In the era of social media, viral campaigns are launched to generate public interest or promote a product. The power of word of mouth strengthens the social media’s influence on people, contributes to the emergence of the crowdculture (cultural branding) concept, and implicates various social media marketing strategies (Holt, 2016; Quesenberry, 2016). While there is no universal formula for making content gain popularity through social sharing, Jonah Berger’s STEPPS framework attributes success to six key elements (KnowledgeAtWharton, 2013). This paper aims to analyze the viral campaign the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge utilizing Berger’s STEPPS model.
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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, started in 2014, is an example of a successful social awareness campaign that managed to raise about $115 million for the ALS Association. In regard to Berger’s STEPPS model, the following components can be identified in the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign:
- Social currency. The participants were nominated to accomplish the challenge by friends or family, and the feeling of inclusivity and specialness served as social currency.
- Triggers. Since the campaign was launched in the summer of 2014, hot weather became the main trigger that prompted people to join the movement and pour ice water over themselves.
- Emotion. The challenge caused both excitement in supporters and anger in opponents. In either way, people spread the word and raised awareness by posting on social media.
- Public. More individuals learned about Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL) due to the visualization of this concept through Ice Bucket Challenge videos.
- Practical value. The videos do not seem to have provided practical knowledge since the campaign focused on raising awareness rather than educating the population.
- Stories. In this regard, celebrities that participated in the challenge fueled the public interest, and their videos fulfilled the function of stories that people like to share.
To summarize, applying Berger’s STEPPS model to the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign allowed for identifying the critical elements contributing to its popularity. It can be concluded that the model effectively explained the success of the selected campaign, based primarily on social currency, triggers, emotions, publicity, and stories. Berger’s STEPPS framework identified that despite the lack of practical value in the campaign’s videos, the rest of the five components effectively worked to make it go viral.
Holt, D. (2016). Branding in the age of social media. Harvard Business Review. Web.
KnowledgeAtWharton. (2013). Why things catch on [Video]. YouTube. Web.
Quesenberry, K. (2016). Fix your social media strategy by taking it back to basics. Harvard Business Review. Web.