STEPPS to a Viral Campaign

Ayesha Rehman
Publish Date:
October 6, 2018

We all have heard of PSY’s Gangnam Style or the recent trend of Drake’s ‘Kiki’s Do you love me?’. We have seen the Shan Biryani ad and Osaka’s ‘Self start ho jao’. So what makes these ads special, that we still remember them after so many years? Many people attribute these random viral posts to luck or a change of the season but Jonah Berger has a scientific explanation for these phenomenon, explained in 6 parts termed “STEPPS’.

Number 1: Social Currency

It starts off with the basic human need to seem ‘appealing’ to our friends. People want to look good in-front of others. Before the focus used to be how we dressed and behaved, now it’s all about we share and post. So, ads that lead to ‘social approval’ will get more hits as compared to those that leave to no engagement.

Number 2: Trigger

Trigger focuses on the most immediate interest of the customer. For instance the past month had high social media engagement by all users in Pakistan due to the general elections 2018. It began with the sharing of useful content for their friends to make an educated vote and soon turned to sharing of ‘memes’ and jokes on various political parties. As the election got closer, the more the posts increased because it started to occupy more of the person’s interest.

Number 3: Emotion

Emotions lead people to action. The more a person is able to connect/sympathize with the emotion depicted in the ad, the more likely they are going to share it with others, to instigate their emotions. Now emotions are sub categorized into 2 kind by Berger; positive and negative emotions. Positive emotions like happiness and excitement obviously want to be shared with the community. But emotions like guilt and anger also initiate action. An ad that has an ‘emotional roller-coaster’ of positive and negative ads has even higher engagement as it keeps the users interest till the end, like Shan’s Biryani mix campaign.

Number 4: Public

As Berger put it ‘Monkey see, Monkey do’, the more people can see others use a brand the more they are likely to use it. It’s the same as building coherence among users. The best example is of Careem ‘refer a friend’. People recommended the app to their friends/colleagues in an attempt to get discounts all the while increasing the positive word of mouth for the company. If you have a service startup, try merchandising. The more of your brand logo a customer sees the more they will be intrigued to try it out (for e.g. key-chains, caps, badges, etc).

Step 5: Practical Value

The benefits of your product should be eminent to the customer. The more the actualized value of a product, compared to its perceived value,the more it is likely to instigate the customer to inform others. The best example of this is the trend of ‘DIY- Do It Yourself’ videos that have been made so common and have been shared once by someone in some capacity.

Step 6: Stories

Brands that have a history, or have built a history are more likely to build cognition with customers. A story increases the ‘related-ness’ a customer feels and is likely to lead to brand loyalty. Stories also decrease the moral questions that come attached to advertising because the customer is interested in how the story will progress and they can relate to the story at some level.

With this we can conclude that virality is not solely dependent on the influencers but also relies on the content used to create the advertisements. So remember, always have an emotional ride with related content and don’t stuff the ad with too much brand that the purpose of the ad is lost.

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