Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

My Score – 6/10

This book had some great ideas, but they should have been a blog post. I’m afraid Mr. Cialdini is a professional author, not a doer.

If these ideas that I share from the book really speak to you, then by all means go buy it and dive in further.

Like most professional authors, Cialdini starts off strong. By one third through, the book becomes a bit stale. Slightly more than halfway through the book ends. The rest is sources and notes. Again, great for the person who wants to go deep, but the ideas do not warrant going very deep IMO.

Main Takeaways:

  • . . . the effectiveness of persuasive messages . . . will be drastically affected by the type of opener experienced immediately in advance.
  • Albert Einstein claimed was so remarkable it could be labeled as both “the most beautiful thing we can experience” and “the source of all true science and art.” His contention: the mysterious.
  • Just as amino acids can be called the building blocks of life, associations can be called the building blocks of thought.
  • When trying to get someone to do something, lead with something before the persuasion. This is very akin to a feint in boxing.

Pros

  • Punchy right from the start

  • Very useful for solopreneurs who are terrible at self-marketing (ME)

  • Backed by research, lots of notes and expansions

Cons

  • Cialdini goes on ad nauseum with most things. I skipped a good portion of the anecdotes, as they beat a dead horse.

  • The book smells of manipulation. It should be stated that the best way to get what you want is to work hard, ethically, kindly, and provide massive amounts of value at scale. You get what you give. So give.

Favorite Quote

There are six such concepts that empower the major principles of human social influence. They are reciprocation, liking, social proof, authority, scarcity, and consistency. These principles are highly effective general generators of acceptance because they typically counsel people correctly regarding when to say yes to influence attempts.

Other Reads

Highlights

My words are in italics. There are some great ideas below.

In asserting the value of early planning, the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu declared, “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

Part 1: Pre-Suasion: The Frontloading of Attention

2: Privileged Moments

Just as there is a price for paying attention, there is a charge for switching it: For about a half second during a shift of focus, we experience a mental dead spot, called an attentional blink, when we can’t register the newly highlighted information consciously.

Whatever we can do to focus people on something — an idea, a person, an object — makes that thing seem more important to them than before.

3: The Importance of Attention . . . Is Importance

This sensible system of focusing our limited attentional resources on what does indeed possess special import has an imperfection, though: we can be brought to the mistaken belief that something is important merely because we have been led by some irrelevant factor to give it our narrowed attention. All too often, people believe that if they have paid attention to an idea or event or group, it must be important enough to warrant the consideration. That’s not true, as the German and US agenda – setting examples revealed. In those instances, news coverage driven by a sensationalistic or timely story element grabbed audience attention and changed where it was concentrated. In turn, that changed focus influenced viewers’ importance judgments of national issues.

“It’s a traditional problem that the business – savvy students in our marketing courses raise all the time,” she said. “We always instruct them not to get caught up in a price war against an inferior product, because they’ll lose. We tell them to make quality the battleground instead, because that’s a fight they’ll most likely win.

Soft sell. Visitors to an online furniture website who saw this landing page wallpaper decorated with clouds became more inclined toward soft, comfortable furniture. Those who saw wallpaper decorated with pennies became more inclined toward inexpensive furniture. Courtesy of Naomi Mandel and Oxford University Press

Further, the more often the ad had appeared while they were reading the article, the more they came to like it. This last finding deserves elaboration because it runs counter to abundant evidence that most ads experience a wear – out effect after they have been encountered repeatedly, with observers tiring of them or losing trust in advertisers who seem to think that their message is so weak that they need to send it over and over. Why didn’t these banner ads, which were presented as many as twenty times within just five pages of text, suffer any wear – out? The readers never processed the ads consciously, so there was no recognized information to be identified as tedious or untrustworthy.

Within the outcomes of the wallpaper and the banner ad studies is a larger lesson regarding the communication process: seemingly dismissible information presented in the background captures a valuable kind of attention that allows for potent, almost entirely uncounted instances of influence.

It is clear that background information can both guide and distract focus of attention; anyone seeking to influence optimally must manage that information thoughtfully.

To combat this potentially ruinous overoptimism, time needs to be devoted, systematically, to addressing a pair of questions that often don’t arise by themselves: “What future events could make this plan go wrong?” and “What would happen to us if it did go wrong?” Decision scientists who have studied this consider – the – opposite tactic have found it both easy to implement and remarkably effective at debiasing judgments. The benefits to the organization that strives to rid itself of this and other decision – making biases can be considerable. One study of over a thousand companies determined that those employing sound judgment – debiasing processes enjoyed a 5 percent to 7 percent advantage in return on investment over those failing to use such approaches.

