The Power of Cialdini's Six Principles Of Influence

The power to influence others is an important aspect of being able to communicate with clients in a business setting, offer helpful marketing advice, engage consumers, and create successful campaigns. Influencing others can help build momentum for ideas to grow. Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence provide a framework for increasing your ability to change the perceptions of others and actions you want for them to take. We reference these principles when evaluating creative and copy, as well as program and campaign ideation. Each principle has been validated with social experiments which we’ve summarized below. 1. Reciprocity We feel indebted to others who give us favors. If you give first, your intentions seem pure and the other is more likely to reciprocate.

  • Social experiment: Respondents to a marketing survey were invited to participate with different variations of sticky notes. One-third of the notes included a handwritten message, 1/3 of the notes were blank, and 1/3 of the respondent did not receive a note.
  • Results: The handwritten written note strongly outperformed the other versions with a 69% completion rate, the blank note had a 43% completion rate, and respondents who didn’t receive a note had a 34% completion rate. The personalized sticky note influenced survey respondents more than a generic request to participate.
2. Commitment & Consistency Individuals are more likely to commit to something after a verbal or written agreement has been made. As humans, we subconsciously strive for consistency with our commitments. Age matters. The older we get, the more we value consistency and the harder it is to change.
  • Social experiment: Potential voters were asked the night before Election Day whether or not they would vote the next day and reasons why or why they would not vote. One-hundred percent of the people asked said they would vote after asked.
  • Results: Eighty-seven percent of those who were asked the previous day went to vote, but only 61% of those not asked to vote submitted a ballot. A verbal commitment influenced the actions of voters more than the open-ended request.
 3. Social Proof We rely on our peers to guide our decisions and actions. Simply put, we feel safer in numbers. The ease of sharing information through social channels further perpetuates our desire to compare our daily activities and preferences with others.
  • Social experiment: A hotel in Arizona tested which types of signs would most encourage visitors to reuse towels throughout their stay. Four variations of sign messaging were tested: (1) environmental reasons to reuse towels; (2) future promise of energy savings donation to local cause; (3) previous total donation given to local cause; and (4) majority of guests reuse towels.
  • Results: The last message performed best with 48% of towel reuse participation. It shows the actions and perceptions of cohorts influence our decisions more than other rational.
4. Liking Individuals are more likely to favor others who are physically attractive, similar to themselves, or people who give them compliments. We are more likely to take direction from others who we like and know.
  • Social experiment: A market research survey was distributed and signed by a person whose name was similar or dissimilar to the names of recipients.
  • Results: 56% of the surveys signed with similar names were returned filled out and only 30% of those with dissimilar names were returned. People were more likely to fill out the survey if it was signed by someone seemingly familiar.
 5. Authority People are more likely to listen to others who seem important or command authority whether this is through credentials like job title or ownership of material goods that highlight success. Individuals want to follow the lead of real experts and the appearance of authority will likely increase the number of those who actually follow.
  • Social experiment: Ordinary people were asked to shock “victims” if the victims answered a question incorrectly. Those in charge of the experiment wore lab coats that inferred authority when they were really just average people themselves.
  • Results: Two-thirds of the participants ignored the screams of the victims and continued to shock them per the “doctors’” instructions. Despite the emotional and physical mayhem they were causing, participants felt obligated to carry out the instructions of those in authority.
6. Scarcity Scarcity represents a relationship between supply and demand, the less there is of something, the more valuable it becomes.
  • Social experiment: Coca-Cola switched from their traditional formula to a newer, sweeter “New Coke” formula. They then held a taste test for the two versions.
  • Results: Of the Blind testers, 55% preferred New Coke. Of the Non-blind testers, 61% preferred New Coke. The 6% increase between the Non-blind and the Blind tasters shows that they when the consumer knows they have something with limited availability, their desire for it will increase. When Coca-Cola replaced Old Coke with New Coke the traditional flavor became preferred.
Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence, when used in a genuine and truthful manner, empower people to change the perceptions and behaviors of others. These principles create especially effective advertising proven to activate consumers and drive direct response.  

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