Do's and Don'ts of video

This section of our knowledge base elaborates about video content in a broad sense: what works and what is possible? In this article: the Do's and Don'ts of video


1. Make the video intensely emotional
2. Focus on the emotion, not the creative device
3. Activate more positive than negative emotions
4. Fear appeal works, but only if it gets solved
5. Humor creates involvement, but beware of Schadenfreude
6. Make the brand integral
7. Let actors look at what’s important
8. Everything that moves attracts attention
9. Beware of conceptual closure
10. Come straight to the point
11. Keep it short and sweet
12. Be effective without sound
13. Use mental simulation
14. Always show the moment of pleasure
15. Match images and sounds
16. Be creative with the call to action
17. Facial expressions affect behaviour
18. Communicate the right social standard
19. Be aware of principles of social persuasion

1. Make the video intensely emotional

It is not enough to make viewers smile, you have to let them roar with laughter. Research shows that there is a direct link between the intensity of the emotion perceived by viewers when they watch a video and their intention to share the advertising, to review it again and to buy the discussed product (see bullit points).

Emotional videos generate stronger memory structures in our brains. That is why it is important to pay a lot of attention to the emotions that you want the viewer to feel, and how you make them as intense as possible. Because then viewers will remember your video content earlier and act accordingly.

  • According to a Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience study, emotional advertisements (ads with an above-average EEG score) result in a 23% increase in turnover.
  • According to the Field, IPA and Gunn Report 'Selling Creativity Short', emotional expressions are 10 times more efficient than non-emotional commercial expressions.
  • Binet and Field also conclude that expressions that provoke intense emotional reactions significantly increase the likelihood of business success compared to "rational" expressions.
  • Research by Unruly shows that emotional videos on average lead to an increase of 80% in purchase intent, 74% in brand preference and 15% in completion rate.

2. Focus on the emotion, not the creative device

Research shows that creative devices that you use in a video, such as famous people, babies, cats, music, and so on, do not individually determine how successful the video is. Adding a cat to a video will not make your video more successful. It is about whether the cat (or other creative device) can evoke an intense emotional response that builds memory structures in the mind of the viewer. So first think about the emotions, then the creative tools that can strengthen these emotions.

Besides emotions, use the power of audio, increasing pace and breaking the fourth wall to increase watch time. Also make sure, narration mirrors on-screen action. Otherwise it can distract viewer.

3. Activate more positive than negative emotions

According to an extensive neurological research by Neurensics, the most effective commercials generate positive brain reactions, such as desire, expectation and credibility. These commercials are the most capable to activate consumers (orientation and purchasing behavior). This conclusion is the result of analyzing brain activity while watching hundreds of video ads that have proven their sales value (Effie-winners). This created a neural pattern of effective commercials, a sort of benchmark. 

Zooming in on buying emotions, effective advertising focuses mainly on the positive emotion of desire rather than making an impact by creating attention and novelty. The research also shows that Effie-winners are a lot less loud/noisy than amusing commercials (Gouden Loekie-winners) or irritating commercials (Loden Leeuw-winners).

Effective ads also succeed in making the brain believe that using the product in question will generate a strong rewarding feeling.

After analyzing how our brain responds to hundreds of commercials Neurensics concludes that the balance of positive and negative emotions is what matters in the end.

It should clearly lean towards positive. A reward works better than punishment, so it appears. Or as parents of children have known for a long time: by rewarding you can change behavior in a desired direction. With penalties you can mainly ensure that certain behavior is not shown.

Watch the two versions of this Kärcher commercial and experience how crucial the balance of positive and negative brain reaction is. The short (20") version of this Kärcher commercial has a better positive and negative ratio than the longer (30"). And is therefore more effective!

4. Fear appeal works, but only if it gets solved

We already wrote that an effective commercial activates more positive than negative emotions. Does this mean that you can never use negative emotions in an advertisement? The commercial below shows that we must answer this question with 'no'. In fact, positive emotions can become stronger, if a negative emotion precedes it (contrast-effect).

This Febreze-commercial, which won a Effie (prize for effectiveness) in the US, starts with a problem. But the video ad ends with a solution.

This expression is a classic example of the so-called Fear-appeal. The generated fear is used to achieve the desired behavior. Essential for this strategy is that the negative feeling can easily be solved by the viewer.