After an extensive review of published articles at the time, news analyst and sociologist Andrew Lindner described the upshot starkly: “Not only did embedded reporting represent a majority of the total available press, it dominated public attention.” Thus, with the vast majority of front – page war stories never addressing the whys of the fight but instead its whos and hows, the predominant media message to the public was evident: the thing you should be paying attention to here is the conduct of the war, not the wisdom of it.

This is an amazing thing. Directing attention towards something is extremely powerful.

4: What’s Focal Is Causal

. . . the norm of social responsibility. It states that we should aid those who need assistance in proportion to their need. Several decades’ worth of research shows that, in general, the more someone needs our help, the more obligated we feel to provide it, the more guilty we feel if we don’t provide it, and the more likely we are to provide it.

The outcomes were always the same: whomever’s face was more visible was judged to be more causal.

Leaders, for example, are accorded a much larger causal position than they typically deserve in the success or failure of the teams, groups, and organizations they head. Business performance analysts have termed this tendency “the romance of leadership” and have demonstrated that other factors (such as workforce quality, existing internal business systems, and market conditions) have a greater impact on corporate profits than CEO actions do; yet the leader is assigned outsize responsibility for company results. Thus even in the United States, where worker wages are relatively high, an analysis showed that the average employee in a large corporation is paid one half of 1 percent of what the CEO is paid. If that discrepancy seems hard to account for on grounds of economic or social fairness, perhaps we can account for it on other grounds: the person at the top is visually prominent, psychologically salient, and, hence, assigned an unduly causal role in the course of events.

I wholeheartedly disagree here. The leadership determines the direction of the organization, hence the available options for employees at all levels. But still an interesting idea.

5: Commanders of Attention 1: The Attractors

Certain cues seize our attention vigorously. Those that do so most powerfully are linked to our survival. Sexual and violent stimuli are prime examples because of their connections to our fundamental motivations to reproduce on the one hand and to avoid harm on the other — life and death, literally.

We also realized that these two contrary motivations, to fit in and to stand out, map perfectly onto a pair of longtime favorite commercial appeals. One, of the “Don’t be left out” variety, urges us to join the many. The other, of the “Be one of the few” sort, urges us to step away from the many. So, which would an advertiser be better advised to launch into the minds of prospects? Our analysis made us think that the popularity – based message would be the right one in any situation where audience members had been exposed to frightening stimuli — perhaps in the middle of watching a violent film on TV — because threat – focused people want to join the crowd. But sending that message in an ad to an audience watching a romantic film on TV would be a mistake, because amorously focused people want to step away from the crowd.

Although the data pattern seems complex, it becomes simplified when viewed through the prism of a core claim of this book: the effectiveness of persuasive messages — in this case, carrying two influence themes that have been commonly used for centuries — will be drastically affected by the type of opener experienced immediately in advance. Put people in a wary state of mind via that opener, and, driven by a desire for safety, a popularity – based appeal will soar, whereas a distinctiveness – based appeal will sink. But use it to put people in an amorous state of mind, and, driven by a consequent desire to stand out, the reverse will occur.

6: Commanders of Attention 2: The Magnetizers

Certain kinds of information do, in fact, combine initial pulling power with staying power. Information about oneself, for example, packs that potent one – two punch. If you doubt it, try a small experiment with some friends. Take a group shot with a digital camera and then pass the camera and resultant photo from hand to hand. Watch how each individual scans the picture before passing it on. If your friends are anything like mine — or like me, for that matter — they will look first, longest, and last at themselves.

Here, then, is another lesson in pre – suasion available for your use: when you have a good case to make, you can employ — as openers — simple self – relevant cues (such as the word you) to predispose your audience toward a full consideration of that strong case before they see or hear it.

. . . when an important outcome is unknown to people, “they can hardly think of anything else.” And because, as we know, regular attention to something makes it seem more worthy of attention.

Indeed, there were no secrets in the list of recommendations, which included tactics such as setting up a specific time to write every day, limiting distractions during that time, and rewarding oneself for a good day’s yield.

Tips on how to get more writing done. I love this simple little tidbit.

In the unsuccessful segments, I found the usual suspects: lack of clarity, stilted prose, use of jargon, and so on. In the successful group, I found pretty much what I expected, too: the polar – opposite traits of the weak sections plus logical structure, vivid examples, and humor. But I also found something I had not anticipated: the most successful of the pieces each began with a mystery story. The authors described a state of affairs that seemed perplexing and then invited the reader into the subsequent material as a way of dispatching the enigma.

