Contagious: Berger's STEPPS for Creating Viral Messages

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Contagious: Berger's STEPPS for Creating Viral Messages
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
A key assumption of viral marketing is that when a message reaches a receptive person, he will be "infected". As long as (on average) each infected person passes the message to more than one other person (i.e., the basic 'reproductive rate' is greater than one), the number of infected people will grow according to an exponential curve, until eventually the people that are receptive to this message have been reached and the campaign fades out.

But why are certain ideas, products or messages spreading like a virus while others do not?
According to Wharton Marketing Professor Jonah Berger in his new book "Contagious: Why Things Catch On", viral marketing is not about:
- Luck
- Who is telling a story
- Social media (only 7 percent of mouth to mouth advertising occurs online).

Rather the reasons for messages or ideas to spread quickly (or not) are based on their FORM and CONTENT. Berger built on earlier work of Chip and Dan Heath (Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die), who wrote that sticky ideas and products tend to be: simple, unexpected and credible, with concrete details, an emotional undertow and a memorable story line.

Berger identifies six principles ("STEPPS") causing people to talk about and share an idea, product or message:
S - SOCIAL CURRENCY: What we talk about determines how other people see us. So we share messages that make us seem smart or cool.
T - TRIGGERS: Easily memorable information that is top of mind and tip of tongue. When certain circumstances or occasions are connected to a message, they remind us of it (like a coffee break, a party).
E - EASE FOR EMOTION: "When we care, we share". Messages that evoke emotions (preferably activating ones, like awe, excitement, pleasure, anger and fear) are more likely to be passed on.
P - PUBLIC: We imitate products and initiatives that are visible to everybody.
P - PRACTICAL VALUE: We pass useful ideas because we like to help each other.
S - STORIES: Messages in the form of stories or narratives are more viral.

The more these 6 elements are present, the more contagious a message or idea will be...

Spread of Public Manifestations in Brasil
Rodolfo Stonner, Member
Very interesting. I've been wondering about how these popular manifestations all of you must have seen on the Internet here in my country were spread...

STEPPS Model Useful and Important
Isaias Joao, Member
This was very interesting. In fact STEPPS are very important to walk, and should be also important to work.

Made to Stick: The SUCCES Acronym
Jim Burke, Member
Nice summary. Made to Stick (Source: Wikipedia) suggests: The book's outline follows the acronym "SUCCES" (with the last s omitted). Each letter refers to a characteristic that can help make an idea "sticky":
Simple find the core of any idea
Unexpected grab people's attention by surprising them
Concrete make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
Credible give an idea believability
Emotional help people see the importance of an idea
Stories empower people to use an idea through narrative.

SUCCES and STEPPS Acronyms for Sticky Messages
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
@Jim BurkeThanks for emphasizing the earlier SUCCES acronym; in my summary it is only implicitely mentioned.
Marketers might benefit from using both of these acronyms as checklists when attempting to design viral campaigns or messages.


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