Catalytic Thinking / Marketing Strategy

6 Principles of Influence and Persuasion

As marketers, we’re in the business of influence, persuasion and – dare I say it – behavioural change.

I’m going to share six principles with you which will tap into your consumers’ behaviour and make your marketing better (while also suggesting that these principles are good for community network marketing and your consumers’ social capital).

Before I do this, I’m going to be honest.  I didn’t think up the following list.


It’s actually taken from the notes I made at a presentation given by Dil Sidhu of the London Business School.  And his work grows out of the research of Professor Robert Cialdini.

(What I will tell you at the end will be all my own work though.  I promise).

The 6 Principles of Influence and Persuasion.

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Consensus
  6. Liking

That’s the list, now for my analysis…

Beginning at the beginning – reciprocity.  Giving is better than receiving.  We know this.

Giving brings a warm, fuzzy glow.

We like to feel warm and fuzzy.

However, on the flip side, reciprocity also deepens connections between individuals and can create a state wherein the other person feels duty bound to give something back.

Doorstep charity collectors are good at reciprocity.

They thrust a free welcome pack of keyrings, stickers, note paper into your hand before you’ve even signed something.

It’s also why charities direct mailing you for money include a free pen.

They give, you feel duty bound to repay (or have to suffer the cognitive dissonance later).

In the Community Network Model, giving is also a way to influence social capital and status.  The thought or size of the gift confers benefits to both the giver and the recipient.


I want it!

There’s only one left!

I must buy NOW!

Apple are the masters of this.

Every time they release a new gadget, queues form.  If you’re not at the front of the queue, they’ll have sold out before you get within sniffing distance of the check out.

This builds fever.  It builds fervour. It promotes competition and conversation.

The scarcity adds value beyond the ticket price – for the lucky few first customers, it confers huge social capital.

No-one else can tweet or blog about the new gadget if they haven’t got it.  No-one else can have it in their pocket.

It’s yours and it’s special because it’s limited.

Another approach, according to Dil, is to use loss framing as scarcity.  Don’t tell people that they’ll save £1 a day by doing something.  Tell them that they’ll lose £1 a day if they don’t (he had some cracking research suggesting a 350% increase in prospect conversions between the save/lose framings).


We know that authority sells and has done since the beginning of time.

Dentists shill toothpaste on TV (and who better to know?).

Celebrities hawk wares that must be good, because they say so (and their armies of fanboys/girls will buy them regardless).

I don’t need to ram this point home.

We all know it.

And we know that it works because of social capital.  And we know that social capital determines community hierarchy.

The ones who have it are at the top, the ones who don’t, aren’t.


This is where the list starts to get really, really interesting.

Dil’s suggestion is that if someone makes a public commitment – i.e. to lose weight – they are far more likely to stick to this commitment than if they’d made it privately.


Because they don’t want to be seen as flaky.  (My description, not his)

If you promise to do something publicly and then don’t, those around you will think that you’re unable to stick to your promises.

And guess what?  Yes, this influences your social capital.  Break promises, lose trust and social capital goes down.

There’s also the fact that public commitments influence others and, by being one of the first to make the commitment, you can increase social capital by being seen to be the leader of the pack.


What’s everyone else doing?

If the vast majority of society zigs and you zag, you’re going to have to deal with a good lashing of cognitive dissonance.

People like to go with the flow.  Individuals are influenced by the flow.

(And what influences the flow?  Authority figures.  Oh look, we’re back at social capital again).


People need to like you to trust you and give you authority.

If people don’t like you, then they’re much harder to influence – it’s better to obey through love than through fear and all that.

Unsurprisingly, we’re back at the social capital threshold again – if you’re liked you’re likely to have a lot more social capital than someone who is hated…

So what does all of this mean to us marketers?

This excellent list gives us the tools to examine all of our communications to understand how we can use emotional levers to change our prospects’ behaviours, and convert prospects into customers.

For us, this list translates into practical outcomes:

We need to build brands that act with authority which are consistent with our public promises and which give value (reciprocity) to our customers and prospects.

We must be likable, build our brands to develop consensus through normative behaviours and position ourselves so that we’re not a jack of all trades, but an answer to a very particular set of questions (thus scarcity) which will make our consumers’ lives better

But what does it mean for the customer?

OK, I’m terribly excited about this – because we, as marketers – can help our customers leverage these principles in their own lives.

We have the opportunity to build brands and products which enhance the social capital of our customers.

Every single entry on the six principles list comes back to social capital as I’ve shown.

If we develop empowering products and services, our customers will use them to achieve what they want to achieve, and elevate their status in their community.

We might empower someone to be the first to have the latest gizmo by being rewarded for being a subscriber.  We may empower them to share their good fortune in a meaningful way (the $100 challenge springs to mind). We could empower them to be the particular authority on any given topic, using the information that we have made available to them (Wikipedia as an empowering brand, anyone?).

You get the general drift.

Our needs and our customers’ needs aren’t very different.

If we boil all of this down into social capital, we both want it.

Brand recognition is social capital.  Who to ask for information in the office, is social capital.

We both want it, we can both share it.

The six principles give us a way to get it, to share it, and to profit from it.

Isn’t that exciting?

If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts about social capital and behavioural change, you’ll probably like the following posts:

Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.

Photo credit to Marie-ll over on Flickr.


One thought on “6 Principles of Influence and Persuasion

  1. Pingback: SOCIAL CAPITAL AND ME: HOOKED! « Fairy Godsister's Blog

So - what did you think? Love it? Loathe it? Have something to add? Well, what are you waiting for?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s