A little – recognized truth I often try to convey to various audiences is that, in contests of persuasion, counterarguments are typically more powerful than arguments. This superiority emerges especially when a counterclaim does more than refute a rival’s claim by showing it to be mistaken or misdirected in the particular instance but does so instead by showing the rival communicator to be an untrustworthy source of information, generally. Issuing a counterargument demonstrating that an opponent’s argument is not to be believed because its maker is misinformed on the topic will usually succeed on that singular issue. But a counterargument that undermines an opponent’s argument by showing him or her to be dishonest in the matter will normally win that battle plus future battles with the opponent. In keeping with the holding power of puzzles, I’ve learned that I can arrange for an audience to comprehend those teaching points more profoundly if I present them in mystery – story format.

  • Pose the Mystery.

  • Deepen the Mystery.

  • Home In on the Proper Explanation by Considering (and Offering Evidence Against) Alternative Explanations .

  • Provide a Clue to the Proper Explanation.

  • Resolve the Mystery.

  • Draw the Implication for the Phenomenon Under Study.

One of the best ways to enhance audience acceptance of one’s message is to reduce the availability of strong counterarguments to it — because counterarguments are typically more powerful than arguments.

Notice that this type of explanation offers not just any satisfying conceptual account. Owing to its intrigue – fueled form, it carries a bonus. It’s part of a presentational approach constituted to attract audiences to the fine points of the information — because to resolve any mystery or detective story properly, observers have to be aware of all the relevant details. Think of it: we have something available to us here that not only keeps audience members focused generally on the issues at hand but also makes them want to pay attention to the details — the necessary but often boring and attention – deflecting particulars — of our material. What more could a communicator with a strong but intricate case want? Oh, by the way, there’s a telling answer to the question of what Albert Einstein claimed was so remarkable it could be labeled as both “the most beautiful thing we can experience” and “the source of all true science and art.” His contention: the mysterious.

Part 2: Processes: The Role of Association

7: The Primacy of Associations: I Link, Therefore I Think

Just as amino acids can be called the building blocks of life, associations can be called the building blocks of thought.

Multiple studies have shown that subtly exposing individuals to words that connote achievement (win, attain, succeed, master) increases their performance on an assigned task and more than doubles their willingness to keep working at it. Evidence like this has changed my mind about the worth of certain kinds of posters that I’ve occasionally seen adorning the walls of business offices.

If you want to change the world, change the metaphor. — Joseph Campbell

. . . personal warmth, where individuals who have held a warm object briefly — for example, a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee — immediately feel warmer toward, closer to, and more trusting of those around them. Hence, they become more giving and cooperative in the social interactions that follow shortly afterward. It’s evident, then, that powerful metaphoric associations can be pre – suasively activated without a word; touch is enough.

One analysis of eighty – nine randomly selected companies that began trading shares on the New York Stock Exchange between 1990 and 2004 found that although the effect dwindled over time, those companies with easier – to – pronounce names outperformed those with difficult – to – pronounce names. A comparable analysis of easy – to – pronounce three – letter stock ticker codes (such as KAR) versus difficult – to – pronounce codes (such as RDO) on the American Stock Exchange produced comparable results.

Pick a good name! This was one reason of many why I changed the name of this website from “The Irreverent Investor” to “Walsh Investment Strategy”.

On US stock exchanges, the initial value of a company’s shares was greater if the company’s name or stock ticker code was easy to pronounce.

8: Persuasive Geographies: All the Right Places, All the Right Traces

Writing in those separate places produced an effect I didn’t anticipate and didn’t even notice until about a month into the process, when I gathered all of the book project’s preliminary pages and read them as a piece: the work I’d done at home was miles better than what I’d done at the university, because it was decidedly more appropriate for the general audience I’d envisioned. Indeed, in style and structure, the output from my campus desk was poorly suited to anyone but professional colleagues.

Certain lessons from this experience extend beyond crafting popular scholarship. They apply to the much broader question of how any of us might arrange our physical environments pre – suasively to send us down selected associative pathways (chutes) toward desired ends.

Pre-Suasion Examples

  • In Austria, the news media reported several sightings of a poisonous variety of spider whose bite produced a combination of headache and nausea. Residents flooded hospitals certain that they had been bitten. Those who were wrong outnumbered those who were right by 4,000 percent.

  • When a Tennessee high school teacher reported that she smelled gas in her classroom and felt dizzy and nauseous, an array of individuals — including students, other teachers, and staff — started experiencing the same symptoms. A hundred people from the school went to hospital emergency rooms that day with symptoms associated with the gas leak, as did seventy – one more when the school reopened five days later. No gas leak was found on either day — or ever.

