Lincoln: A Master at Making Ideas “Sticky”

A recent book entitled Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, focuses on the six characteristics that make ideas memorable (“sticky”).  To be sticky, they say, ideas have to be:

• Simple
• Unexpected
• Concrete
• Credible
• Emotional
• And tell a story

While it’s kind of hokey that these key words spell out SUCCESS, the authors have hit it on the head in more ways than one; the six characteristics that make ideas sticky make writing sticky too.

Just ask Abraham Lincoln.  OK, that may be impossible, but he understood these timeless ideas about communicating better than any other president. One could argue, in fact, that he is our best president BECAUSE he was the best writer to live in the White House.  He knew in his bones that words mattered, and his ability with a pen not only helped keep the Union together when it was at risk of crumbling, but his careful, and at times poetic, use of language and his understanding of its impact on the public at a precise moment eventually changed the direction of the nation.

In the book Abraham Lincoln, The Biography of a Writer, the author Fred Kaplan explains that Lincoln knew how to interweave precise language, concise phrasing and logical tightness with a “personal voice that was sincere, colloquial, anecdotal, and humorous, projecting a persona of dignified but amiable authenticity.”

That’s why we remember his words more than any other president. He’s the original American master of making ideas sticky. In short, a heck of a marketer in tough times. “With malice toward none, with charity for all…”

Don Heymann

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