In 2007, brothers Chip and Death Heath accomplished something that even the Coen brothers would tip their caps to -- their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die climbed to the top of both The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.

Made to Stick achieved astronomical success because it taught readers a model for making ideas “sticky”, or, in other words, making ideas digestible, memorable, and compelling. And by analyzing countless amounts of “sticky” ideas, like JFK’s “Man on the Moon” speech and even some conspiracy theories, the Heath Brothers noticed that a “sticky” idea usually follows six principles:

  1. Simple: its core message must be easy to grasp.
  2. Unexpected: it should break cliche and evoke enough curiosity to grab someone’s attention and hold it.
  3. Concrete: it should be vividly painted in people’s minds.
  4. Credible: it should be supported by evidence.
  5. Emotional: it should have a purpose and relate to people.
  6. Story-driven: it should tell a story that inspires people to act.
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At their core, viral videos are sticky ideas in action. They compete against an endless supply of videos all screaming for attention, but they can slice through the clutter, resonate emotionally with viewers, and are actually considered valuable pieces of content.

The Heath Brothers recommend following as many of their "Made to Stick" principles as possible when devising your idea. Below, we’ve analyzed five marketing videos that follow most of these principles and succeeded in capturing viral attention.

1. Monday.com | What using monday.com feels like

"Made to Stick" Elements: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, and Emotional

Simple

In just 30 seconds, Monday.com cuts right to the chase and provides a high-level description of their project management tool.

Unexpected

After fleshing out each section of their product, Monday.com surprises you with a pleasant dose of comedic relief from their feature overviews. For example, after they introduce their product, they cut to an oddly satisfying bubble wrap-popping, oreo-splitting montage of what it feels like to use their product. Then, after they describe their product’s board, they zoom in on an employee winking at you and transition into a hilarious quip about how their product works on your phone because it’s 2018.

Concrete

By showing, not telling, what it feels like to use Monday.com with a hilarious montage, and how to use their project management tool, its features and benefits bake right into your memory.

Emotional

Monday.com leans on comedy to trigger an emotional response from their viewers.

2. Johnnie Walker | Dear Brother

“Made to Stick” Elements: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Emotional, and Story-Driven

Simple

Johnnie Walker’s “Dear Brother” is only 90 seconds long and follows the story of two brothers exploring what viewers initially assume must be their childhood home.

Unexpected

At the end of the video, your heart nearly shatters when you find out one of the brothers has actually passed away and the other one was actually reminiscing about him.

Concrete

By setting the story in the rugged mountains and streaming creeks of Scotland and voicing over the video with a beautiful poem that aligns with the plot, Johnnie Walker makes you feel like you’re strolling along side the brothers.

Emotional

“Dear Brother” begins as a heartwarming video about two brothers reminiscing about their past, but when you learn that one of the brothers has already passed away, you start to feel sad. At the same time, though, you also feel touched because the other brother realizes that even though his brother isn’t with him physically, he’ll always be with him spiritually.

Story-driven

“Dear Brother’s” twist ending turns the story from being about roaming the place of your past to being about keeping your loved ones’ memories alive, which really packs a final emotional punch.

3. NERD Skincare | Your Relationship With Acne

“Made to Stick” Elements: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, and Emotional

Simple

Despite an airtime of almost five minutes and an onslaught of gags and jokes, NERD Skincare stays laser-focused on a single, straightforward message throughout the entire video: the idea that their treatment arms your body’s good bacteria to kill off your body’s acne bacteria.

Unexpected

Instead of filming actors and actresses with flawless skin happily splashing water on their face, NERD Skincare shatters the conventions of most acne treatment ads. First, they hook you with a visceral metaphor for your face (the hot and cramped arcade), then deeply relate to your problems by describing realistic scenarios of how acne can sabotage your life, and continuously weave a strong thread of humor and edge throughout the entire video.

Concrete

By including clever metaphors, funny and unexpectedly realistic examples, and an actual demonstration of their product in action, NERD Skincare can sear their video’s message into your memory and prompt you to act.

Credible

NERD Skincare actually proved their brand’s credibility by putting acne bacteria on their founder’s face and demonstrating how their product quickly got rid of it.

Emotional

With a hilarious joke at almost every turn of this video, “Your Relationship With Acne” resonated with viewers through humor.

4. HP Sprocket | Little Moments

“Made to Stick” Elements: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Emotional, and Story-Driven

Simple

“Little Moments” is a short and relatable story about a father’s attempt to connect with his teenage daughter and his reluctant acceptance that she’s growing up.

Unexpected

At the end of the video, the daughter has rejected each of her father’s attempts at connection, and it clearly weighs heavily on him, prompting him to lay down on her bed. But that’s when he sees all the photos they’ve taken together over the years taped above her bed, making him realize that she’ll always love him, no matter how she’s acting right now.

Concrete

By filming familiar scenes of home life and close-up shots of the father experiencing vivid feelings of emotion, HP Sprocket can place you in this heartwarming story and make you feel the same way the father feels at the end of the video.

Emotional

The father’s growing disappointment and sadness each time he fails to connect with his daughter makes you feel bad for him. But when you can see the pure happiness and joy on his face after he finds his daughter’s pictures, you genuinely feel touched by the moment.

Story-driven

In a nutshell, great stories are about the journey of overcoming adversity and how that journey changes people. “Little Moments” recounts a father who so desperately wants to connect with his teenage daughter but ultimately can’t make it happen. But when he sees his daughter’s pictures, he realizes that she’s always had a connection with him -- he just didn’t know it.

5. Death Wish Coffee | Storm’s a-Brewin’

“Made to Stick” Elements: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, and Emotional

Simple

By using a ship full of vikings as a metaphor for their fiercely caffeinated coffee, Death Wish Coffee effectively expressed the strength of their product in only 30 seconds.

Unexpected

“Storm’s a-Brewin’” started out as a Game of Thrones-esque story about a group of vikings who were ready to die as heroes, but when you find out it’s an advertisement for a highly-caffeinated coffee brand, it’s actually a really funny and pleasant surprise.

Concrete

Death Wish Coffee’s use of ragged vikings and an incredibly realistic CGI ocean makes you feel like you’re actually rowing the boat with them -- on your way toward a noble death. And when you get to the end of the video, these vivid details solidify the strength of their coffee.

Emotional

The vikings' passionate commitment to dying with honor grabs your attention. And the realization that they’re a metaphor for caffeine makes you laugh and realize how strong Death Wish Coffee’s product is.

Following Made to Stick’s model could lead to your viral success.

Making a viral video will be one of the hardest things to cross off your marketing bucket list. And even if you follow the six Made to Stick principles to a tee, there’s still no guarantee you’ll achieve viral success. But one thing you can expect by following this model is that your story will stick in people’s minds -- and their hearts.

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Originally published Jan 30, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated January 30 2019

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