The Secret To How We Made The Human Motorcycles Campaign Go Viral

Gary Ware // Nov 14 //



I recently read the book Contagious by Jonah Berger in which he defines the "6 Behavioral Principles" that can be used to create content that people w

In trying to relate the principals to my own experience, I realized that this was similar to the process we used when creating the Human Motorcycles Campaign for the International Motorcycle Show last year. When we share the story of that campaign, people are impressed to hear that we had developed a strategy to improve the odds that the campaign would be a success.

To help you understand what it takes to create viral content, I've outlined the 6 behavioral principles from Jonah's book and how we applied those principles with our strategy for the Human Motorcycles Campaign.
STEPPS for Going Viral

  1. Social Currency: We tell people interesting things to make us look better or that make us feel like an insider so we look good for sharing
  2. Triggers: Associating the product with something we encounter frequently
  3. Emotion: We like to spread the word about things that excite us or get us amped up
  4. Public Exposure: Monkey See Monkey Do
  5. Practical Value: People like to share things that pass around real value
  6. Stories: If a story is compelling, people are more apt to engage and share

Applying STEPPS to the Human Motorcycles Campaign 

Social Currency The behind-the-scenes video we created for the campaign provided an insider look at how we made humans into motorcycles. People were amazed by this remarkable feat, and were compelled to share with their network. By sharing the video our audience was able to show their love for motorcycles, art, cool content, or all of the above.

Triggers The bikes that we choose for the campaign were inspired from the popular bikes that our audience loves to ride. By making this association with popular bikes, such as a cruiser rolling down the street, you couldn't help but think of our campaign. This helped to keep the show top of mind for our audience as the show was only in town for a weekend, and often competed with other events.

Emotion As Jonah mentioned in his book, people are more likely to share content that arouses their sense of awe or surprise. This campaign without a doubt hit on that sense of awe. At first glance the creative looks like a normal photo of a woman riding a motorcycle, but when you look closer you are awestruck to find that the motorcycle is made of humans and the rider is body painted.

Public Exposure What really helped us gain trajectory was how we were able to get placements in mass media. The campaign was picked up by a number of news outlets through the efforts of the internal IMS team and our PR team. The exposure in publications like ABC News, Mashable, and MSN helped to establish the social proof that the International Motorcycle Shows was worth watching and paying attention to. This wide exposure helped us gain traction in motorcycle forums, and the publications that our target audience cared about. In addition, we ensured that the video was accessible on the major social channels so that people could easily share with their network.

Stories Since interest in the show had been declining we decided to create a campaign that focused on telling a story rather than pointing out the normal features and products. As a result the IMS brand was a trojan horse behind the story of how these women were able to accomplish this incredible feat.

The Results Through our strategic approach to executing the human motorcycle campaign we were able to drive over 981,000 YouTube views for the behind the scenes video to date (over 50% were in the first month), and gain world-wide exposure for the campaign. Most importantly, this campaign helped drive strong attendance numbers throughout the tour. We are big believers in creativity and storytelling, but we always ensure it is backed with data and psychology to ensure our message will be well received and produce results.

If you haven't read Contagious I HIGHLY recommend that you pick up a copy today: Jonah's easy to follow framework makes a great checklist to evaluate your campaigns to ensure they have the best chance for success.

If you have any other thoughts or ideas on how to create viral content, be sure to leave them in the comments!


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