What Shopping Channels can teach you about Influence

My wife was channel hopping the other day – an uncharacteristic activity in response to enforced torpor.  Both she and our daughter had heavy colds.  Over a cup of tea, we discussed the techniques they used to influence buyers.  Professor Robert Cialdini, author of the highly influential (groan) book on influence, Influence: Science and Practice, would be proud.

Firstly, potential shoppers were told that when the channel had last had a stock of these items, they had sold out.  A clear appeal to our herd instinct, to want what everyone else has. After all, if you think it’s good, then I don’t need to evaluate it myself – what I call the eight-out-of-ten-cats principle.

They had also signalled that this item could sell out, which they emphasised by telling their prospective shoppers that there were only 34 left, with over fifty people trying to dial in.  It seems contradictory to the last point, but if something is easily had, then we assign less value, but if it’s becoming scarce, suddenly we want it. It seems that the economists were right all along.  I call this the “sale-must-end-Sunday principle.

I asked what they were selling and learned that it was a huge painting set for the budding artist.  “So”, I suggested, “I assume they had someone dressed up in a smock, looking like an archetypical artist?” Indeed they did.  I am not psychic.  The artist was there to show you that “real” artists use this fabulous set.  This is what  call the “your-doctor-recommends-it principle”.

I was getting into my stride, so I made the even easier guess that the presenter was good looking.  He was indeed: handsome and well-dressed, with an attractive woman helping him out.  So, something for everyone.  Does this principle even need a name?  Anyway, I’ll call it the “fly-me-I’m-gorgeous principle”.

They offered a discount too, chipped in Felicity, before I could ask.  How could anyone refuse?  It’s the old “I’ve-scratched-your-back-now-you-scratch-mine principle” so beloved of chimpanzees.

Five out of six ain’t bad.  If only they had gone for the “I’ve-done-it-before-so-I’ll-do-it-again principle too.  Maybe they did.  Maybe before Felicity got to the channel they had reminded their viewers how many of them had bought the magnificent three volume gift set of how to draw and paint.

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About Mike Clayton

Mike is an author and speaker, specialising in personal effectiveness, project management and the management of change. When we try to make change work for us, things don't always go as planned: Shift happens! Over the years, Mike has developed personal and professional strategies to anticipate and deal with shift. You can contact Mike at mike@mikeclayton.co.uk
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