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Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote the definitive book on the subject, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion defines six key attributes that lead to compliance. These six attributes are:


  • Reciprocity

  • Commitment/Consistency

  • Social Proof

  • Authority

  • Scarcity¬†

  • Liking

We encounter these things every day. When we get a free sample at the supermarket, the retailer is hoping that based on reciprocity you will be compelled to make a purchase.

Commitment and Consistency show up when we feel the need to keep doing something once we started. This is why a lot of sales situations will start adding in the small items, because once you said yes to the large one it is easier to keep going with the smaller ones.

Social Proof is everywhere in our online world. That is why sites show you who else purchased an item, or how many likes a post has. If you see others performing a certain behavior, you are more inclined to go along.

As much as we crave independence, we do have a desire to have leaders who guide us in what we do. If something is limited, as we see all the time in advertisements, we will be afraid of missing out. This is how marketers build a sense of scarcity.

Finally, we want to be liked. That is why a lot of ads use humor, in order to get us to smile and feel good about the brand.

Exercise: Find an advertisement or website that is using one or more of these factors. Be honest with yourself: is this something you had noticed before?