Viral marketing – your 6 STEPPS to success!


Share on LinkedIn

Often, a meeting between the client & marketing agency starts & ends with the phrase “let’s do something viral”. With the plethora of content generated every day, it’s tough to get your content noticed. On the other hand, we see several content pieces going viral every day. Be it #SonuKiSmile, video of PM Narendra Modi consoling ISRO Chief K. Sivan or Ranu Mandal’s singing video, there’s something about these content pieces which drives us to share the content.

Is it emotion? Is it the content of the video? Is it a storyline? Well, there is more to this. Several types of research have shown that the viral factor has science to it. If marketers can decode the science, creating viral content is of course, achievable.

Several brands have decoded this secret and created content that has become viral over years. I am quite sure you have come across ‘Will it blend?’ videos. We’ve also seen Kolaveri Di and Surf Excel’s Daag achche hai advertisements being shared extensively on social media.

Here’s an interesting take on science of virality by Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. We all know content is the core of any marketing exercise and it’s the key to success. But, seldom we know what kind of content will result in virality. What will make people feel connected to a brand? What will drive curiosity among the audience? How do we get people to share our content?

The answers lie in a 6 factor framework called STEPPS – Social Currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical Value, Stories.

If you adhere to the STEPPS framework, it’s likely possible to create viral content. Let’s go through each factor of STEPPS factor one by one:

1.Social Currency – Make your audience feel remarkable!

People strive for attention. They share content which makes them feel noticed. Which makes them look smart, cool or passionate about something. They share content that helps them achieve certain status among their peers. And hence, if you can make your audience feel special about certain aspects of your products, they are likely to spread the word for you. Some great examples of such marketing campaigns are Dropbox, One Plus and Behance which started as invite-only services and garnered a huge share of voice through word of mouth.

Triggers – Give them a reason to remember you!

When someone asks ‘Kya chal raha hai?’ We always think of Fogg. A lot of people share photographs of Teacher’s brand of whiskey on ‘Teacher’s day’. Can you notice any similarities in the above examples? Principle that applies here, is – Top of mind is at the Tip of Tongue. If your content has a trigger to push people in sharing your content, it definitely works. This is precisely the reason why a lot of brands spend millions in creating brand messages that relate to important festivals & days of national importance.

Emotion – when the audience feels for it, they share it!

When was the last time you shared a video with your friends? What triggered you to share it? Did you feel emotionally connected with the message? Quite possibly, yes. When Red Label advertisement says ‘Swad Apnepan Ka’ or Ariel promotes ‘Share the load’ message, we feel emotionally connected. That’s the power of emotion – it makes you feel connected and triggers you to share the message.

Public – what is seen, is what is sold!

Often, people follow the herd mentality. There are some trends which just pick up because everyone talks about it. We call it ‘monkey see, monkey do’ behavior. People tend to buy or talk about things which they see the most. And hence, it’s important to be noticed. Trivago did this really well with weird-looking advertisements shot with Abhinav Kumar. Know what, it worked really well for them. A lot of brands have used this principle at the product designing level too. You will surely remember the innovative packaging Paperboat launched!

Practical Value – Your content has to be useful for consumers.

Content without useful knowledge doesn’t work well. Your marketing communication should include a useful message for your consumers. How-to & Do-it-yourself videos are classic examples of content delivering short, crisp and straightforward messages. Buzzfeed listicles are classic examples as well.

Stories – People love stories, not your products.

Seth Godin says, ‘All marketers tell stories’. Marketing is all about storytelling and nothing clicks better than a compelling story, subtly delivering your brand message in a concise way. We love Domino’s not because it delivers Pizzas but because it delivers ‘happiness’.

So next time you are working on a shareworthy marketing campaign for a brand, remember the STEPPS model. Include some or all of these elements in your message and there are chances your content will catch the fire and top the viral video charts.

Parth Mavani
I am Parth Mavani Working at as Chief Marketing Officer. He loves to roam on endless road in his free time.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here