Persuasion Marketing: 7 principles that alter how we make decisions
Robert Cialdini is a well known psychologist who wrote a book called Influence, in which he outlined 7 different principles of persuasion that can alter how we make decisions. We can see a lot of these principles in the everyday marketing we’re exposed to.
- Reciprocity – “If I’m nice to you, you will be nice in return to me.”
What It Means – This is the essence of content marketing. The content and blog posts that a content marketer writes serve to teach the reader about certain concepts, offer them free reports and advice, and so forth. By providing all this value to them for free, when they are asked to take action and buy something, they are much more likely to do it.
The Science – This principle relies on the fact that people are hard-wired to want to return favors and pay back debts. Psychologically, we hate to feel like we owe other people, so we feel obligated to give concessions and discounts to others when we have received favors from them.
2. Commitment/Consistency – “Once you’ve taken a smaller action, you are much more likely to take a bigger action.”
What It Means – Before asking a visitor to buy something, it helps to first get them to opt into an email list. By complying with the first, smaller request, they are much more likely to go for the bigger action subsequently asked of them. The same principle applies when people openly commit to doing something–they are then much more likely to complete the action they have started. For example, look at sites with multi-step forms like eHarmony. Once you fill in the first part of the form, they know you are more likely to fill in the rest since you already started with it.
The Science – As humans, we have a strong compulsion to be consistent with our public image and reputation. Publicly declaring that we are going to do something makes us that much more likely to do it, because that commitment then reflects on our self image.
3. Social Proof – “I am not the only idiot [insert action here].”
What It Means – When we go to new places or do new things, we take other people as examples or follow the crowds. Seeing other people take an action is reassuring–it helps us think, At least I’m not the only idiot taking this action. The same thing applies to buying a new product or trying to choose between two products. If you can’t decide between 2 products, what do you do? You read reviews. The one that people say they like the most is the one you buy. That’s why most websites list the number of previous customers, to reassure new visitors that other people have made the same decision as them.
The Science – There is safety in numbers. A vast majority of us prefer to belong to a group rather than to think independently. For example, when we have coworkers who work late, we are more likely to work late. If they leave for lunch early, we will most likely do the same. This happens because nobody wants to be the only idiot taking an action, and they don’t want to make the wrong choice and be judged by their friends, colleagues, boss, or spouse. The larger the risk, the larger the effect of social proof. We also have this kind of reaction to the endorsements of well-known brands: we’re more likely to trust a company we’ve never heard of if they have worked with brands like Google and Apple, simply because of the credibility lent to them by the endorsement of these big names.
4. Authority – “We are much more likely to take action if the order comes from a person of authority.”
What It Means – We never question doctors when they tell us to take certain medication, nor did we question our school teachers when they gave us homework. Ever wonder why a lot of companies hire doctors or “experts” to endorse their products? Now you know.
The Science – As pack animals, it is in our nature to obey figures of authority, even if we don’t agree with what they are saying or doing. Job titles, uniforms, and other markers of expertise create an air of authority which the average person will see and accept.
5. Liking – “If I like you, I’m more likely to buy from you.”
What It Means – Think about why lots of businesses get celebrities or influencers to sell their products. They are aware that having a popular celebrity endorse their product immediately makes the product attractive to the celebrity’s fans, who are then likely to buy it. Another tactic along these lines is to use personal stories. When you have just met a new person and find out that you have something in common with them, all of a sudden you will like them more. That’s why most brands showcase their team on their ‘About Us’ page–to try and establish a connection and highlight all the similarities between you and them.
The Science – Being likeable increases a person or company’s chances of influencing someone else. In this case, being likeable is linked to having something in common with that individual (you like cats? I like cats!) It can also be based on how attractive a person is.
6. Scarcity/Urgency – Fear of missing out.
What It Is – Imagine that you go to a booking website to book a flight and you see the words “There are only 3 seats left at this price”. What happens? Most likely, you book straight away. Using urgency as a driver is probably one of the most effective methods of persuasion. Putting a deadline on something makes people take action. “Your coupon will expire in 48 hours” and “The promo ends today” are the type of messages that get people to act, because they don’t want to miss out on a deal.
The Science – As a general rule, things seem to be more attractive when their perceived availability is rather limited.
7. Unity – We are just like you
What It Is – When we find out that we have interests in common with other people, it makes us feel instantly connected to them. This is why most brands will try to create communities where participants have their own language and practices. To the outside world it looks like a cult, but on the inside there is a deep brand loyalty and passion. Apple is a good example of this.
The Science – Group homogeneity allows deeper trust. When you feel like a particular group of people are like your family, it invokes strong ties, and you are willing to go the extra mile for them.
Now that we understand persuasion techniques, the next post will take a look at how we can manipulate behavioral triggers. Dr. BJ Fogg from Stanford University (establishing authority here!) has a model for driving behavioral changes. Stay tuned.
About the Author
Reginald Addae is the Director of Marketing & Special Programs for Jumpstart Media with over 10 years of experience in Digital Marketing.