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By yiyun on March 15, 2016
What is psychology? Well, in layman terms, it’s basically the study of human beings. This includes their thought processes as well as their physical behavior. The field of psychology is designed to study us; and so, surely enough, there is something to learn about marketing.
Marketing and psychology often go hand in hand. Every time you browse through a website, there are certain elements implemented by marketers to subtly ‘push’ you in a certain direction. Be it a big opt-in button or simply just UI/UX, a good marketer should know how to use these hacks.
If you’re in for some quick learning, you’re in luck!
It all started with Robert Cialdini. He came up with the Theory of Influence. In his book titled ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, he listed 6 key principles of influence. The 6 principles were written around 1984, however, his theory can still be applicable to online marketing today! And I’m going to show you how.
As for the theory itself, Cialdini listed 6 key principles of influencing people. Just as Spiderman said it, with great power comes great responsibility, what I’m telling you should be used ethically. Now, without further ado, if you could master these 6 key principles, you’ll be on your way to be an influencer (pun intended).
Here’s an infographic before we dive into things.
Now that you’ve got a basic idea, let’s move on to the first key principle of influence.
Reciprocity, as the principle suggests, represents a cycle of giving and receiving. This was built upon the idea that people tends to return favors. Say you buy your colleague a cup of coffee today, if the math is right, your colleague will appreciate the effort, and maybe even reciprocate the favor.
In online marketing, this strategy is not unheard of. What marketers do to exploit this, is to start the circle of giving and receiving, by giving first. Let’s look at Spotify. Spotify is an online video, music, and podcast streaming service, but it isn’t free. What Spotify does is that it gives you a time period where you can use their services for free, and when the time is up, they hope you have enjoyed Spotify and continue supporting them.
This works for Spotify for two reasons. One, they started the giving first, and going along with the principle of reciprocity, their customers will be more likely to support them back. Another reason is that people are consistent in their behaviors and commitment. Keep this in mind, it’ll be in the second principle.
What you can do:
People are usually consistent in their behaviors, what this means is that, if I have gotten used to eating an apple a day, I will be eating apples a day for quite a long time. What Cialdini drew from this is the principle of commitment and consistency. People are more likely to be committed if it is consistent with what they’re already doing.
Cialdini did an experiment on this. He gave two groups of people a hideous and big sign to put up on their front lawn that reads ‘Drive Safe’. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to do it. However, the results were 17% agreed to put up the sign in Group A, while a whopping 76% agreed to put up the sign in Group B. What changed that?
Cialdini had a secret, he knew what has to be done to change people’s perception. The secret was that he had everyone in Group B put up a small window sticker that reads ‘Drive Safe’. That’s it! Cialdini wanted Group B to identify themselves as an advocate for driving safely, and subsequently, 76% of participants in Group B didn’t mind the giant ugly sign on their front lawn anymore.
What you can do:
Imagine this, you want to get a coffee maker; so you go to Amazon.com, and searched for a coffee maker. What would be a good indicator of a good product, if you were to buy it online? This is what social proof is all about.
Social proofs are like footprints on the floor, when you see footprints on a snowy day, you’d know someone was here; and that it’s safe to follow the footprints too.
Marketers exploit this all the time. Facebook is a great platform to use the principle of social proof.
Facebook takes into considerations of likes and comments for news feed ranking. A post with a huge number of likes and comments may be ranked higher for that reason.
Seeing a post on Facebook with more than 500,000 likes and comments is, sure enough, social proof that the post is viral.
What you can do:
Authority is a little more straightforward. People get influenced by authority figures. Whoa, I’m going to back off a little here. What I meant was that authority figures have the power to convince people easier, as compared to someone who is not an authority figure.
There are two ways marketers use this to influence you. One is when they hire an already authority figure, or; Two, they built themselves up and be the authority figure.
If you’re planning on using an authority figure, you just gotta make sure it’s compatible. For example, if McDonald’s’ is choosing Matt Cutts as their authority figure, it’ll be totally out of place.
The other alternative is you build yourself to the authority figure. It may sound hard, but psychologist Stanley Milgram may disagree. His famous controversial experiment on obedience showed that people are willing to hurt other people just because someone with authority said so (no actual damage was done, it was all an act).
But the takeaway point from the experiment was that it doesn’t take much to be the authority figure. It only took a while lab coat and a clipboard for participants to identify the authority figure in the experiment.
What you can do:
If you wondering if you could influence people’s liking, you’re in the right place! According to psychologists, there are 3 elements to consider for attraction: similarity, proximity and physical attractiveness. Ultimately, people like it when they like the person selling something to them.
People like things that are similar to them. I’m not saying if you fancy a toaster, you have to be one. In marketing, it’s more along the lines of your marketing strategy syncing with your customer’s expectations. Take Subway for an example, they’re a fast food chain, but their slogan reads ‘Eat Fresh’. Subway is then appealing to crowds who enjoy fast food but wanted something healthier. Subway’s slogan is similar to their customer’s expectations in that way.
Next, we move on to proximity. As the name suggests, proximity is all about distance. The nearer you are, the higher chance of people liking you. In online marketing, distance doesn’t really come into play, what I meant was, online presence. If you could establish your online presence everywhere (which would be cool, but unachievable) on the internet, I can guarantee people will like you. The closest example is Google. Google is everywhere!
Lastly, it’s all about the looks; physical attractiveness. We like beautiful things., and that’s about it.
Wait.. that can’t be it. Right. In online marketing, the first thing your customer notices is your website, be it on social media platforms or a website itself. I’ve heard webmasters skimping on design because it isn’t important. Well buddy, wrong move. Attractiveness contributes to the overall liking of a brand or company. Never skimp on design.
What you can do:
On to the last key principle, Scarcity. Scarcity can be a very powerful tool for influence simply because of FOMO. FOMO is short for Fear of Losing Out, and we all share this fear. Scarcity plays into that, it taps into a deep understanding in us saying, ‘get it, or it’s gone’.
Scarcity is extremely useful when there are limited supplies. What happen when there’s no limited supply? Well, you create one. You see, the thing is, we are hardwired to associate low supply with a high demand. In a way, if something is running out, it means it has a demand for it; if it has a demand for it, it must be good! Using both social proofs as well as scarcity here.
What you can do:
I have listed all 6 key principles of influence. One key takeaway from this is that, whatever you’ve learned here, should be used ethically. The power of influence is a strong tool. Feel free to unleash your newly gained influential power!
Do you have any thoughts on the matter? Let me know down below in the comments section.
Updated: 9 April 2020