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The best marketing has a sticking point

"Don't mess with Texas" was an idea with Stickum smeared all over it.

In fact, the anti litter campaign proved to be so sticky that it saved the state of Texas $1 million right out of the chute and caused a 29 percent drop in trash-tossing on Texas highways within a year after it was launched, Chip and Dan Heath write in their stimulating new book, "Made to Stick."

The Heaths say that the Texas Department of Transportation had planned to attach a $1 million litter-law enforcement program to the publicity campaign, which featured well-known Texans admonishing against littering.

"But the effect of 'Don't Mess with Texas' was so strong and immediate that the enforcement program was abandoned. By offering Bubba a compelling message about identity, the campaign made appeals to fear unnecessary," the Heaths write.

Visible roadside litter dropped 72 percent along Texas highways and the number of cans along the roads plunged 81 percent during the first five years of the campaign , the Heaths write.

Researcher Dan Syrek, the brains behind the campaign, reported that in 1988 Texas had less than half the amount of trash along its roads that he encountered in other states that conducted anti litter campaigns during comparable periods.

The Texas campaign is offered by Chip and Dan Heath as an illustration of how to make a sticky idea : one that will adhere to the consciousness and catch on far and wide, one that will motivate and cause behavioral change. The emotional appeal in this instance was not to pity, self-interest, or fear. It had to do with "Texaness."

Real Texans like Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Randy White, George Foreman, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, Jerry Walker, Warren Moon, and you, Bubba, don't mess with Texas. There are six ingredients or "principles" that, according to the Heaths, make an idea sticky -- simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories.

Among the examples the Heaths use to underscore those principles are:

Southwest Airlines' core idea -- "We are THE low-fare airline" -- to illustrate simplicity. Every decision made at all levels in the company derives from that idea.

The successful push by Sony's lead technologist, Masaru Ibuka, to commit the company to producing a "pocketable radio" back in the 1950s, when "radios were pieces of furniture," to illustrate unexpectedness.

General Mills' "Fingertips" idea, which involved sending employees out into the kitchens of its Hamburger Helper customers to find out what needed to be done to bring the brand back to profitability, to illustrate concreteness.

The Indian company Safeexpress citing its safe and timely delivery of the fifth Harry Potter book to every bookstore in India, demonstrating enough credibility to win a contract to transport a big Bollywood movie.

The story of Jared, the guy who lost 245 pounds by going on a "Subway diet" -- a foot-long veggie sub for lunch and a 6-inch turkey sub for dinner -- to show how a story can generate a marketing phenomenon.

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