The one sentence summary

Hit makers create moments of meaning by marrying new and old – they are the architects of familiar surprises.


  • This is all about how things become popular and the hidden rules behind how it happens.
  • The Myth of Novelty refers to the idea that people are obsessed with new things. In fact, they have an “aesthetic aha” when they hear or see a fresh voice telling a familiar story (something new that opens a door into a feeling of comfort or meaning).
  • The Myth of Virality suggests that an idea that becomes popular quite suddenly has ‘gone viral’ like a disease. In fact, it’s usually one or two large broadcast events that do the job.
  • Most consumers are both neophilic – curious to discover new things –and deeply neophobic – afraid of anything that’s too new. The best hit makers are gifted at creating moments of meaning by marrying new and old. So a hit is new wine aged in old oak, or a stranger who somehow feels like a friend – a familiar surprise.
  • People like what they like, and they don’t want to change too much: “If you’ve seen it before, it hasn’t killed you yet.”
  • Raymond Loewy’s MAYA rule (Most advanced, yet acceptable) offers three relevant lessons:

1. Audiences don’t know everything, but they know more than creators do.

2. To sell something familiar, make it surprising. To sell something surprising, make it familiar.

3. People sometimes don’t know what they want until they already love it.


  • The word story comes from the Latin historia – so memory is intrinsically made up. Prejudice is a story that people learn about how the world works.
  • Popularity is a complex system. A person can perfectly understand the formation of rain and still not be able to predict the next thunderstorm.
  • When it comes to an idea spreading, people have 2 important traits: vulnerability (how likely they are to adopt new behaviour) and density (how many people they are connected to).
  • In many cases, it is not the content of the hit that people are buying – they are buying entry into a popular conversation. Popularity is the product.
  • In vicarious goal fulfilment, merely considering something that’s good for you satisfies a goal and grants a license to indulge.
  • Planned obsolescence means purposefully making products that will only be fashionable or functional for a limited period.
  • Homophily: you are like the people around you.
  • Propinquity: you become similar to the people you see many times.


  • Some of the visuals are too small to work well in the paperwork edition.