10th Feb 2015


It’s barely been a month since Christmas but for me, at least, it’s already a joyful yet distant memory.

I hope that doesn’t mark me out as a fickle creature – in fact, I think I’m fairly typical of an adult population that wishes celebrations like Christmas weren’t such fleeting events, particularly given the time and investment that goes into preparing for them!

The good news for marketers though, is that the yearly calendar is packed full of opportunities to capitalise on the attentions of your audience – Valentine’s Day, this coming Friday, being a great case in point.

While many business owners and marketers rightly follow their instincts to make the most of festivals like Valentine’s, the real challenge can lie in offering a product, service or event that really pays dividends and makes you stand out from the fray of others with the same inkling.

Jonah Berger, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania authored ‘Contagious’ – a book purely concerned with ‘why things catch on’. Fortunately, for those of us without time to pore over it in detail, Jonah distilled his message down to a series of six ‘STEPPS’ that, applied well, can certainly help you stand out from the crowd.

Here’s how the acronym translates and what it means in practice:

People like to come across as cool, intelligent and well-informed. Show them something that fits these criteria and they’re more likely to share it with others.

If what you present makes people feel like they’re part of a club as opposed to the mainstream (like they’ve read a first edition book before it becomes a bestseller), they’ll revel in the fact that they ‘got there first’ and subsequently want others to know about it.

By ‘trigger’, Jonah means that there should be a simple, easy-to-remember ‘essence’ to whatever it is you want to share. It’s easier said than done, but that simplicity can make your offering more versatile and thus shareable in a greater number of contexts, helping it reach a wider audience.

Tapping into an emotional response is a powerful tool to getting something shared. Whether it be joy, sympathy or, in some cases, even anger, the empathy that’s stirred in others will encourage them to spread the word yet further – by Jonah’s reckoning, much more so than purely ‘functional’ messages.

This links closely with ‘triggers’. By offering up something that has a wide and enduring appeal, you effectively make it shareable by a greater number of outlets, over a longer period of time. As its ‘reach’ is self-perpetuating, you give yourself more time to concentrate on the follow-up.

This, as the saying goes, means exactly what it says on the tin! Provide people with something they can use and they’re likely to want to share that knowledge with others. By selflessly ‘adding value’ in what you offer, you’ll be rewarded as what you share reaches further.

People love a good story, and if you share one that’s inextricably linked with your message or offering, it’s likely to go far. Think about the kind of things you talk about when you go for a drink with your friends. If you could boil down those characteristics, what would they be? Craft a good story around your product, service or event and let human nature do the rest!

Of course, depending on the nature of your business it’s unlikely that you’ll constantly be able to create a buzz that satisfies all the STEPPS but, if nothing else, they’re a great starting point for getting the creative juices flowing and challenging you to think outside the box.

Try giving your ideas a mark out of ten against each of the six criteria and evaluating which comes out the best – you might find yourself surprised!

Want to learn more about how Todmorden and Hebden Bridge-based web development and graphic design studio, Gill Graphics can help get your message out – online, in print and via social media? Check out the Services page on our website, contact us, or call in to our newly-revamped office for a chat – the kettle’s always warm!