In the beginning of the commercial, fear and aversion are generated by the dirty images of the waste container. Then Febreze offers the solution, namely by praising (not entirely surprising) Febreze. In the temporal results (see second video), in which the balance of positive and negative emotions is shown, the course of this mechanism is clearly visible (0-line is neutral and everything above it positive, everything below it negative).

The commercial starts out neutral, but quickly activates negative emotions. Then the solution is shown, we see a happy user and the guests can appreciate the fine smell.

We also see a dip at the end of the commercial. This has to do with conceptual closure. Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Febreze, decided to add another product at the end of the commercial. However, this is a hard break of the story we saw before, so the viewer needs a long time to process and save the information. This creates a drop in attention and an increase in fear, because the viewer is temporarily confused.

Procter & Gamble often uses Fear appeals in their advertisements. And almost always in the same way: induce fear or negative feelings at the beginning and then solve this in the same commercial with positive feelings that transcend the negative. Scientific publications show that the second step (solving the problem with positive feelings) is essential for the operation of the technique. Febreze understands exactly how this works, and with the fear of dirty smells makes it possible to activate their promise: 'Breathe happy'.

5. Humor creates involvement, but beware of Schadenfreude

Analysis of funny commercials (Gouden Loekie-winners, that we’re chosen by viewers) shows that these are often based on failure, shock or problems with the main characters. Just take a look at the two examples.

Malicious pleasure, or Schadenfreude, as the Germans say, is the basis of a lot of humor. It makes us laugh. The failure of another attracts attention on the one hand and on the other makes us laugh. This happens regularly in the context of advertising.

fMRI tests show that this type of commercials mainly elicits negative brain reactions as danger, fear, shock or disgust among viewers: the brain cannot move around what it sees and reacts reflexively.

If you also show the solution for the suffering in a way that produces positive emotions (e.g. desire, expectation, credibility or added value / reward), there is little to it. As long as they are able to sufficiently compensate negative brain reaction. If this is not the case, then you will have a funny commercial, but brain reactions such as danger, fear or disgust will act as negative reïnforcers: viewers will avoid showing behavior that is linked to them.

So, Schadenfreude is not the best form of humor for a funny commercial: instead of 'approach' it leads to 'avoidance' response. We like it, but we wouldn’t want to be part of the situation shown! Other forms of humor, if functional (meaning: not only the joke is remembered), can indeed work.

6. Make the brand integral

It happens too often that you’ve seen the most beautiful (online) commercial, but can’t remember from which brand the ad actually was. A crying shame! Because if the viewer doesn’t know who the video is from, then they cannot make a connection between the brand and the emotions they feel. In fact, too little branding can also confuse viewers, because they try to find out who the video is about, rather than being transported by the emotions that the brand presents to them. In short: make the brand integral to the video. And preferably to the concept. So that the film no longer works for another brand.

Use big and clear logos to boost brand awareness. And keep in mind the visibility of brand on smart phones. Show logos and brand icons early on in the video. If a viewer stops watching your video – for instance after three quarters of the video - which is a good completion rate – and he didn’t see anything from your brand, it’s an missed opportunity. Ensure maximum exposure!

7. Let actors look at what’s important

By nature, we read the faces of actors who play in a commercial, we automatically look at the emotions they communicate. As babies we already learn to find out what the other person is planning or wants – even without words. Likewise, viewers at a commercial automatically follow the viewing direction of actors. This principle can be seen in the attached Mercedes-video ad.

You can use this principle to bring the viewers, in a natural way, to a specific image element, e.g. a product shot, a text or a brand name.

This also ensures focused attention, which means that the image element in question is even better processed. You can also use this principle well in an online environment. For example, by having a face look at a call-to-action button.

The man's viewing direction is being followed. He looks at the bottom left, where later the Essent logo is placed.

8. Everything that moves attracts attention

Eye tracking shows that, in a static image, the eye is automatically attracted by (fast) moving elements. You can use this to draw attention to something that you want to focus on, for example your product.

In the example of Oral B you will notice that your eye will remain fixed on the rotating brush as a result of which the surrounding text will receive less attention (see the central eye fixations, the red dots in this eye tracking analysis).

So take into account that movement can also distract views from what you want to show. How many people would still process the text "check" correctly in the outro of the Tele2 commercial?

