Video Marketing Strategy

“STEPPS” to making a contagious marketing video

By December 26th, 2022 No Comments

No, that’s not a typo in the word “STEPPS.”  It’s too early in the day for that kind of mistake.  Wine isn’t poured here until much later 🙂

Some months ago, I read a great book on the topic of “contagious” ideas in general. It’s called “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger (  In it, Berger presents the “STEPPS Model” with 6 principles of what he calls “contagiousness”

Some of these concepts are certainly applicable to the world of marketing videos and I thought it would be interesting to look at them here within this context.

Berger’s Six Principles of Contagiousness (The STEPPS model)

Principle 1: Social Currency – People share things that make them look good to others.

People are inclined to talk about themselves. Give them a way to look good while talking about your product or idea.

Berger notes three ways to do that:

1. Inner Remarkability – Think about what makes your product stand out.

2. Leverage Game Mechanics – Create visible metrics that let people see where they stand in relation to others

3. Make People Feel Like Insiders – Promote scarcity and exclusivity to make products seem more desirable.

He cites the famous “Will It Blend?” marketing video campaign by Blendtec as an example of conveying inner-remarkability and who can argue?

That first point of “inner-remarkability” is hugely important to what we do at Gisteo.   Sometimes, you need to show as well as tell when it comes to what makes an offering remarkable. Here’s a 30 second gisteo along those lines that we did for an app called CrytoPhoto a couple of years back:

Also, one of the key questions on our Pre-Production Questionnaire is:

What separates you from your competitors? What makes you unique (or what will make you unique when you launch)?

This is essentially the classic Unique Selling Proposition. It’s what differentiates you from the pack and makes you…well…remarkable.  No effective explainer video or marketing video can skip this.  If you have zero inner-remarkability, not only will your video not be shared, but your business will likely be in dire straights!

In terms of Berger’s third point (“Make People Feel Like Insiders”), we’ve done several gisteo project for landing pages offering special, limited deals for the first people to respond/sign up.  Creating a sense of urgency like this can be very motivating and effective.

Principle 2: Triggers – Top of mind, tip of tongue.

To sustain word of mouth over an extended period of time, we need to design products and ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment and create new triggers by linking our products and ideas to prevalent cues in that environment.

So rather than just going for a catchy message, consider the context. Think about whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environments of the target audience.

As an example, Berger discussing a case study in which a college was attempting to get students to eat more fruits and vegetables. One group of students saw the slogan “Live the healthy way, eat five fruits and veggies a day.” Another group saw “Each and every dining-hall tray needs five fruits and veggies a day.” Students who had been shown the more generic “live healthy” slogan didn’t change their eating habits. But students who had seen the “tray” slogan and used trays in their cafeterias markedly changed their behavior. The trays reminded them of the slogan and they ate 25 percent more fruits and vegetables as a result.

I think the biggest takeaway for marketing videos here is in terms of video advertising. Youtube, Facebook and LinkedIn all allow you to create targeted video ads. Think long and hard about the context and where your audience will view your marketing video.  Have a great app that helps businesses more effectively file tax returns?  Target it to the right people in the right place at the right time (which unfortunately is coming up soon!).  These channels allow you to place your message in the perfect context to increase your chances for success.

LinkedIn video

Principle 3: Emotion – When we care, we share.

Naturally contagious content usually evokes some emotion, so rather than harping on function, we need to focus on feelings. In particular, we need to focus on high-arousal feelings such as awe, excitement, amusement, anger, and anxiety. Conversely, avoid content that invokes low-arousal feelings of contentment and sadness.

One of my favorite viral videos was this one from a few years ago. Hard to watch it without getting goosebumps:

When it comes to marketing videos, the lesson here is don’t be afraid to tap into emotions…even if they cause anxiety.  Blah, middle-of-the road approaches seldom evoke reactions that motivate people to take action. We did a gisteo for the Child Advocacy Center in Gainesville, Florida, about a very sensitive topic. It was effective I believe because it didn’t avoid the matter of abuse; it met it head-on:

Principle 4: Public – Built to show, built to grow.

People often look to others as a cue for what is proper or expected behavior. Making something more observable makes it easier to imitate, which makes it more likely to become popular. Try to turn choices, actions, or opinions that are private into something that is public.

The author cites the Livestrong bracelets back in the day as a strong example of this along with the “Movember” campaign. Movember supports the fight against testicular cancer by encouraging men to grow mustaches/facial hair every November.  Marketing videos have played a huge role in this organization’s recent success:

Principle 5: Practical Value 

People like to help others, so if we can show them how our products or ideas will save time, improve health, or save money, they’ll spread the word. It’s important to pay attention to how the information is packaged. Present the facts in a simple, digestible manner such as a brief video or short, clear article or list.

Berger uses the example of video Clean Ears Everytime. It’s low on quality but high on useful information:

We often include practical information in our explainer videos albeit not as altruistically as the gentlemen in the video above. Our clients sometimes need to explain why it’s important to use their services. In understanding the “why?” it’s sometimes critical to educate first with practical information.  This gisteo we did for Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning, for instance, begins with an explanation of why it’s important to clean your gutters regularly in the first place:

Principle 6: Stories – Information travels under the guise of chatter.

People don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride. Stories are vessels, a type of Trojan Horse for your message.

This principle is a “biggie” to what we do at Gisteo. Our work often takes a storytelling approach to inform, educate, entertain and explain.

Here’s just one example we did for the Boy Scouts of America. It tells the tale of super-athlete “Jimmy Smith.”

So now you have some STEPPS to making your next marketing video. Good luck and don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on how Gisteo can help you create something contagious.

“STEPPS” image from:
Stephen Conley

Stephen Conley

Stephen is Gisteo's Founder & Creative Director. After a long career in advertising, Stephen launched Gisteo in 2011 and the rest is history. He has an MBA in International Business from Thunderbird and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he did indeed inhale (in moderation).

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