Monday, July 17, 2017

The Hidden Presuaders

Vance Packard's 1957 best-seller The Hidden Persuaders convinced Americans that midcentury admen were gobbling up CIA-sponsored research studies and using the results to prey on consumers' frail and listless minds.

The title's "hidden persuaders" referred to
subliminal messages, which Packard insisted made midcentury ads irresistible.

Cynical admen were embedding lurid words and racy images in ads for things like laundry detergents, cars, whiskies and cigarettes, in order to trigger customers' Freudian desires for pleasure, he claimed.

Ad agencies, Congress and the FCC scoffed at the idea, but the reading public embraced it.

Everybody loves a conspiracy, as Freud would say.

Flash forward 70 years and Robert Cialdini's best-seller Pre-Suasion provides a new generation of marketers the ammo they need to prey on customers.

Pre-suasion is a technique for gaining agreement with a message before it’s sent. 

Drawing on hundreds of social science studies, Cialdini makes two principal arguments:
  1. To persuade a customer to make a certain choice, the marketer must first trigger a mental association that implies "change is good;" and

  2. The factor most likely to determine the customer's choice is the one a marketer elevates in attention moments before the decision.
According to Cialdini:
  • To get a customer to like you, first hand her a warm drink.

  • To get a customer to help you, first ask her if she considers herself a helpful person.

  • To get a customer to try your untested product, first ask if she loves adventure.

  • To get a customer to buy a popular product, first show her a scary movie.

  • To get a customer to buy an expensive product, first ask her to write down a number higher than the product's price.

  • To get a customer to think about your proposal, first show her a photo of Rodin's The Thinker.

  • To get a customer to buy French wine, play French music as she enters the store.
"The key moment is the one that allows a communicator to create a state of mind in recipients that is consistent with the forthcoming message," Cialdini says. It’s the moment in which we can arrange for others to be attuned to our message before they encounter it."

DO YOU KNOW? Movie-goers were traumatized when The Exorcist premiered in 1973. Many fainted, vomited, and fled from theaters in the middle of the picture. That's because William Friedkin laced the film with horrific subliminal images.
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