Persuasive Language: Make your message sticky

Sticky Message

In thinking about how to make a sticky message, picture that last time you stepped in gum. The moment it happened, I doubt it registered. But as you continued to step forward, that sinking feeling sets in: there’s gum on your shoe. It sticks as you walk and you feel the tension between your foot and the ground as you lift and continue forward. 

That gum is terrible for your shoe, and the time it takes to remove it is a hassle, but the metaphor is useful: Your message needs to be just as sticky as that gum. 

It may not resonate with your audience the first time they hear or read your message, but the gum-on-foot principle applies only after a couple of steps. You have to continue taking steps to notice the gum, and in the same way your audience needs to hear that message a few times in a row before it sticks in their brain. 

Repetition alone isn’t the goal. Just because they remember your message doesn’t mean it will prod them to take action. Remember from earlier the concept of a message that is both simple and captures attention early? These pieces work in concert with one another; to be successful, you’ll need to use them all.

Sticky advertising not only moves people to take action, but also creates brand loyalty. Think about these famous taglines from brands over the years, and try to see if you remember who the advertiser was:

  • Just Do It
  • What Happens Here, Stays Here
  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands
  • Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is

I’ll wager that you knew most, if not all of those. In order, they’re from: Nike, Las Vegas, M&M’s and AlkaSeltzer. 

Generally speaking, people need to hear your message six to seven times before it really resonates. I doubt the ads listed above were memorized after one time. The repetition – their omnipresence – is what makes them so memorable. On TV, radio and print, they filled screens and airwaves for years. 

When repeating your message, it may start to feel redundant. But it isn’t. In fact, by the time you feel like the message is getting a bit too redundant, your audience is likely just beginning to understand your message and what it’s all about. 

I found a lot of value in a system by Neil Gordon. He calls it the Silver Bullet. You won’t get noticed by saying what you’re saying right now. Basically, the formula Neil created is: Tie a single action to a single outcome. You get bonus points if you craft a message contrary to accepted norms. 

Look, a lot of us are creating content. Yet most of it goes unnoticed. A majority of the links we share barely get acknowledged, let alone clicked. Some folks speak on stage hoping that their message will resonate with the audience, just to have them walk out not remembering a thing said. 

So what’s happening? 

Your message is likely getting lost in a sea of sameness. You have to create compelling content that not only engages your audience, but also resonates to the point that they will share it with their own audience through email, social media – whatever they use to communicate. This is how you can expand your personal or corporate brand in a trusted manner.

But how do you actually create the content that gets others to repeat and share it?

Here’s my enhanced Silver Bullet formula: I think it’s more than just an “outcome.” I think it has to be a desired outcome and it has to serve your audience’s self-interest.

And here’s my supercharged formula: All of Neil’s original, plus my enhancement, and toss in some repetition, alliteration, rhyming – the pieces we discussed earlier to make sure you’re crafting a solid message. The goal is to make it memorable and for it to resonate with your audience. But it also has to be easily repeated!

So now you have the tools you need to leverage language in your personal and professional life. These pieces, taken together, will help you to make an irresistible campaign that will attract more leads and convert prospects from considering to closing.

Kirk Kovach

Kirk Kovach

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