Jonah Berger explains what it takes for ideas to be contagious in his bestseller of 2013. While there are some interesting use cases globally, India has its own share of small sucessess! Incidentally, the numbers in India favor the not so ‘contagious’ ideas as well, as little virality in limited circles also gives good enough numbers for marketers to drive ‘promotions’ (pun intended!). 

While I won’t go into the theory bit of it for now, there are some clear applications of the STEPPS (Social Currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical Value and Stories) framework in my recent readings!

Here are some remarkable recent cases, which seem to be working –

Surf Excel (Ramadan), Pepsi Pakistan

What gets shared – Interestingly, two ads that struck a chord instantly are one from Pepsi and the Surf Excel Ramadan ad that got viral on the social media – 

Incidentally, if one were to go by the STEPPS framework, the former draws higher social currency through strong inner remarkability (we share what we find highly remarkable), while the latter drives an emotive appeal – the emotion driven through this ad is what mostly makes people share it.

Interestingly, one brand drives CSR as a measure to build PR, while the other looks at driving a consistent association of “daag acchey hain” through socially relevant festival-based emotive associations.

Kohinoor – Getting attention (and its not the condom brand)
Kohinoor, while constantly struggling to stay away from its namesake contraceptive brand, has to still get more eyeballs that translate into walk-ins. The chain has, off late, evolved into smart advertising, from listing its assortment and discounts (which, surprisingly, still continues for few other brands) to being secretive and creative to make readers feel a part of an ‘exclusive club’

This, to my mind, is a classic application of the third element of Social Currency, as defined by Berger – giving a feeling as if you are insiders and not showing all their cards all at once. Having said that, it is imperative for the chain to live by its commitment of something really remarkable – else it would damage the brand and make it worse – and something that won’t stay a ‘secret’ for sure! They might get a high social currency, but for all the wrong reasons!

Amul – Moppet
One of my all-time favorites have been the Amul Butter Ads – applying ‘butter’ and ‘wit’ to the latest news that has the highest social currency (or potential of being one) – something that Amul has been brilliantly executing so far. Even though they cross the line sometimes, it mostly works in their favor itself! [Source 1, 2, 3, 4]

Have written about Amul multiple times before, but surprisingly, the theme and learnings haven’t changed much.
Theoretically speaking, what is it that pulls the consumer towards this form of advertising:
Based on an initial assessment, it should be:
(a) Humor that entails Interest towards the advertisement, and subsequently, the brand.
(b) Top of the mind recall for the brand,
(c) Consistency in the campaign, similar to the legendary RK Laxman’s “Common Man”
(d) A different perspective to the things that stress your brain, and pointing to events in a lighter vein.
(e) The intention of the Advertiser seems to be more of arousing humor for the consumer than trying to market it’s client’s products. This ensures a certain level of acceptability in the consumer’s mind. This is then leveraged to market the product.

Thus, the features or attributes per se are not marketed, but just the brand name and likeability for that brand, which is converted to sales at the POS itself. Even Da Cunha avers that it is the product’s taste and price that are the linchpin, with ads just ensuring high recall
“There’s a constant dialogue between the product and the consumer. As an icon, she’s contemporary – she changes every day with the world.”

Pokemon Go
And then you have the find of this year – Pokemon Go. While this topic itself can take up one full post, Nintendo has certainly ticked a lot of boxes, when it comes to virality 

From getting banned / killed on the roads to winning sponsored tour of the world for catching all pokemons, from crossing the border of Canada into US while trying to find Pokemons to universities launching credit courses on Pokemon, and from getting caught for pokemon-ing and driving to being shot for possibly Pokemon (SF), the game is almost intimidatingly covering every corner of the news and your share of time, even if you are not a fan (like me). And of course, all this while the company earned more than $200 million in its first month of launch.

Irrespective of your love or hate for mobile gaming, you are bound to ask sooner or later, ‘what is this pokemon go?’ or deeper questions like ‘do you know where I can find Ditto / Chansey?’ [Via 1, 2]
‘Baba’ in India is generally associated with faith – blind faith of being the panacea of all personal and professional issues or a shelter for escapists! But there is one baba who has become a sensation and the new poster boy of the FMCG world – Baba Ramdev [Via 1, 2]

Again, Patanjali is a different story in itself, and will park it for another time – will restrict the ‘virality’ for now. 

Big faith and scale is the dimension that is driving the biggest brand building activity of the decade, where one brand, by its sheer virality, has disrupted more than a few multinationals and domestic bosses off their chairs, snatching a larger bite of their market shares, almost overnight (around 10 years). 

