Born Sticky or Born Slippy?

Posted by on Feb 9, 2008 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


Before I make main point of this post, let me just say what a good idea “Stickiness” is: how widely used it is, not just online but offline, too; not just about marketing ideas but in broader social terms, too.

Also – just so we’re really clear – how good I think Chip and Dan’s book is: how clear and useful it is in addressing some of the big questions we’ve been debating recently, in particular, what makes one idea more likely to spread and another not…and how concrete and practical the approach is that the book describes.

(Deep breath)Yes, there’s a “but” coming, a big ol’ “BUT”. Ok, here goes:

I think that Sticky is entirely the wrong word.

Sticky looks at things from the arrogance of the author or the marketer.

Sticky is all about control, about things staying how they are, about doing things to consumers/citizens.

Sticky just encourages marketers to pretend that they are still at the centre of things, still the prime shapers of human/consumer behaviour.

Sticky makes me think about the thing (what I made) rather than what folk do with it or do to each other around it.

Let’s be really clear: Sticky is old school marketing in a groovier, low-slung denim jeans and retro sneaker disguise. It’s “viral” nonsense of the first order. The wrong end of the telescope, if you like that kind of thing (that’s why ultimately the lens of sticky things is just as misguided as that of the Influencers that I’ve been focussing on recently)

I don’t want my ideas to be sticky; I want them to be SLIPPY.

I want them to slip out of my control and through social spaces and communities.

I want folk to find my ideas and the things I make socially useful; I want folk to add to them and rebuild and rework them and spread them further (you see, I’m not hung up my ideas); I want my ideas to change the way that folk interact with each other, to distort how their social connections work, to be worth passing on…because only by being SLIPPY will they have some impact on the behaviour of folk out there….

I want my work to be all sorts of things, but most of all I want it to be SLIPPY not sticky. I want it to appear hereand here and here and here

Cue Music: All together now…


  1. Valeria Maltoni
    February 9, 2008

    Brilliant call on use of language continuing to shape reality. Letting go of an idea is probably the most difficult and gratifying action one can take.

  2. Marty
    February 14, 2008

    I think both have a place, there are some products/content that can’t be as slippy. The problem is that corporate marketers often don’t understand the difference. They want to retain control of what should be ‘slippy’ ideas and then they want ‘sticky’ ideas to be slippy and don’t realize that consumers may think differently. This post and Valeria’s post are definitely arming me with a much clearer perspective and more food for thought as always.

  3. cynde
    March 3, 2008

    I don’t think you’d want your ideas to be considered “slippy” if you knew what the term “born slippy” really meant. First termed by a band called Underworld and popularized in the movie Trainspotting, it refers to a person under the influence of drugs. Another slang definition is one who is dodgy, attempts to slip by without detection. I don’t think you want your ideas to be either one of those. 😉 “Slippy” might make sense to industry peeps, but you might get funny looks from younger folk well-versed in urban slang.