9. Beware of conceptual closure

When looking at a commercial, the brain will automatically try to divide it into compartments. This is necessary in order to be able to process and store information quickly. Conceptual closures are called the transitions that arise this way. This can happen at the end of a TVC (e.g. after a 'punch-line'), but also during the video. For example, due to a changing environment: a just married couple gets together in a car driving away (engine noise). Then we see how they sit with a baby in the garden years later.

Other transitions, e.g. in music, background color or characters, also contribute to the formation of a conceptual closure. In short, everything that makes the brain suspect that a story might end. At the moment of conceptual closure, the brain literally has to switch: the previous scene is closed (and saved) and it jumps to the new context. However brief and unconscious this effort is, this means that the attention temporarily weakened: this 'attention drop' typically lasts 1-2 seconds.

The clearer the conceptual closure, the stronger the 'conceptual closure' and the resulting attention drop. If you share important information in this short period, it will certainly not reach the viewer! Typical consequences are e.g. not being able to follow a storyline, or a bad brand linkage (brand logo directly after a punch line). 

An example of conceptual closure can be seen in the commercial below. Take a good look at what happens from 15 seconds. After we see Hazes performing at different venues we go back to the party. Then we see - in chronological order and in quick succession - the neighbor who talks unclearly - Hazes - solar panels - app – Hazes and then the neighbor. Scan results showed a low score on Attention and a high score on Fear - this combination indicates that the conceptual closure caused uncertainty. This transition was adjusted later on the basis of neuro research.

So make sure that the first two seconds after a clear conceptual closure does not contain information that is essential for following the storyline or the effectiveness of your commercial! Make sure the viewer has time to process separate scenes / messages with quiet transitions, so that our brain does not lose attention.

10. Come straight to the point

Do you have an important message? Tell it immediately. The first three seconds make or break the success of a video. So capture attention early on. Integrate compelling images and cool content in the first seconds. Make for an explosive and impressive intro, because your video has to fight against countless others. The beginning should attract attention, pack the viewer with a strong message or beautiful images and immediately make clear what it is about. If you're going to talk about a bear, bring on the bear.

Creative concepts that lean on a 'big revelation' may work on television, because the audience is leaning back, but are counterproductive for online video. Leave aside the slowly constructive format of traditional storytelling and immediately provide added value or a catchy pay-off. Front-load your story arc.

Not convinced? Consider the time in which the average viewer decides whether a video is worth his while: 1.7 seconds on mobile, and a forgiving 2.5 seconds on a desktop.

11. Keep it short and sweet

70% of mobile users think the ideal length of a mobile video is 20 seconds maximum. And that applies to all age groups. When the viewer is further along the customer journey, video may often be longer because the viewer is more engaged. But still: the shorter the video, the greater the chance that the video will be completely viewed, and that all the information you provide to the viewer will be consumed.

12. Be effective without sound

It’s common nowadays to scroll through your feeds in public. Then it is very annoying when a video with sound automatically starts playing! At least, that is the opinion of 46% of Europeans who view mobile video ads. In fact, 73.9% of mobile viewers stop the video immediately if the sound is played automatically. Therefore it’s not surprising that 76% of mobile viewers want to have control over the sound of a video advertisement (Unruly Mobile Video Survey). And that 85% of the videos on Facebook are viewed without sound.

Have you ever thought about how hearing impaired people experience your online videos? It’s more important than you think! In the Netherlands alone there are 495.000 deaf people and people with severe hearing impairment. On a total of one and a half million hearing-impaired. That’s 8.7% of the population.

In short: make sure that your video content can also intensely inspire viewers without using a voice-over or music. That the message still lands! By using (smooth) image titles that summarize the message or by including subtitles in the film. Did you know that subtitling can extend the viewing time by 12%? By making subtitling descriptive, your video can be better understood without sound. Think of describing the kind of (background) music that plays, important ambient sounds or the intonation of a voice, such as joy, panic, et cetera.

13. Use mental simulation

Research shows that when we see someone consuming something, that behavior is mirrored in our brain. A 'mental simulation' takes place in our brains. This happens even if we see a product or object that is not used but that we can use (such as a cup of tea). But generally speaking, the clearer the behavior is shown, the easier the simulation.

