How to create viral marketing content in the digital era

In today's workplace many marketers, brand managers and business owners main focus is to stand out, be seen and heard from the millions of messages bombarding consumers on a daily basis. Thinking of ways of creating something memorable, which will stick in the minds consumer's, often looking at differentiation tactics to do so.

I'm sure most people will agree, it is hard to pinpoint what will work and won't work, sometimes we get lucky while working with great brands is also a big help. Startup businesses and entrepreneurs would find it a bit harder, however, research provides some great answers, in Professor Jonah Berger's groundbreaking work and a Content Marketing must read the book; Contagious, Professor Jonah Berger talks about the 6 principles called the STEPPS concept, on why things catch on.

The creation of 'contagious marketing content' is now one of these differentiation tactics but with a twist, it is quantifiable and thought driven. Professor Berger spent a decade researching different products, brands and businesses.

Let us explain the STEPPS concept, I would like entrepreneurs and start-up businesses to take note, this is a 'golden key' to success, especially on limited budgets, don't worry corporate's we haven't forgotten about you. But if you have a great concept and would like it to be shared and spoken about, then this is your answer.

The STEPPS Concept of Creating Contagious Content explained:

Social Currency:

When your consumers or any reader talk about your product or content or share it, what does it make them look like? It’s human nature to want to be perceived as the best. Does sharing your content, make them feel special or give them meaningful equity that makes them appear knowledgeable.

People have different sharing personalities or rationale as to why they should/could share. People need to visibly feel or see the effect of what they share. For instance, while sharing quiz results on Facebook, people rarely share results which make them look weird (e.g. You didn't get a bonus or got laid off) but are very openly sharing things that make others take notice in a good way or make them feel socially accepted (e.g. your ideal travel destination is a tropical island).

This is a question you need to ask yourself: What does your content make people feel? How different is it to your competitors? What is your brand or company's inner remarkability? Now think of the Uber start-up app, where did you hear of it? Was it an advertising campaign or something shared via social media or a friend sharing their findings around a braai day? I bet it was a friend or colleague sharing, right?


Building a brand is a long process. You need to constantly build brand recall and give people something to remind them naturally. What comes to mind when you think of a brand? Brand associations can be built around usage, say when you’re looking for a plumber, your mind says, “Google it”.

Associations are built around celebrity endorsements for sporting or cosmetic products. Brand personalities are important, a rugged do anything brand you immediately think of Jeep. They can also be built around occasions, think the work break, and you think of Kit-kat. A reliable budget airline and you think of Kulula Airline. A hassle free airport and you think of Lanseria Airport. Now think of what your company's triggers are for your customers?


Positive and negative emotions both lead to reactions and interest. Think of YouTube videos, we all watched the Gangnam style video over 2 billion times and even though it’s over two years old, we continue to watch it. Mountain bikers made famous when they shared their videos riding in the Tokai downhill single tracks or that famous clip when a mountain biker was hit off his bike by a antelope, the video went viral. Why?

Because it is entertaining, and people have fun. Emotional content keeps people at the centre. We sell less and engage more. What emotion does your brand or company evoke in the minds of your consumers?


Monkey see, monkey do. We react to products and content in the public when we see others getting involved too. An interesting example is the Apple Mac book which has the Apple logo, not facing the owner, but the observer, in fact now all laptops do the same and this was not random, but a carefully thought out strategy to invoke the 'observer effect'.

'I want what he/she has', as it looks cool, and when inertia takes hold and many people are seen using one, it invokes the effect that "I want one too" The more people we see publicly sharing an article or a thing, the more we tend to believe it’s good. The more people talk about a product, the more we believe it.

Practical Value:

This is important, align your content to what people are looking for. If you don’t know your target market needs, ask and research. This means you need to stay current, keep up with the times and be relevant. Useful things get shared so package knowledge & expertise together so that people can pass it on.

If you have industry knowledge or specific expertise, pass it on or be forthcoming with delivery date estimations which will boost your customer service levels, which people will pass on their great experiences.


A story needs to incorporate your brand, business or idea in such a way that it feels natural. Build a story that people want to tell, which carries your business, brand or idea along for the ride.

STEPPS concept does not indicate that your content must follow all the STEPPS principles, but if you have a couple, it surely does help! Build a viral strategy and be the creators of contagious content that people want.

How do we get started?

Simply put, we have a strategic process to follow, which will uncover your inner remarkability. With the findings we can integrate these findings into your current strategic business plan and communication strategy. The best is as you implement your new 2017 strategic marketing plan, we add this strategic process to your overall strategic process so that the 6 STEPPS are thought of from the beginning. This is also a great process to see how effective your current advertising campaign measures up. Happy strategising in 2017.