In Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, the steps to create sticky ideas are detailed, given in the acronym SUCCESs. The E in the acronym stands for emotional. The Heath brothers emphasize that if people are going to act, they first have to care about the message. The core question of this section is: “how do we make people care about our messages?”
The chapter begins with an example of a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon to see how people respond to different types of charitable donation requests. The researchers found that people tend to give more generous donations when they are for a specific individual rather than for an abstract cause. Presenting the donors with specific individuals in need evoked empathy. Additionally, priming the donors to think analytically led to a lesser donation.
Another strategy for creating emotional messages is to appeal to something that matters to the individual. One form of this is to appeal to self-interest, described through a Cable TV case study that measured methods of persuasion in Tempe, Arizona. The participants in the study were either given information about a cable TV or asked to imagine themselves enjoying the benefits of a cable TV. The study found that those who imagined themselves subscribing to cable TV were more likely to actually do so later. Emphasizing benefits that are realistic and easy for people to imagine themselves doing is an effective manner of persuasion.
A final strategy given is to appeal to the identities of the intended audience. The authors give the example of the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign intended to encourage people to stop littering. An identity appeal was used by enforcing the idea that “real Texans don’t litter”; the campaign was extremely effective.
The emotional component of messages is vital to evoking action. People have to care in order to be inspired to act. The same concept applies in health behavior change. A message must be emotionally relevant to its audience in order for change to occur and the Heath brothers offer multiple strategies to create these messages effectively.