Your brain, sometimes, can be lazy. While it has amazing information processing capabilities, it doesn’t always want to use them. Just like your slob of a brother who could be out working and making a decent living, it prefers to be sitting on the couch, eating potato chips while watching back to back to back episodes of Jersey Shore.  As a result of being lazy, the brain often uses heuristics to make decisions.

Heuristics are basically certain types of “mental shortcuts” the brain uses in order to avoid having to weigh and process information on an equal scale, using only a fraction of available information to arrive at important decisions. This usually occurs in low involvement items, where a person is simply not interested in the effort required to come to a fair and reasoned decision.

The smart marketers use this to their advantage.  Because they know how your brain uses heuristics to evaluate the information in front of them, these heuristics can then be applied in order to get these low involved customers to make their decisions.

And while we (which means me) here at The Marketing Shrink would never encourage people to use sneaky tactics to sway others, we would like to at least keep you in the loop.



Length Implies Strength

The definition itself does not quite sum up the TRUE meaning of this heuristic, so I will attempt to give a better explanation. This heuristic occurs when people hear a long message, filled with facts and figures, to indicate that the particular product or service is of high quality.

It’s what happens when you hear many of the claims surrounding, for instance, hair care products: there will be someone blathering on about how the shampoo/conditioner contains some sort of hyphalooting rare extract that will of course make your hair 3X more softer, stronger, or basically whatever else they want to come up with.

These claims are often misleading or downright inaccurate, but most people never bother to question them because they come backed up with facts and statistics. While I am not saying, of course, that you should make false claims, there are ways in which this can easily work to promote your product or service being sold. If there is any particular fact, figure, or relevant piece of statistical information that you can use in promotion of your product, then do it.



Liking Leads To Agreement

This is probably one of the more well-known heuristic tactics. This heuristic occurs because we have the tendency to agree with people that we like. This is why advertisers tend to choose well respected or liked figures (for example, Michael Jordan) to sell their products.  This has been borne out time and time again in research. According to a study by psychologist Shelly Chaiken, people who are in a group that has low involvement in a particular topic are far more easily persuaded by people who were likable.

One way that this can backfire is if the person that was liked suddenly becomes unlikable. In a world where information and news can be literally transmitted in an instant, this is a situation that happens too frequently for many advertisers. If you don’t have an idea what I’m talking about, just take a look at Tiger Woods – who was dropped like a hot potato by numerous companies after his infidelity scandal, to ensure that their products weren’t affected by his sudden drop in likability.


Consensus Equals Correctness

While often not expounded upon, this is another major shortcut that your brain uses to arrive at a conclusion. Basically, it takes the common consensus (usually from an associated or liked group) and makes a judgment PURELY based on that consensus. This is why many companies go to great lengths to have the positive aspects of their surveys publicised – if 95% of users enjoyed this product, then YOU WILL LIKE IT TOO. Of course, if 99% of users of a particular product thought it was the best, then it MUST be the best. Right? Of course, the common consensus is NOT always the correct one – as quite often it is possible. Just a little over a hundred years ago (1899, to be precise) ARSENIC was a popular prescribed medicine for headaches. Think about that one for a second!



In order to use our brain’s mental shortcuts (heuristics) for persuasion, it is important to keep in mind these tips and use them in action! Give out a short survey to your customers – great feedback will let you proudly share with others how many of your customers keep coming back to work with you or buy your products! Get someone who is well liked to promote your products or services. Use facts, figures, and detailed information to show customers the EXACT benefits of your product, and why it is BETTER than that of your consumers!


If you enjoyed reading this, let me know in the comments below!



7 Responses to Marketing Psychology 101: 3 Sneaky (But Totally Above Board) Persuasion Tactics

  1. ambali says:

    This is a nice piece of work.

  2. Thomas Carpenter says:

    I like this. Are there citations for these three effects? (Of course there are, but it would be nice to have them).

    • Daryl George says:

      Hey Thomas,

      Thanks for the kudos! You can find more information about these three effects in Catherine Jansson-Boyd’s book, “Consumer Psychology”

      Don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list!



  3. Michaela says:

    Great to see psychology being used so effectively!

  4. Bjarke Schlechter says:

    Great Article, Thanks!

  5. Bjarke Schlechter says:

    Ups wrong link, sorry! Heres the right one:

    The link I put on before, mistakenly, is about viral marketing…

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