Yes, this is the true reaction that Baba Ramdev would be giving to all those marketers out there, who have over intellectualized what it takes to become a hero in the mindspace of customers – as Baba Ramdev summarizes in his recipe – a large portion of faith, translating into big emotions, with products triggering faith, topped by a strong call to action with brilliant cost-plus (or maybe minus!) pricing.

The brand equity of Patanjali products are built around yoga and Baba Ramdev (Reference – Ashita Aggarwal Sharma, professor of marketing at SPJIMR). Consider the potential captive market Ramdev can address: some 20 crore, or almost a sixth of the Indian population, has attended a class of the Ramdev school of yoga courtesy of some 5 lakh trained yoga teachers working with Patanjali. 

Red Bull Stratos
Traditionally associated with adventurous and exciting sports, Red Bull builds on its Awe-inspiring proposition to drive recall (and potentially, sales!).

Launched In 2012, Red Bull Stratos was a mission to the edge of space that surpassed human limits that existed for more than 50 years. Supported by a team of experts, Felix Baumgartner undertook a stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet / 36,576 meters and made a record-breaking freefall jump to become the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall (an estimated 690 miles / 1,110 kilometers per hour), while delivering valuable data for medical and scientific advancement.

Clearly, there was Awe created by Felix 

One comment summarizes the responses –
Dude, he reached about 700 mph, broke the speed of sound, landed on his feet and all while almost 23 miles up. Astronauts in the shuttle usually go 5,000 mph, this dude was almost at 1,000 mph just in free fall.

Amazing. Fucking amazing. [Re-MaliaDus]

And does it fit into the “Red Bull gives you wings”

[Video, 1, 2]
Jumping 25000 feet without a Parachute
And finally, just few days back was this feat – Luke Aikins jumped 25000 without a parachute and made a sensation, thanks to the awe it generated – almost similar as Stratos, but this time with little more realism and less branding around it.

Almost Missing the Boat!
However, not every viral content lives up to being contagious – while some create a wow factor, some of them fall slightly short of traveling the distance from being ‘wow’ to generating ‘awe’.

There are news that are published at multiple places, but are not necessarily the ones that are the most likeable or shareable in the long term. These news give a short-term blip to the impressions / eye-balls they generate, but somewhere the chain breaks down, and takes away the virality along with it. If you disagree with any of these, feel free to voice it out!

Take some of these cases – 

Golden Baba (1)
‘Golden Baba’ is a famous saint who wears gold jewelry worth Rs. 3 crore on him, including gold lockets, armbands, heavy rings on all fingers and specially crafted diamond watch worth Rs. 27 lakh.
‘Golden Baba’ was in garment business in Delhi before taking sanyas. When asked about his decision, the Golden Baba said that he committed several mistakes during his tenure as a businessman and hence decided to give up everything he owned.

Couple hanging and getting married
Sometimes everything weird does not cause a social epidemic [Via]- 

On July 31st, a couple in Kolhapur got married in a valley. Kolhapur trekking enthusiast Jaydeep Jadhav, 33, married Reshma Patil, 26, while on a temporary 350-foot-long three-line ropeway. The couple and a priest hung from the three ropes overhead as they performed the rituals on Sunday over the 250-foot-deep Jakhani valley, 70km from Kolhapur.

The spectacle was witnessed by friends, relatives and curious onlookers. The ceremony lasted 15 minutes. [via]

The ‘pay and get seen space’ of India

This is a trend I have noticed with The Times of India. While I like the paper in most cases, I have often heard phrases like ‘overhyped’ and ‘completely commercial’ as preferred adjectives for them! Nonetheless, I continue collecting them for ‘Jitender Paper Mart‘.

While you get half cover to drive a strong communication, while the impressions are huge, am not sure how would the ‘investors’ of this cost measure the ROI. Does this strike a connection? Does this elicit stickiness?

Nothing striking comes to my mind, but nonetheless, it does act like a sweetener on someone’s P&L for sure! 😉

In a nutshell, none of these ideas are bad and each of them has got their own share of publicity (disclosure – none of these guys are known to me or my relatives – they reached people like me through their ‘V’ factor only). However, some of these would continue exciting the share button and carry long term social currency, while others would eventually die their natural death. 

The take-away for you is to get a pattern through these cases and check out the Virility Factor of the claimed Virality (hopefully, you don’t end up swapping the 2 words!)

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