Digital marketing

Marketing principles: The psychology of persuasion, part 2

- September 11, 2006 2 MIN READ

Both this and my previous article on the psychology of persuasion are a must-read for anyone who is developing marketing principles and is interested in understanding why we do the things we do!

Both articles refer to the work of Robert B. Cialdini and his landmark book Influence Science and Practice.

In part one, I covered three of the six basic principles of psychology that direct human behaviour, namely:

  • Reciprocation
  • Consistency
  • Social Proof

Now let’s take a look at the remaining three.


Life is all about relationships. Relationships, personal or professional, stand a far higher chance of long term success if you like each other. We do business with people we like.

Be someone you would like to be around. Have fun, laugh, be polite, friendly and optimistic and you’ll be surprised how people will warm to you. And if people like you they will listen to you and if they listen they may hear what you have to say.


This is the sort of power a doctor wields as soon as he enters a room in his crisp white coat. We place a huge weight on information from an authority figure. There is a level of trust that is given to authority figures that seems to even bypass the individual’s need to validate that authority.

We are so accustomed to listening and responding to people of authority, and are therefore far more susceptible to influence from an authority figure.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  business marketing section.

Marketers have used this to great effect by getting celebrity endorsement or testimonials from either perceived or real “experts” in the field.

For example health supplements may be endorsed by a famous athlete and accompanied by a testimonial from a leading nutritionist. So where you have testimonials, often you will see one from someone “just like you” – to assure you that you are making the right choice (social proof) and also another testimonial from an authority figure which activates this innate desire to trust those people who are perceived to be experts.


Ironically, Social Proof states that people feel comfort if other people are doing what they are doing i.e. there is safety in numbers. Yet scarcity says we are also influenced by the need to be different – to stand out from the crowd!!

An opportunity will always seem more valuable if there is an element of scarcity to it. Open any magazine and see “Limited Offer – must close Sunday Xth September” or “Limited edition collectors item – only 10 left”. This feeling that we may miss out on something special and unique will influence us to take action. Even when we know it’s probably a marketing trick!

It’s good to be aware of the psychology of persuasion. Use these marketing principles when or if appropriate. They work, and are powerful influencers in the battle to gain customer attention. However use them with integrity and honesty. Never lie in any of your marketing, and make sure everything you say can be substantiated and proven.

Click here to read part 1 of the psychology of persuasion.