In my research of the psychology of persuasion I have found there are six overarching principles. Each with implications for brand marketers. If one or another of these principles is incorporated into a request, it significantly increases the probability of getting a yes to that request.
The first principle is called Reciprocation, the idea that people want to give back to us what we have first given to them. It gives us great power in a situation by being able to determine the tone of the interaction by doing it first. If we want a positive attitude, we give a positive attitude first. If we want free communication, we begin by giving free communication, and so on. It gives us the ability to get the sort of interaction that we are hoping for in exchange. The tone that is set, from focus groups to brand messaging is the thing that comes back most frequently. You can even find it in things as simple as appeals from the Disabled American Veterans association. When they send out their direct mail requests for contributions to their organization, they get about an 18 percent hit on their rate. But, if they include a little packet of personalized address labels in the envelope, their hit rate of contributions goes up to 36 percent because people have received something. Now they feel obligated to give back. That is the principle of reciprocation. It is the sort of thing that governs so much of our behavior, and it is the first of the pillars of influence I talk about.
2. Social Proof
The second one is Social Proof, which is the idea that when uncertain, people want to look around to see what others are doing and thinking before they take action. They look to people who are just like them for evidence of what they should do in situations. So, the proof of what they should be doing is not something that is empirical or logical — it is social. What everybody around me is doing tells me what I should do. For example, this experiment in hotel rooms. When travelling, Branding Strategy Insider readers are sure to have encountered a card in their hotel room that asks them to recycle towels. Well, the question is, “What should the card say to get people to recycle?” What hotels typically do is to say, “Do this for the environment” or “Do this for future generations” or “Cooperate with us toward this cause.” We put those cards in various hotels rooms around the Phoenix area where I live, and we found they all produce about the same level of compliance. But then we put a fourth card in the room that we had never seen any hotel use. It employs the principle of social proof, the idea that if a lot of other people are doing it, then it is the right thing to do.
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