An example comes from the research Neurensics did for Smint. The moving storyboard below was shown to the respondents in the MRI scanner. The video shows an applicant getting a fresh feeling after taking a Smintje and then entering the room for his job interview full of self-confidence. The fMRI examinations showed that the moment someone gets a fresh feeling after taking a Smint should be communicated very clearly, perhaps even a little exaggerated, because of mental simulation.

Mental simulation ensures that your brain imitates the experience of taking a Smintje. This boosts involvement, but it also activates positive feelings that are associated with this. A little later in the storyboard we see that the man enters the room full of self-confidence in which the job interview will take place. This also makes it possible to activate positive emotions, because the good feeling of regained self-confidence is mirrored. The joke at the end of the moving storyboard, where the man slips down in his seat, was removed. It was supposed to be funny, but it actually gave the feeling that the gained self convidence of the man was immediately brought down.

The process of mental simulation is automatic, often without us knowing. Research even showed differences in effectivity between ads that held a product in a left hand or in a right hand. Because more people are right handed the latter scored better on mental simulation and effectivity.

So, mental simulation, is a good way to make people - at a distance - virtually acquainted with a product or service. 

14. Always show the moment of pleasure

Advertising is intended to introduce people to the advertised product or service. But how do you ensure that people become sufficiently motivated to use a product or service? Research based on more than 50,000 MRI scans gives us the answer: through the good feeling that arises after a product (or service) is consumed.

Let’s compare two coffee-commercials. One for Nespresso, one for Douwe Egberts. Let's start with the first mentioned.

There are several things going well in this Nespresso advertisement:

  • The look and feel of the video signals status and luxury.
  • George Clooney as the ambassador of Nespresso. Men want to be him, women want to be with him.
  • The cup of coffee is nicely filmed; we see a small drop in the cup and then bounce back.

Everything ensures that you feel like drinking a cup of Nespresso. And then we see the woman at the end of the commercial enjoying, in the setting sun, her cup of coffee.

fMRI results show that the advertising activates an above-average desire, expectation, but also a direct reward.

Then, let's take a look at Douwe Egberts. A sympathetic story, that's for sure. But the commercial is actually a few seconds too short. The advertising stops just when the father wants to enjoy his coffee. As a result, the good feeling that must result from the use of Douwe Egberts is not activated. Brain data comfirms this: unlike the Nespresso-commercial - the Douwe Egberts ad wasn’t able to activates those positive emotions.

If the feeling that must result from a product or service experience is not communicated, then this has a negative influence on the pleasure areas in the mind of the viewer. And it is precisely these areas that are largely responsible for consumer behavior.

The learning is clear: always ask yourself how your product or service should give the user a sense of reward or pleasure, and make sure that you show that in advertising.

15. Match images and sounds

The fact that a lot of users watch without sound, doesn’t mean it isn’t important. It can make a huge difference, knowing that emotions drive our actions.

While watching a commercial you see visual input and hear voices of actors, background sounds and music at the same time. The brain can quickly process all this input if these elements form a 'whole' - a context that can be easily remembered. For example, a commercial for a luxurious armchair with a protagonist who talks in a relaxed tone of voice, while we hear trees rustling in the background and a soothing music.

Auditory information is processed and stored separately, except when the voice seamlessly matches what we see. The OHRA-commercial is a good example. Watch the first version.

At the end of the video we hear the voice-over say "with OHRA health insurance, you choose who treats you ... and who does not." This is matched with images. We see the (unwanted) doctor appear and with the words "... and who does not," we see an empty chair. The protagonist has left. So far nothing wrong.

Then the commercial jumps to a screen with only text, saying: “Vrije zorgkeuze. Altijd. Overal.” Best translated into: "Freedom of healthcare choice. Always. Everywhere." However, we don’t see this in images. The last image that lingers is that of an empty chair: with the health insurance of OHRA you can therefore leave when you want, but the free choice-part itself is not in the picture.

fMRI data showed that this TVC is fun (humor), but generates little desire. No Value is triggered (the rewarding feeling that’s triggered by showing someone using the product or service) Both ensure a diminishing effectiveness in terms of behavioral influence.

Based on this results an add on was created as shown in Version 2 of the commercial. This makes the messages much clearer.

So remember: images that strengthen the voice and vice versa ensure the strongest effect in our brain. Other sounds, music for example, should also match the imagery. If the music in the background doesn’t emotionally and associatively fits the concept, it’s less effective in our brain. For example, imagine a Greek commercial for Ouzo with Greek folk music in the back ground. No replace the Greek music for a random song of Andre Hazes.

