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Discover the ‘secret science’ of great ideas

Posted by Lorraine Jenkins on 4th October 2016

As an industry we’re spending a lot more time thinking about how great ideas are generated. While most of us would agree that inspiration plays a vital role, what is less clear is how to create an environment where those flashes of inspiration can happen.

Wharton professor Jonah Berger has tried to solve this conundrum. His book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On promises to “reveal the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission”. He spent years of research to identify the factors that will ensure a campaign, product or even policy initiative will generate the kind of buzz we all dream about.

We have adopted his STEPPS model at Wildfire and found it to be a useful brainstorm tool. We have found it most valuable when we apply it to a campaign idea as a checklist to test its effectiveness and help us to formulate an integrated plan.

I would definitely recommend the methodology to anyone interested in taking their campaigns to the next level. It’s a useful discipline to follow and will definitely encourage your teams to think more creatively.

For handy reference, please find a quick list of the six STEPPS below, but if you are serious about the STEPPS you can visit Jonah Berger’s website to download more resources and order the book.

Social currency

People care about how they look to others. They want to seem smart, cool and in-the-know. So be sure to find the inter-remarkability and make people feel like insiders


Top of mind means tip of tongue. So consider the content and grow your habitat so that people are frequently triggered to think about your product or idea.


When we care, we share. Emotional content often goes viral. So focus on feelings rather than function. And kindle the fire using high-arousal emotions.


Built to show, built to grow. The more public something is, the more likely people will imitate it. Design products and initiative that advertise themselves and create some visible behavioural residue.

Practical value

News you can use. Useful things get shared. So highlight incredible value and package knowledge and expertise so that people can easily pass it on.


Information travels under what seems like idle chatter. Stories are vessels. So build a Trojan horse. A narrative or story that people want to tell, which carries your idea along for the ride.

Lorraine Jenkins

Lorraine is always available to share her decades of technology PR experience with the team. As well as putting her unparalleled research and market positioning skills to use and regularly bombarding the team with industry news and trends, Lorraine is always ready to roll up her sleeves and produce hard hitting research questions or industry whitepapers to position clients as market leaders.