell others how great they are. As well If something is hard to obtain, people assume that it must be worth the effort. Make people feel like insiders.

Some forest fires are bigger than others, but no one would claim that size of the fire depends on the exceptional nature of the initial spark.

Triggers - top of mind, a tip of the tongue

Social currency gets people talking, but triggers keep them talking. So rather than just going for a catchy message - think about context. Think about whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environment of the target audience. Forge new, original, fresh links. Linking a product or idea with a stimulus that is already associated with many things isn’t that effective.

People don’t need to be paid to be motivated

Emotions - when we care, we share

Emotion is a key to transmission. Rather than harping on features or facts, we need to focus on feelings. The underlying emotions that motivate people to actions. When trying to pick emotions to drive sharing, pick ones that kindle the fire: select high-arousal emotions. We need to get people excited or make them laugh. We need to make them angry rather sad.

People don’t need to be paid to be motivated

Public - build to show, built to grow

It’s being said that when people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate one another. Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular. So we need to make our ideas more public.

“Monkey see monkey do”

Practical value - news you can use

If a social currency is about information senders and how sharing makes them look, Practical Value is mostly about the information receiver. It’s about saving people time or money, helping them have a good experience.

Sharing is caring.

Stories - information travels under the guise of idle chatter

People don’t think in terms of information, they think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride. We need to build our Trojan Horse - a carrier narrative that people will share while talking about our product or idea along the way.

The most powerful marketing is a personal recommendation


The author gives a specif checklist your idea or product needs to follow to become popular:

Social currency

  1. Does talking about your product or idea make people look good?
  2. Can you find the inner remarkability?
  3. Leverage game mechanics? Make people feel like insiders?


  1. What clues make people think about your product or idea?
  2. How can you grow the habit and make it come to mind more often?


  1. Does talking about your product or idea generate emotions?
  2. How can you kindle the fire?


  1. Does your product or idea advertise itself?
  2. Can people see when others are using it?
  3. If not, how can you make the private public?
  4. Can you create behavior residue that sticks around even after people use it?

Practical value

  1. Does talking about your product or idea help people help others?
  2. How can you highlight incredible value, packaging your knowledge and Expertise into useful information others will want to disseminate?


  1. What is your Trojan Horse?
  2. Is your product or idea embedded in a broader narrative that people want to share?
  3. Is the story not only viral but also valuable?

Personal feedback

I feel that these books, unlike many other, are really useful and give you actionable knowledge. 3 of them speak mostly about the same things but from different perspectives. But still, each adds something new and interesting to think about. I would recommend reading all of them, but if you have time to read just one, pick “Made to Stick”.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceMade to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others DieContagious: Why Things Catch On

Photo by Lukas from Pexels