16. Be creative with the call to action

Show strong call to actions at the beginning and the end of the video. If you only show it at the end, you will miss the viewers who drop out earlier. Make sure the call to action (CTA) lands. Make the CTA visually attractive and auditory! Attention is fleeting, so ensure the viewer remembers your call to action by mentioning it again in voiceovers or supers.

Be clear and direct on what you want people to do, whether that’s clicking out to your brand’s website, watching another video, or visiting a local store. And do not forget to emphasize the CTA in the copy that accompanies the video.

17. Facial expressions affect behaviour

Over the years, a lot of research has been done into subliminal influence. This is the influencing of the subconscious to affect a person's behavior. We now know that it works. But not always. Only under the right conditions; if the recipient is already open to the idea of using the product.

In 2014 Smarandescu and Shimp published a study into subliminal influence that revolved around two sports drinks: Powerade and Gatorade. Subjects were given the name Powerade subliminal, and then had to complete a questionnaire (again). Thirsty subjects got much more use in Powerade after subliminal influencing.

Then the subjects were allowed to take two snacks and a drink (of course Powerade or Gatorade) afterwards - at least, they thought the experiment had already ended. The snacks and drinks were in a rack, with which the researchers had tried to imitate a canteen setup. If test subjects had to choose within five minutes after the experiment, after seeing 'Powerade' subliminal, that drink was clearly taken off the shelf more quickly. But when test subjects were offered fifteen minutes after the experiment to select snacks and drinks, the effect of the subliminal message had already disappeared.

So, sometimes subliminal influence does indeed work. For example, when showing facial expressions subliminal. If you make two variants of a commercial, where in the first video you sometimes install frames with positive facial expressions and in the second film negative facial expressions (see images), then the latter also actually provokes slightly more negative emotions.

Subliminal influence is prohibited in many countries. In the Netherlands the Advertising Code stipulates that influencing technology is not accepted as well. But that doesn’t change the fact that faces and emotional expressions - without us being aware of it - have a direct influence on the emotions of the viewer. We become happy when we see happy people because of our mirror neurons. That goes to show, how social animals we really are.

A great example of this mechanism can be seen in the video. This local stunt was part of the Belgian “choose happiness” campaign of The Coca-Cola Company. With the insight "happiness starts with a smile" the main character turns moody subway faces into smiling ones!

1.Frame of positive facial expressions 2.Frame of negative facial expressions

18. Communicate the right social standard

In the video below you see the commercial of Blokker, which was broadcast on Dutch television in 2016. In the advertising, Sarah Jessica Parker, the actress known of Sex and the City, gives a product demonstration of stuff that you can buy at the Blokker. Can you spot what’s wrong with it?

Blokker's ad has been investigated with fMRI research by Neurensics, to find out whether the right balance of positive and negative emotions is activated (the neural pattern of effectiveness). The results from the brain examination were very clear; the commercial is not able to activate the areas in the brain that are important for buying behavior. The commercial creates mistrust but also, much more important, too many negative emotions: danger and aversion.

Eyetracking research provided more insight into the cause of those strong feelings of danger and aversion. When viewing video people always look at other people, and then mainly at their faces. This Blokker commercial is no exception and that’s exactly the problem: the behavior of Sarah Jessica Parker is consistently rejected by everyone in the commercial. Just take a look at the screenshots of the facial expressions of the people to whom the actress shows the products of Blokker.

All disapproving looks. Who thereby dislike, but also activate danger in the mind of the viewer. What these looks are basicly saying: I don’t trust you, Blokker and the products you can buy there. The commercial is basicly one big product demonstration in which everybody disapproves the product.

From this research, but also from many other social psychological studies, it becomes clear how great the impact is of the people around us. Our behavior is strongly determined by the good or disapproval of others. In this Blokker commercial the wrong social norm is communicated: the products that Sarah Jessica Parker displays are unanimously rejected. This has a strong negative influence on the effectiveness of the video ad.

This example shows how important it is to communicate that your product or service is approved by the social environment. So, always show the desired behavior (Sarah Jessica Parker who is happy with Blokker products), and then allow bystanders in the film to respond positively. This increases the likelihood that the viewer will copy this behaviour.

