What makes things consumable? In this blog, we will take a closer look at Berger’s cocktail recipe for sweet-tasting Marketing success. In his famous book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger discusses 6 actionable principles and other counterintuitive insights key to popularising your brand and boosting awareness.
Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on social influence, analyzed an abundance of qualitative viral content data to understand what encourages people to engage with it and, more importantly, share it. Berger stated that the success of creating viral-worthy content could be credited to 6 simple components or “STEPPS,” as has been coined so satisfyingly as the theory has gained its own traction.
For ease, we have broken them down for your reading pleasure and application to your marketing strategy.
Berger’s STEPPS To Viral Content
S-ocial Currency – It’s all about appearance
The first point in Berger’s Stepps is social currency. A contextual factor connected to what is going on in the consumer’s environment. Anthropologically speaking, knowledge is power. People strive in social circles if they are intelligent, in the loop of current events, and can offer interesting recommendations and insights on various topics. A person’s social status is often ranked higher if they are the in-the-know friend with all the answers.
Easily shareable content is always the most popular. Like a real-life conversation, we want to come across as intelligent and interesting on our social media channels to improve how others perceive us. Of course, this directly impacts what we share.
Research by Vivaldi Partners describes social currency as “the ability of brands to fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today’s digital and mobile age.” It subsequently relates directly to the relationship between your business and consumers.
Social currency is an excellent concept from which you can base innovative ideas and new content that will pump excitement into the veins of the consumer. If your business provides information to consumers, they will view it as valuable.
Give your brand social status by making those who associate with it appear distinctive and desirable. This Stepp is a foundational way to become a trailblazer within your industry.
If an individual actively shares your content, they are investing their social currency in you. Then comes the domino effect. If others connect with the shared content, the integrity of your brand and that of the sharer increases. Racking up social capital is key to growing brand awareness as well as a trusted relationship with your customers as a credible company.
Below we have summarised some benefits associated with building social currency around your brand that not only engage customers but drive them to purchase:
- Affiliation: Creating an atmosphere of community for customers
- Utility: Delivering value to customers while simultaneously enhancing their social relevance
- Advocacy: Tapping into strong brand loyalty to the point where customers will recommend your brand (if you do this right, they may even go as far as defending your brand from criticism)
- Information: Provision of valuable and shareable information
- Identity: Providing customers with their own identity in a group
T-riggers: What springs to mind?
Stepp number 2 is triggers. A familiar phrase comes to mind here since triggers function as the hooks that keep thoughts at the ‘top-of-mind’ and ‘tip-of-tongue.’
Humans are psychological beings, as we know, and we love familiarity. Associate your brand with the lives of the people. Berger himself describes a trigger as “Something that acts as a reminder about a product or idea. Which makes it easier to remember, helping to ensure it stays top of mind.”
Newsjacking is a great way to do this: it’s a marketing technique whereby strategy is based upon current events or the latest coverage in the news.
Anything that reminds your audience of your brand is a trigger; thus, maintaining consistency is of utmost importance since it will create positive triggers in the mind of the consumer.
Triggering people to think about your product helps to start a conversation. People often talk about whatever’s on their mind. If your product or idea is the thing on someone’s mind, it’ll become the thing they choose to talk about.
Here are some tips for designing effective triggers:
1. Capacity for frequent activation: the audience must be exposed to the trigger in abundance for it to take effect
2. Long-term relevance: make sure the trigger is in the public eye for enough time.
3. Activation located near the site of desired consumer behavior: i.e., near a shop where your product is sold.
4. Uniqueness: do not copy pre-established triggers from other brands.
E-motion: Care inspires sharing
This one, to many of you, is probably not a surprise. Knowing and resonating with your audience is key to this principle. It’s one of the main reasons we actually share content is because we are emotionally impacted by it.
Your content should inspire awe and excitement. Aversion to negative phrases is preferential here. Aim to provide your audience with something they can empathize with to encourage deeper-level engagement and personability.
P-ublic: “Built to show, built to grow”
“Built to show, built to grow” is a mantra used by Berger in his work that perfectly captures his Public element, which surrounds the notion that you must achieve coverage from the appropriate outlets as much as possible.
It is important to ask yourself honestly: is there anything getting in the way of a member of the public sharing this piece of content? This could relate to political matters, topics of controversy, harsh opinion pieces.
Avoid NSFW content at all costs – the last way to popularise your brand is by offending people. It is also key to cut any unrelated or irrelevant information since this puts people off from sharing. Always create reproducible content that pops. Something you yourself would be proud to share on your own social media page.
P-ractical Value: Usable content always appeals
Keep your content short and sweet so that it is simple enough for you or anyone to share.
How-to and DIY videos have long attracted large audience numbers on YouTube and “listicle”-style pieces on internet media sites such as BuzzFeed. Animation Explainer Videos are renowned for their effect in the Educational sector, and they are often most effective when they expose the solving of a common problem.
People resonate with insightful material and are likely to share it to help others. Consider your audience’s pain points: what is missing in their life? What questions do they need answers to?
This not only encourages sharing but also promotes deeper engagement with the content. People are likely to remain tuned in until the end to learn the full benefits of what you are offering or educating. You may be solving an age-old dilemma or inventing an innovative life hack that people wonder how they have lived so long without. Get creative!
S-TORIES: “Build a Trojan Horse”
The last point in Berger’s Stepps to success is stories. It is no secret that storytelling is integral to content marketing.
We love Berger’s analogy stating that you should “Build a Trojan Horse”. Create a narrative that your viewers will want to immerse themselves in with your product or service hidden within it.
With all due respect, unless you are Bill Gates reading this article (if it is you, wow – Hi Bill – we’re superfans!), it is probably unlikely that your product or service will warrant high levels of sharing on its own. This is why the storyline is where the real magic happens.
At Animation Explainers, we are lovers of stories and strive to find yours to wrap it up into a shareable narrative that will grasp your target audience.
Want to know more about the importance of storytelling behind any animation? We go into a little more detail in our blog post Concept Videos: A Step-by-Step Guide!
Unfortunately, no content is guaranteed to go viral, but these 6 STEPPS will be sure to put you in good stead. Going viral can often seem like luck or chance. Though we hope you can now see that there may be more of a science to it than you once perceived in Berger’s model.
Implement these key contagious elements, and you may just have a viral campaign on your hands. Don’t forget us at Animation Explainers when you’re famous!