So, this will likely make you cry.
It’s a 5-minute case study video from St. Judes.
Right now, it as over 12,000,000 views on Youtube.
I found as I was catching up on the latest Foil Arms and Hog sketch. This St. Jude video popped up as a paid ad afterward.
Here’s a breakdown of what made this case study so powerful.
1) The “Everday” opening.
The case study starts with the mom describing a normal night. She talks about how she was at one of her nephew’s basketball games. And her daughter, Ellee, was running around playing like always.
This set-up pulls the viewer into the story. Because they are creating an actual scene that’s taking place. One that the viewer can relate to. Even if the viewer doesn’t go to basketball games, they still have their own version of what their kid running around playing on a “normal night” can look like. So now the viewer can start to see themselves and their child (if they have one) in this story.
Showing a normal evening also sets up the drama that’s about to come. It drives home how quickly and unexpectedly medical disasters can happen. Which adds a ton of emotion (fear, compassion, hope she’ll be okay) to the story. Which sucks the viewer in even more.
2) The inciting incident
After setting the stage, they dive into the moment when everything changed.
They talk about how Ellee woke up on pain in the middle of the night. And the mom talks about how she tried everything to help Ellee, but she couldn’t make the pain go away. Until, at 3 am, Ellee looked up and said “mommy please help me” — which is when they finally went to the hospital.
Now, they could have said, “Ellee’s legs hurt one night so we went to the hospital”. But instead, they share specific details of that moment. Those details pull you into the scene and get you to experience emotions similar to what the mom felt (because the story is from her point of view.) You feel a similiar fear which hooks you to the story.
This is expecially powerful when they share the moment Ellee looked up and said “mommy, please help me.” That punches you right in the gut. It forces you to feel the heaviness of the moment and sucks you deeper into the story. You want to know what happens and that Ellee is okay.
3) The problem
Next, they talk about the hospital visit. They continue to share specific moments of what it was like to get those initial tests. Specifically, they use dialoge to keep you in the moment. The mom shares what the doctors said to her. She also shares how she felt about what they said. And she talks about hearing that news was the worst moment of her life.
This is key. Simply sharing what the doctors said would have taken away from the impact of this moment. We’d be left wondering exactly how the mom felt. And sure, we could guess. But having her share her reaction to that news drives the point home. And makes the story much more emotional.
4) The reaction to the problem
The mom goes on to describe what that first hospital visit was like. And the fear and confusion she felt. She does this by sharing the specific thoughts she had at this time.
Sharing her thoughts pull us deeper into the mom’s experience. We get a deeper sense of what this was like for her. And because her emotion was so intense and the stakes were so high, we are glued to see what will happen next. And hoping everything turns out okay.
5) The turning point
Up until now, we’ve had a quick set-up followed by almost 3 minutes of things getting worse and worse.
The viewer is aching to hear some good news at this point. They want to walk away feeling uplifted. And know Ellee is okay.
So now, they take a turn. They talk about how, while at St Jude’s, Ellee got mail from strangers every day. They share how this was the highpoint of her day and how it brought comfort to her mom and dad. Because she and her parents no longer felt alone. They knew there were other people who loved and cared for Ellee, too.
Sharing this starts to shift the focus away from Ellee and her mom and more towards St. Judes. It shows how they are able to help children and families going through such a horrible time. And not just medically, but also by providing an environment where kids and parents can feel good together again.
Notice how long it took for the focus to shift towards the hospital itself. Had they started with “We’re St. Jude’s and look at how great we are helping kids” people would have tuned out. But by sharing a personal, compelling story they bring the reader in. So by the time they start showing how great they are, the viewer is on their side and willing to listen.
6) Appreciation and hope for the future
Finally, the mom shares how grateful she is for St. Judes. And she is hopeful for Ellee’s future because of everything the hospital has done.
Again, if they lead with this it would have just felt like an ad. But they save the praise for the end when the viewer is willing to listen to it. Because they’ve already seen proof at the good this hospital does. And they are invested in this mom’s experience.
Now, because this is in America, the viewer may be worried about the massive medical bills. They overcome that objection when the mom shares how because of St Jude’s she doesn’t have to worry about the medical bills and is free to focus on her daughter.
Ways this could have been better
This is a powerful, heart-wrenching story.
But there are a few things that could make it even stronger.
For example, there’s no call to action at the end. It would help to put a call to action that’s congruent with what the viewer just saw.
For example, after viewing this, people may be inspired to donate. Or they may want to write letters to kids with cancer. St. Jude could have told those people exactly where to go to get started with those two things.
Second, they could have been more clear that the reason the mom didn’t have to worry about medical bills was because of the donations they received (assuming that’s true, I don’t actually know.) That would have inspired people to give more. Because it would draw a direct link to the money they give and where it ends up.
Finally, I think they could have done a little more to catch people in the first seven seconds. The story starts with the mom talking about that normal night watching basketball. They could have added a line to tip the fact that something dramatic was coming. Otherwise they can lose people who think “why is this woman talking about a random basketball game?”