19. Be aware of principles of social persuasion

Advertising is meant to create memories (engrams/memory traces in our brains), to generate feelings and to motivate people to take action. This goes wrong more often than well, which means that the ad is ignored or even actively avoided.

How do you ensure that someone cares? Is there a way to ensure that you strike the right chord with your audience and they become sufficiently motivated?

One of the most basic human drivers is that we do everything to be socially accepted. At the same time, we try to prevent social rejection. Robert Cialdini has defined 7 principles of persuasion around this idea.

Robert Cialdini is an American professor of marketing and psychology. In 1984 he wrote his world-famous book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This book gives strategies how people can be influenced:

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

Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first. In other words: if we give something to somebody else then we usually get paid back with a reciprocal service. But also the other way around: when we take something, we are socially obliged to give something back.

And in the context of a social obligation people are more likely to say yes to those who they owe. Examples of this that work very well are, for example, business gifts. With online marketing, this is applied by, for example, giving persons who first come to the website a ten euro discount. 
One of the best demonstrations of the Principle of Reciprocity comes from a series of studies conducted in restaurants. In the study, giving diners a single mint at the end of their meal typically increased tips by around 3%. Interestingly, if the gift is doubled and two mints are provided, tips quadruple (14% increase).

But perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that if the waiter provides one mint, starts to walk away from the table, but pauses, turns back and says, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint,” tips go through the roof: a 23% increase influenced not by what was given, but how it was given. So the key to using the Principle of Reciprocity is to be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.

In the video campaign by the Nierstichting (Kidney Foundation) the principle of reciprocity was successfully used. Just look at the face of the man when he realizes he wants to make use of something social (a donor), but does not give anything for it (donorship).

In addition of creating awareness for the problem, the aim was to motivate people to sign up as an organ donor. The campaign was a big success, according to research. Among the people who saw the video 6,5% registered as an organ donor. In the group of people who didn’t saw the video, only 1,5% registered. So more than 4 times the amount of people were motivated to register after seeing the campaign.

Reciprocity can also be applied for commercial objectives. The gum brand Extra has even won an Effie (price for effectiveness) in the US (see video).

MRI scans by Neurensics show a very positive score. The commercial activates a lot of lust, expectation and value. And at the same time the negative emotions are very low.

2. Scarcity

Simply put, people want more of those things they can have less of.

When British Airways announced in 2003 that they would no longer be operating the twice daily London - New York Concorde flight because it had become uneconomical to run, sales the very next day took off. Notice that nothing had changed about the Concorde itself. It certainly didn’t fly any faster, the service didn’t suddenly get better, and the airfare didn’t drop. It had simply become a scarce resource. And as a result, people wanted it more.

So when it comes to effectively persuading others using the Scarcity Principle, the science is clear. It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they choose your products and services. You’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal.

Smart marketeers use this principle to deliberately creating scarcity. One way to do this is for example selective distribution. If you could by a Rolex at the gas station, it would no longer be special to have. But if you have to go to that fancy street with expensive shops, this gives more status and people will become greedy.

Another strategy is to tell that the product is selling very well, and that it can be sold out soon. To give an online example: shows the number of rooms available and the amount of people currently viewing this offer.

3. Authority 

This is the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.

Physiotherapists, for example, are able to persuade more of their patients to comply with recommended exercise programs if they display their medical diplomas on the walls of their consulting rooms. People are more likely to give change for a parking meter to a complete stranger if that requester wears a uniform rather than casual clothes.

What the science is telling us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt. Think of quality marks on websites, or results from consumer organization.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t even matter if the person who introduces you is not only connected to you but also likely to prosper from the introduction themselves. One group of real estate agents was able to increase both the number of property appraisals and the number of subsequent contracts that they wrote by arranging for reception staff who answered customer enquiries to first mention their colleagues’ credentials and expertise. So, customers interested in letting a property were told “Lettings? Let me connect you with Sandra, who has over 15 years’ experience letting properties in this area.” Customers who wanted more information about selling properties were told “Speak to Peter, our head of sales. He has over 20 years’ experience selling properties. I’ll put you through now.”

The impact of this expert introduction led to a 20% rise in the number of appointments and a 15% increase in the number of signed contracts. Not bad for a small change in form from persuasion science that was both ethical and costless to implement.

4. Consistency

People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. They take the next step easier once they have taken the first step.

