Commercials That Stick: 6 Super Bowl Commercials We Will Remember

Let’s face it, the final score isn’t the only thing that people will be talking about after the Super Bowl ends. Commercials often steal the show and stick in our minds for days after the game. Who can forget that adorable Volkswagen advertisement of the little boy dressed like Darth Vader and if you can forget Mountain Dew’s “Puppymonkeybaby,” I’m jealous. Because whether we like it or not, some commercials are just that sticky.

Super Bowl commercials face tough competition in cutting through the clutter of game-watching chatter and a strong lineup of other well-produced spots. They need to make the viewers remember their products and services. They need to make their idea stick. In the IMC Strategic Communication course, we are reading “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, which outlines six principles that make an idea sticky. The six key elements to stickiness are simple, unexpected, credibility, concreteness, emotion and story, or SUCCES.

Taking a closer look at Super Bowl commercials from this year it’s easy to see these principles at work. Most of the memorable advertisements contain more than one of these ideas but some of them use the certain principles more prominently than others.

Here are some of the commercials from the Super Bowl that best represented the principles of stickiness and show us how brands are making use of them to cut through other advertising clutter.

“We accept” – Airbnb

Airbnb uses the first principle of stickiness, simple, to make a very clear point about its business. The element of simple gets at stripping an idea down to its core and making that message very clear to your audience. Airbnb’s commercial had a simple format of words and faces and a simple idea that Airbnb accepts everyone no matter your race, region or sexual orientation.

“The Journey Begins” – 84 Lumber

The unexpected principle of stickiness is definitely one of the more overused ideas during Super Bowl commercials. But it’s important to remember the goal is not to just surprise people for the moment but to generate long-term interest and curiosity. 84 Lumber’s commercial, “The Journey Begins” did just that. Most people spent the length of the commercial trying to guess what brand the long-form advertisement was for. The shock of seeing 84 Lumber popup on the screen with a call to action caused a great deal of curiosity. Not only did 84 Lumber’s website crash but Amobee reported 1,180 percent jump in digital mentions.

“Google Home” – Google

This one may come as a surprise. Although Google can be seen as a credible company, that’s not why the commercial is considered credible. The idea of credibility comes from showing the product, Google Home, at work. In “Made to Stick,” they say that an idea needs to carry credentials. So instead of Google telling you about all of the cool things this Google Home can do it showed the consumer that the product works through practical and relatable demonstrations.

“Go Further” – Ford

What does someone in traffic, a kite in a tree and a cat with its head in a box have in common? They are all stuck! Nobody likes to be stuck. Ford made that idea extremely concrete in its commercial “Go Further.” Using images of people “stuck” in various ways sent its message loud and clear. Then they matched clear language with concrete visuals about what Ford is doing to get people “unstuck.”

“Daughter” – Audi

This principle of stickiness is pretty clear. You want to make people feel something. However, “Switch” cautions that in order for this principle to work, you need to know your audience. Audi did this well by recognizing that people don’t connect to objects they connect to other people—the focus of the commercial was grounded on the relationship between the father and daughter, not on the product, which only made a short appearance at the end of the spot. This car ad was able to stand out amongst its competition because it was able to evoke emotions in its target audience.

“Born the hard way” – Budweiser

Essentially the “Born the hard way” commercial is Budweiser telling the story of the founders of Anheuser-Busch. Storytelling is the final element of stickiness and one of the strongest. Telling someone a story makes it easier for them to recall the information later.  Storytelling can also easily be used alongside other principles of stickiness to make an advertisement even more effective. Anheuser-Busch was strategic in tying social relevance to the brand’s history through storytelling.

Although the Super Bowl provides a captive audience, brands need to make the most out of the heavy investment they pay for that advertising space. The principles of stickiness can help advertisers craft brand messages that can stick in the minds of consumers, creating emotional connections, positive brand sentiment and top-of-mind awareness.

-Elle Bausch

Elle Bausch is a student at Northwestern University in the Medill IMC graduate program. In May 2016, she graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia journalism school. Throughout her studies, Elle interned for the PR department of the Mall of America as well as the PR department of the Minnesota Vikings.


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