The introduction to “Made To Stick” offers advice on how to get people’s attention:

How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? We need to violate people’s expectations. We need to be counterintuitive.

Why? The human brain is wired to perceive patterns and is drawn to aberrations. For example, the book discusses the success of Subway’s Jared ads and says the surprise factor — “I can lose weight by eating fast food!?” — was one reason for the campaign’s stickiness.

Check out Michael P. Maslanka’s review of Seth Godin’s Small Is the New Big for another example of the power of counterintuitive statements.

[5 stars] It is all counterintuitive
The world does not work the way we think it does. In his latest, Godin takes zest in letting us know this: the internet is really bad for us (it increases anonymity which decreases civility; competence is bad (it breeds complacency and clinging to the status quo); success is unhealthy (it seduces companies to gravitate to the mean, and lose the edge that got them to success in the first place).

More excerpts from the Made To Stick intro
Business communication often goes awry when it gets too ambiguous…

We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. This is where so much business communication goes awry. Mission statements, synergies, strategies, visions — they are often ambiguous to the point of being meaningless. Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images — ice-filled bathtubs, apples with razors — because our brains are wired to remember concrete data. In proverbs, abstract truths are often encoded in concrete language: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.” Speaking concretely is the only way to ensure that our idea will mean the same thing to everyone in our audience.

The authors preach focusing on a single core selling point instead of a bunch of points…

A successful defense lawyer says, “If you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won’t remember any.”

A “try before you buy” philosophy makes ideas more sellable…

When we’re trying to build a case for something, most of us instinctively grasp for hard numbers. But in many cases this is exactly the wrong approach. In the sole U.S. presidential debate in 1980 between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, Reagan could have cited innumerable statistics demonstrating the sluggishness of the economy. Instead, he asked a simple question that allowed voters to test for themselves: “Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today than you were four years ago.”

Summary of “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” [The Practice of Leadership]
Audio interview with Chip Heath [Duct Tape Marketing]