Consistency is activated by looking for, and asking for, small initial commitments that can be made. In famous study, researchers found rather unsurprisingly that very few people would be willing to put an unsightly wooden board on their front lawn to support a Drive Safely campaign in their neighborhood.

However, in a similar neighborhood close by, four times as many homeowners indicated that they would be willing to erect this unsightly billboard. Why? Because ten days previously, they had agreed to place a small postcard in the front window of their homes that signaled their support for a Drive Safely campaign. That small card was the initial commitment that led to a 400% increase in a much bigger but still consistent change.

This principle is often used in online marketing. To make a purchase you only need to enter your name, making ordering very accessible. To finalize the order, you still have to enter your address details. Chances are that now more people will order than if you first ask for all the data at the beginning of the ordering process. The same thing often happens with shipping costs.

5. Liking

People prefer to say yes to those that they like.

But what causes one person to like another? Persuasion science tells us that there are three important factors. We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

As more and more of the interactions that we are having take place online, it might be worth asking whether these factors can be employed effectively in, let’s say, online negotiations.

In a series of negotiation studies carried out between MBA students at two well-known business schools, some groups were told, “Time is money. Get straight down to business.” In this group, around 55% were able to come to an agreement.

A second group however, was told, “Before you begin negotiating, exchange some personal information with each other. Identify a similarity you share in common then begin negotiating.” In this group, 90% of them were able to come to successful and agreeable outcomes that were typically worth 18% more to both parties.

So to harness this powerful principle of liking, be sure to look for areas of similarity that you share with others and genuine compliments you can give before you get down to business.

6. Social Proof 

Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own.

You may have noticed that hotels often place a small card in bathrooms that attempt to persuade guests to reuse their towels and linens. Most do this by drawing a guest’s attention to the benefits that reuse can have on environmental protection. It turns out that this is a pretty effective strategy, leading to around 35% compliance. If you included the information on the card that 75% of hotel guests reuse their towels during their stay, towel reuse rises by 33%.

The science is telling us that rather than relying on our own ability to persuade others, we can point to what many others are already doing, especially many similar others.

7. Unity

The more we perceive people are part of “us” the more likely we are to be influenced by them. It refers to a shared identity that both the influencer and influencee are part of. The most powerful manifestation of unity is being in the same family. People go to great lengths, even risking their lives, to help genetically close relatives. Cialdini shows how you can use family-driven unity, even when you are trying to influence people who aren’t your own relatives.

In one of his college classes, Cialdini wanted to compare attitudes of students and their parents by having both fill out questionnaires. Student compliance was always very high, but parents typically responded at a far lower rate, often below 20%.

One small tweak to the assignment increased the parent response rate to 97%. Cialdini said he would give the students an extra point on one test if their parents completed the survey. One point on one test in a semester-long course is an inconsequential benefit. It would be unlikely to have any impact at all on the student’s final grade. But by invoking the concept of helping a family member, Cialdini increased the response rate fivefold, from poor to nearly perfect.

By using family-related language, you can invoke the effect in a powerful way. A great example revolves around Warren Buffet. A big concern of investors has always been what happens to Buffett’s firm, Berkshire Hathaway, when he’s no longer in charge. In a particularly important letter to shareholders regarding succession plans, Buffett wrote, “I will tell you what I would say to my family today if they asked me about Berkshire’s future.” With that language, Cialdini says, Buffett was highly convincing because he said he was advising readers in the same way he would advise a family member.

You can do the same thing. For example, you might say, “Here’s what I’d advise my children to do…” Naturally, you could use words like “sister,” “parents,” etc. depending on the age and situation of your influence targets.

Sometimes, even simple language tweaks make a difference. Cialdini describes market research for a new fast-casual restaurant concept called Splash! Consumers were shown a description of the concept and were then asked for feedback. But, the exact language varied – a survey taker might be asked for feedback, advice, opinions, or expectations. Those asked for “advice” were significantly more likely to answer positively. The term advice made people even recommend it more quickly. So, asking for advice put the survey-takers in a “togetherness” frame of mind. They were helping create the new concept, not just commenting on it.

Another way to put the principle of unity to use is co-creation. People who are involved in the creation of something feel better about it. Their self, to some degree, is merging with their creation. This is what IKEA does so brilliantly.

Did this answer your question? Thanks for the feedback There was a problem submitting your feedback. Please try again later.

Still need help? Contact Us Contact Us