4 More Sneaky Tricks That Influence Your Decisions


1. Blatant Indicators of Positive Reputation Beat Subtle Luxury

Consider a face-off between the Toyota Prius and… a stylish Lexus.

Even Lucifer Himself couldn’t make me drive a dorky Prius.

But a recent split-test between these 2 cars revealed that when shopping in public, people are willing to spend more on a product they don’t really want as long as it makes them look like positive contributors to the greater good of society.

When the whole world’s looking (and can see the “green” eco-conscious logo) people buy the doe-eyed Prius. Then as you lock ‘em up in a room with no one to judge, they turn into me… a shameless consumer of pretentious luxury. The heated steering wheel. The baby seal skin leather seats. Plumes of toxic exhaust from a rumbling engine. Sickeningly delicious cheeseburgers in non-biodegradable containers.

Oh yes. We consumers are a dastardly lot.

And for the same reason, this is why clothes and other products with big, blatant logos sell better than those with more concealed identities:

Louis Vuitton’s classic “LV” on their bags. Abercrombie & Fitch’s garish tags. Polo Ralph Lauren’s pony. Apple’s glowing chrome apple.

People seek out the brands that best display their own particular set of personality traits. Regardless of what “flavor of the month” personality analysis books you may have read (not your fault, publishers barf up more of them than any sane person can handle), all human traits can be summed up as a measure of these 6 characteristics:

  • General Intelligence - generally, how smart you are
  • Openness - how receptive you are to new people and ideas
  • Conscientiousness - your self-control, willpower, reliability, consistency, dependability
  • Agreeableness - your level of warmth, kindness, sympathy, empathy, trust, compliance, modesty
  • Stability – your ability to maintain control of emotions, deal with stress, ability to adapt
  • Extraversion - how talkative, funny, expressive, assertive, socially confident you are

This model has been consistently proven to work over the past 40-some years. Like a delicate radio, all of us are tuned to different settings of the six. Different combinations make the difference between the neighborhood axe murderer and your Aunt Betsy. In all, there are 729 different personality types – which is one of the many reasons you won’t find a ton of experts on this topic.

I’ll write more on this advanced market segmentation in upcoming posts, but for now just understand the prime motivators for most purchases are rooted in a desire to express indicators of specific settings of the “Central Six” characteristics. That’s why there’s a market for so many different brands… we’ve got hundreds of personalities to display.

2. People Will Love & Respect You More If You’re Magical

Traditionally we as marketers are taught to “find out what a market wants and deliver it to them profitably”… but Apple Inc is one good example of a company who behaves differently.

Until Steve Jobs releases the new JesusPhone or whatever, no one has a clue what he’s up to. Mere mortals can only guess. And that’s precisely the allure of his mystique.

Nerds over at UCLA did a test where subjects read 2 equally positive performance reports. Employee A was praised for particular skills like “aptitude with numbers” while employee B just kinda “has a way of making things happen.” In another one, a CEO was praised for “long hours and loyalty” and the other for “insight and vision.”

In both tests, people preferred to work with the guy who’d achieved success via mysterious powers. Not only that, but people also wanted to hug him more and get “lucky” gifts from him.

What this means to you and me is it’s a good thing to not let lesser mortals peek behind your curtain. No one needs to know the wizard isn’t wearing any pants as long as you get the job done and perform with excellence.

Back in high school is when I first discovered the benefits of shrouded secrecy. My ninja skills with computers went purposely unexplained. Once I was called out of an important exam to rescue the principal from digital doom. When asked about the exam, my biology teacher shooed me away saying “Oh nevermind that Greg, you’ll get an A anyway.” Back then I had free reign of the halls and senior year no one even batted an eye if didn’t show up until afternoon.

These days, similar things happen to me because of Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing. It’s amazing what people will do for you if you can work some voodoo on their campaigns that cuts their cost per sale to 25-50% of what it was.

There’s a question traded among marketers with a wink of the eye that goes, “So how many years did it take for you to become an overnight success?”

I love that because it’s so true. You hammer away at a skill for years, seemingly without benefit, and then… one day… the planets align and BOOM you’re a hit.

Another way to say it is “Success is when preparation meets opportunity.” That’s the key thing that makes you look magical to others.

3. Fast Food & Big Tobacco’s Dirty Little Marketing Secret

It’s fairly common knowledge that the larger the plate, the bigger the bowl, or the bulkier the package… people will consume more.

But what you may not know is the mere presence of healthy options on a menu (or the warning sign on a pack of cigarettes) can make people snarf down more junk than ever.

They call it “menu mentality” – the pleasant industry discovery that adding healthier food options to a menu keeps the bureaucrats and medical-types at bay, while satisfying the customer’s guilty conscience, thus… giving them the mental green light to order whatever the hell they want.

One of the most important things in the universe to understand about people is just because they CAN do something doesn’t mean they WILL.

Add salads and grilled chicken to the menu and… like magic… you get more orders for burgers and fries. Label a bag as “low fat”, “low carb”, or “low-cal” and you get more sales. And this is important: You get more sales not because more people buy your stuff, BUT BECAUSE THE SAME PEOPLE BUY MORE OF IT MORE OFTEN!

