I received the following email last week with the Subject line: "The Science of Persuasion."
My name is Erica XXXXX and I'm a copywriter by day and around the clock tech-aficionado. The past couple of weeks I have been working on a project about the science of persuasion and behavioral economics; how it affects us in financial decision making. I had a great time putting this infographic together and came across your site when I was doing research and looking for inspiration. I was wondering if you could take a look at it and let me know what you think:
Any kind of feedback would be greatly appreciated! I thought this was a really fun topic to explore–the whole psychological aspect of marketing and sales intrigues me. Do you find this interesting? I'm curious if I'm in the minority of thinking this is an interesting topic to explore.
I do not know Erica, but the Subject line got my attention. (This is important to understand when you are sending emails to people who don't know you. The critical first step is getting them to open your message. The best way to do that is to join the conversation already going on their mind.) I'm a marketing nut and persuasion is, of course, a huge part of marketing. So I opened the email.
Erica's tone was just right. She was casual, personable and, ostensibly, reaching out to share something with me. And she wanted feedback.
Since I am such a swell guy, I clicked the link, even though I am NOT a fan of infographics. I think they were cute in the beginning, but now they are overdone and uninteresting. Still I clicked. Go ahead, you can, too.
What I found was an infographic with "facts" supporting six different examples of how persuasion might work — reciprocation, social validation, consistency, authority, liking, and scarcity. These are not new. They are pretty much picked out of Robert Cialdini's brilliant book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He called the six "shortcuts to persuasion." If you haven't read it, you should.
Now my radar is up. I notice the page she sent me to is for a company called Impact Learning. This is not the name of the company in her sig file or email address. So I investigate her own company. As you have no doubt already figured out, she works for a PR Agency and she's trolling bloggers to write about her client. She wants me to find her infographic so fascinating I will blog about it, of course sharing the link to the Impact Learning page.
Using at least one of Cialdini's shortcuts – liking – she persuaded me to do her bidding. But as Cialdini stresses in his very interesting 12-minute YouTube video, "Understanding these (six) shortcuts and employing them in an ethical manner can significantly increase the chances that someone will be persuaded by your request."
I regularly receive requests from PR people, other bloggers, publishers, and other companies to review something and, if so inclined, would I write about it in Two Hat Marketing. For the record, I rarely do. I am more than happy to have a look at these requests, but I am very strict about what I recommend and share with my BFFs. If it's a product, I will only write about it after I've used it personally. But I'm happy to check them out, if the request is honest and transparent.
To me Erica's request violated Cialdini's stress test of ethical behavior. She clearly and deliberately attempted to mislead me as to her intention. This is not unlike those stupid ads like:
Now that we have your attention, we'd like to tell about our new flatulence-capturing diapers!
Marketers have no business misleading their customers or prospects. They shouldn't be intentionally dishonest or unethical. Long term relationships are built on trust and transparency, not deceit and skullduggery.
Even the infographic itself is misleading. Look at the bottom of the page where you see:
But give Erica credit. She actually accomplished her goal. I've written about her infographic and shared the link.