Hear about upcoming events, news, insight and offers. By entering your email address you are agreeing to our T&Cs and Privacy Policy


How do we pack a lot of meaning into a little bit of messaging?

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 12.13.50

The first step to take in order to make our ideas ‘stickier’ is to keep in mind that simplicity is key. In order to maintain the core of the idea whilst also keeping it compact there’s two questions to consider:

  • What is the ONE thing you want people to remember?
  • What is the ONE thing you want people to do?

Asking yourself these questions ultimately forces some kind of prioritisation in your head which makes things a lot easier to process. When we have a good idea, we usually want to make it sound as amazing as it appears in our heads, but by attempting this, we become overwhelmed and tend to lose the very core of the idea.

to make a profound idea compact, you’ve got to pack a lot of meaning into a little bit of messaging’

Psychologically sticky ideas are simple and short, they normally take the form of some kind distillation of a complex and intricate concept. The goal is to somewhat strip the idea to its very core without turning it into a monotonic sound bite. However, the hard part isn’t weeding out unimportant aspects but it’s rather pruning the important and not truly essential aspects.

Finding the core can sometimes be difficult. The first thing to do is to determine the single most important thing whilst being careful not to bury the lead. A good example which is outlined in the book ‘Made to stick’ revolves around something the military uses known as a ‘Commanders Intent’ as opposed to a plan.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 12.51.03

For example, rather than details on how to take a bridge, the CI might just be “take the bridge”. This way, the soldiers know exactly what they need to be working towards, however, at the same time they can also be spontaneous with the way they achieve this. To an extent, this uses the inverted pyramid from journalism as a foundation: Tell the most important aspect first, then tailor, then add details. Again, this forces prioritisation.

Once a core is identified, the key to motivating others with your ideas is to use the core message to help them make decisions as they apply your idea. The fundamental part is to make the message compact and give it a sense of worth – make it compact and profound.


Example: Southwest Airlines uses “We are the low cost airlines” as their motto. Thus, every decision they make involves meeting this concrete and simple goal. For example, deciding whether to offer dinner on flights: Main concern isn’t great passenger comfort, but it is low-cost, so no dinner.

A way to keep things compact and profound can be done through the process of embedding schemas into the memory of the idea’s recipients. For example, when pitching a Hollywood movie, a producer would describe it in terms of other hits: ‘Speed’ will be Die-Hard on a bus, or ‘Alien’ will be Jaws on a spaceship. Another way to describe this is as a “generative analogy”; which is a metaphor that generates new ideas.

Disney uses the term “cast member” to describe their amusement park employees. This tells employees how to behave: Even if you are just sweeping the park you are “on stage” and know exactly how to conduct yourself. Contrast this to the Subway’s choice to call their employees “sandwich artists”. It is completely useless as a guide to behaviour: In no way does Subway want their employees to innovate when making sandwiches, they should instead follow the rules precisely.

It is simple things like these which give ideas the essence they need to become more memorable. Using the right words in the right way through prioritisation, and generally making things simpler, can go a long way!


What is I Am all about?

What do we do? We love connecting people in charities, professional membership associations and social enterprises to learn, share knowledge, make meaningful connections and find jobs!  We organise regular social networking and learning events and help people find jobs through our recruitment services.

Looking for work? Check out our vacancies here.

Keep in touch. Sign up to our mailing list and blog here (and if you’re interested in writing a guest blog post for us get in touch). You can also join us on LinkedIn or follow us on twitter and please do like us on Facebook.

Leave a Reply