Are you making the most of your skilfully planned weapons of influence in your marketing communications?

Whilst on a recent holiday in Turkey it struck me that I had been a victim of the ‘weapons of influence’. During our visit we decided to treat ourselves to a visit to the local Hammam for a Turkish Bath experience.

The whole experience was amazing and highly recommended, but it reminded me of the sales and marketing tool of skilfully employing the weapons of influence as referred to by Robert B Cialdini in his book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’.

Maybe it was the effect of the sun, beautiful blue sky, stunning views of the Mediterranean sea or simply the totally chilled out feeling of wellbeing, but what started out as just the standard Turkish Bath treatment ended up with the complete works including a body massage and a larger bill than intended.

Trigger points

Cialdini writes about the animal world where Turkey mothers love and protect their young and yet all their good mothering is triggered in the main by the simple “cheep-cheep” sound of the young turkey chicks. Other factors such as appearance and smell are thought to play a much minor role. This trigger feature is displayed in other animals too, take the male Robin Red-breast who when faced with a simple batch of loose Robin Red-breast feathers will seek to attack the feathers assuming it to be an intruding bird.

These trigger points are not limited to animals and can be found in human behaviour too and can successfully be applied in marketing campaigns. Cialdini refers to a friend who was struggling to sell beautiful pieces of jewellery and after trying a number of sales tricks and ideas finally left a note for her head saleswoman with instructions to sell everything, price ½, hoping to cut her losses. When the owner returned to the store every article had been sold but to her amazement the employee had read the note as 2 and sold all at double the price.

Expensive is good

In a world where we are all faced with a multitude of information, messages, offers and stimuli it is not surprising that we adopt a number of shortcuts or automatic behaviours (rules of thumb) in order to avoid overload and to save time and energy in the choices and decisions we make.

Somewhere along the line many of us have adopted the standard principle or stereotype that price has become a trigger to suggest quality, in essence, expensive is good. Marketers and business strategists have learned to take advantage of these stereotypes and may use positioning strategy in bringing their offerings to the market.

The contrast principle

Another interesting concept is what Cialdini calls “the Contrast Principle”. This suggests a principle that affects the way we perceive the difference between two items (or products/services) when they are presented one after the other. If we were to lift a light item (a carpet tile) first and then a heavy item (a marble tile) we will perceive the second item to be even heavier than if we had lifted it alone without first trying the lighter one.

This principle is extended into the commercial world where sales people may be taught to present the expensive item first, so that when you have agreed to the purchase, the smaller add-on items which are less expensive seem almost insignificant in terms of cost (back to the Hammam experience).

Estate agents may choose to show prospects less desirable houses/apartments first so that when they show the property they really want to sell this appears even more attractive. Car dealers will wait for the price of the new car to be negotiated and agreed before suggesting one option after another of add-ons (tyre insurance, service contract), which to the buyer can then be seen as a much lower cost.

These principles can be applied across many markets, for example when the product sale has been confirmed and added-value bolt-ons such as maintenance contacts or care or service support may be introduced and perceived as a much smaller cost to pay. Are you making the most of your skilfully planned weapons of influence in your marketing communications?