The Sticky Story of Krazy Glue (and How It Holds Our Lives Together)

It’s Strong. It’s Clear. Just keep your fingers away from it

In 1968, the Japanese chemical company Toagosei began selling a fast-bonding glue called Aron Alpha. The name didn't exactly roll off the tongue. But neither did the glue's chemical name, which was cyanoacrylate. As company legend goes, a Toagosei executive playing with the product was shocked at how fast it worked and exclaimed, "This is the crazy glue!"

And so it was: Krazy Glue (misspelled for the sake of securing a trademark) hit stores in 1973. 

Photo: Nick Ferrari

It's pretty much been a household term ever since. Never mind that there are other brands of instant glue. Never mind that the Super Glue brand was first to market. Krazy Glue is one of those names that's jumped off the store shelf and into the realm of legend. "What's so interesting about Krazy Glue is that it's not just a product—it's a cultural phenomenon," said Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, author of the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. "It's not just that people like it, they talk about it. Think about how many urban legends there are about Krazy Glue."

Like, say, the one about the luckless twit who thought the glue was lip balm and fused his lips together. (True.) Or the story of the prank that found a McDonald's customer glued to a toilet seat. (Also true.) Or the horrifying story of "Black Madam," the Gothic hip-hop artist who performed illegal plastic surgeries by using injections of Krazy Glue. (Alas, that is also true—and this might be a good time to add that the company sanctions none of these uses.)

That said, the idea of people doing crazy things with Krazy Glue is actually an outgrowth of the brand's own marketing. If you're over 40, then you recall that 1980 TV spot featuring the construction worker who glues the hard hat he's wearing to an I-beam, then goes for a ride in the air beneath a crane. "There's a lot of equity in that visual presentation," said Krazy Glue's director of marketing Michelle Manning. "That [commercial] really stuck with people."

Pun intended. In fact, the spot wasn't just ahead of its time ("So many ads of the time were about telling you," Berger said, "but Krazy Glue showed you how strong it was"), but it also pioneered a marketing approach that Krazy Glue is still using.

Recent spots from SBC Advertising portray a new generation of glued-together gambits—using Krazy Glue to fasten window washers to their high-rise buildings and jumpers to their bungee cords.

Fortunately for the rest of us, most of Krazy Glue's uses simply involve fixing ordinary stuff around the house. Best of all, the brand doesn't need to worry about recommending new uses to its customers: They write in with their own uses—at last count, 300,000 of them.