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Leo Aspden on ‘weapons of influence’ as a marketing tool
WHILST on a holiday in Turkey recently I realised that I had been a victim of ‘weapons of influence’. It was after we decided to treat ourselves and visited the local hammam for a Turkish Bath experience.
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 ended up with a complete treatment including a body massage and a larger bill than intended.
The whole experience was amazing and highly recommended, but it reminded me of the art of skilfully employing the weapons of influence as referred to by Robert B Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
n Trigger points: Cialdini writes about the animal world where turkey mothers’ love and protection of their young is mainly triggered by the ‘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, such as the male Robin Red-breast who, when faced with a batch of loose Robin Red-breast feathers, will 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. Cialdini refers to a friend who was struggling to sell beautiful pieces of her jewellery.
After trying a number of sales tricks and ideas, she finally left a note for the 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 faced with a multitude of information, messages, offers and stimuli it is not surprising that we adopt certain shortcuts or automatic behaviours (rules of thumb) to avoid overload and to save time and energy in 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 position their offerings to the market accordingly.
n The contrast principle: Another interesting concept is what Cialdini calls ‘the contrast principle’. This is what 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 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 our hammam experience).
Estate agents may choose to show people less desirable houses 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 (insurance policies, a service contract, etc), which to the buyer can then be seen as a much lower cost.
For the contract flooring market these principles can also be applied, for example when the product sale has been confirmed and added-value bolt-ons such as maintenance contacts or cleaning products may be introduced and perceived as a much smaller cost to pay.
Are you making the most of your skilfully planned weapons of influence?
Leo Aspden is a chartered marketer, high growth business coach and former north west ambassador for SMEs for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

T: 0161 969 4515
Cialdini, Robert B. (2007) ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’. Harper Business; Rev. Ed., 1st Collins Business Essentials Ed edition

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