This, once again, is my favorite subject at work: segmentation. People will do what they will do. Always and without exception.

Take a moment to re-read that again. People will do what they will do. Always and without exception. The implications of that are more profound than you can possibly imagine at first glance.

If we want to influence people positively, we must be draconian and remove all undesirable options from the table. Instead of a choice between “healthy” and “unhealthy” we change the game to “healthy” and… “healthy.”

This is also why school lunch programs will continue to breed fatties until pizza, chips, and soda are gone completely. But that won’t happen. Why? Because people will do what they will do.

Several schools I read about who tried this had parents (and kids) in a literal riot. Picket signs, yelling, screaming, fighting. Desperate parents snuck twinkies to kids through the chain-link metal fence at recess in an act of defiance.

No exaggeration.

You might dismiss this example as ridiculous, but wait:

Parents did this because they’re part of a segment – a segment of society that will find a way to eat crap no matter what you do to stop them.

You can’t change that with mere rules. They will find a way around the rules. You can’t offer alternative options. They will ignore those options. They will have their cream filling and jiggly tummy. And to hell with you and your hard body and steamed vegetables.

I used this food example because it’s something most of us can read with a smile. But the same goes for any segment of a population. There’s a segment of people who drink alcohol (prohibition didn’t work). A segment who smoke (warning labels and PSA’s don’t work). A segment who like marijuana (even though it’s illegal in most countries, anyone who wants it can still get some within a very short period of time).

People will do what they will do. More on that powerful concept another time.

4. Product Placements Only Work When The Plot Depends On The Product

Three things were huge in 1982: video games, the movie ET, and Reese’s Pieces candy.

The latter 2 were no accident. When Steven Spielberg approached the Mars Company (M&M’s) to have their product featured in the film, they turned him away. That’s when Hershey stepped in and offered Reese’s Pieces. Sales of the candy tripled within 7 days of ET’s debut and over 800 theaters all across the country started stocking Reese’s Pieces for the first time.

Or take Tom Cruise. In the early 80′s, sales of Ray-Ban sunglasses were flat and the company struggled to make ends meet. After Risky Business, sales rose 50% and another 40% when Top Gun came out. Sales of aviator jackets surged and Navy recruitment soared 500%!

Product placement is powerful, but like most things, people tend to screw it up when they don’t know what they’re doing.

A more recent example is the James Bond movie, Die Another Day. As far as James Bond movies go, this one is considered by many aficionados (me included) to be the worst of the lot. Part of it was because of the shallow reliance on technology and part of it was because they featured 23 brands inside 123 minutes. Some critics called it “Buy Another Day.”

Casino Royale did infinitely better, but many brands went unnoticed. Why?

Well, as any Bond fan knows, the British MI6 agent is mainly known by these products:

  • Walther PPK gun
  • Omega watch (formerly Rolex in the old originals)
  • Smirnoff Vodka Martini
  • Bentley, Aston Martin, and BMW cars
  • Clothes designed by Tom Ford (more recently)
  • Casino games, especially baccarat

The only reason these became synonymous with Bond is because of their integration into fascinating story plots over the course of many years. When James briefly drives a Ford car rental to get to a hotel or sends a package FedEx, no one gives a shit.

But we remember how tough it was for Bond to give up his Beretta for the new (and better) PPK. We remember the times it saved his life. We remember the vodka martini he orders from Dr. No as it slowly dawns in him the drink might be his last. And we remember the little saw blade and laser Q Branch outfitted in his watch to cut rope or melt metal.

These are meaningful product placements. Mindless cameos will be forgotten.

If you enjoyed our little romp through Marketing Land today, you won’t want to miss upcoming posts on my site… there’s lots more crowd manipulation magic where this came from.

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2 Responses to 4 More Sneaky Tricks That Influence Your Decisions

  1. Yep. People will do what they will do. Always and without exception. Story of my life. As a family Patriarch I have the opportunity to work with (always) younger family members. When one of them wants another of them to do ‘it’ differently, I have to tell them that ‘People will do what they will do. Always and without exception.’ Like when a teenage granddaughter came over to tell me she was getting married (I was the last to know because she was afraid that I would be mad at her) I told her that she was now an adult and she got to make her own choices. After all, ‘People will do what they will do. Always and without exception.’

    Another great article, Greg.

    By the way, if any of your readers who think they can beat the game, then they need to reread every word of this post, study it and change their thinking because they cannot change human nature – no matter how hard some highly (over) educated person or group of people try to convince them otherwise. People are people and ‘People will do what they will do. Always and without exception.’

  2. It’s in our nature to make irrational choices in certain situations. However,we can help override our occasional illogic with small environmental changes that steer us toward smarter decisions. When we understand how we make decisions — and how our environment influences those decisions — we can “smarten up” our choices.
    .-= szeny@how to high jump´s last blog ..How high should a male college volleyball player jump? =-.

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