  • Citizens of two small Canadian towns located near oil refineries learned from an epidemiological study that cancer rates in their communities were 25 percent higher than normal, which led residents to begin perceiving escalations in a variety of health problems associated with exposure to toxic chemicals. However, the validity of these perceptions was undercut when the study’s authors issued a retraction months later. The elevated incidence of cancer in the communities had initially been reported in error due to a statistical miscalculation.

  • In Germany, audience members listening to a lecture on dermatological conditions typically associated with itchy skin immediately felt skin irritations of their own and began scratching themselves at an increased rate.

On the one hand, she specified a set of manageable activities that reliably increase personal happiness. Several of them — including the top three on her list — require nothing more than a pre – suasive refocusing of attention:

  1. Count your blessings and gratitudes at the start of every day, and then give yourself concentrated time with them by writing them down.

  2. Cultivate optimism by choosing beforehand to look on the bright side of situations, events, and future possibilities.

  3. Negate the negative by deliberately limiting time spent dwelling on problems or on unhealthy comparisons with others.

But that’s not the case for his other (pre – suasive) tactic. Alan told me that just prior to taking any standardized exam, he’d spend systematic time “getting psyched up” for it. He described a set of activities that could have come from a modified version of Dr. Lyubomirsky’s list. He didn’t take up the minutes before the exam room doors opened as I always had: notes in hand, trying to cram every piece of information I was unsteady about into my brain. He knew, he said, that focusing on material that was still vexing him would only elevate his anxieties. Instead, he spent that crucial time consciously calming his fears and simultaneously building his confidence by reviewing his past academic successes and enumerating his genuine strengths. Much of his test – taking prowess, he was convinced, stemmed from the resultant combination of diminished fear and bolstered confidence: “You can’t think straight when you’re scared,” he reminded me,” plus, you’re much more persistent when you’re confident in your abilities.”

This is so good. Alan was a powerhouse of a professional, who continuously outperformed all others in his department.

9: The Mechanics of Pre-Suasion: Causes, Constraints, and Correctives

The basic idea of pre – suasion is that by guiding preliminary attention strategically, it’s possible for a communicator to move recipients into agreement with a message before they experience it. The key is to focus them initially on concepts that are aligned associatively with the yet – to – be – encountered information.

A tellingly similar but mirror – image effect occurs after participating in prosocial video games — those that call for protecting, rescuing, or assisting characters in the game. Studies have found that after playing such games, players became more willing to help clean up a spill, volunteer their time, and even intervene in a harassment situation involving a young woman and her ex – boyfriend. Moreover, this helpfulness is the direct result of participants’ easy access to a range of prosocial thoughts that the games install in consciousness. In an interesting twist, newer research shows that sometimes violent video game play can decrease later aggressive behavior, provided that the participants have to cooperate with one another in the game to destroy an enemy. Additional details of the new research fit the accessibility accoun : playing a game cooperatively, even one with violent content, suppresses aggressive thoughts.

Very cool finding. Goes contrary to my readings of the book On Killing by Dave Grossman.

The strength of the association between an opener concept and a related concept will determine the strength of the pre – suasive effect. Therefore, an aspiring pre – suader wishing to prompt an action (helping, let’s say) should find a concept already associated strongly and positively with the action (togetherness would be a good choice) and bring that concept to mind in potential helpers just before requesting their aid.

Part 3: Best Practices: The Optimization of Pre-Suasion

10: Six Main Roads to Change: Broad Boulevards as Smart Shortcuts

We’ve seen how it’s possible to move others in our direction by saying or doing just the right thing immediately before we want them to respond: If we want them to buy a box of expensive chocolates, we can first arrange for them to write down a number that’s much larger than the price of the chocolates. If we want them to choose a bottle of French wine, we can expose them to French background music before they decide. If we want them to agree to try an untested product, we can first inquire whether they consider themselves adventurous. If we want to convince them to select a highly popular item, we can begin by showing them a scary movie. If we want them to feel warmly toward us, we can hand them a hot drink. If we want them to be more helpful to us, we can have them look at photos of individuals standing close together. If we want them to be more achievement oriented, we can provide them with an image of a runner winning a race. If we want them to make careful assessments, we can show them a picture of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

In my book Influence, I argued that there are six such concepts that empower the major principles of human social influence. They are reciprocation, liking, social proof, authority, scarcity, and consistency. These principles are highly effective general generators of acceptance because they typically counsel people correctly regarding when to say yes to influence attempts.

Communicators stand to be more effective by highlighting the idea of authority not just inside their message but inside the moment before their message. In this pre – suasive way, audiences will become sensitized to (and thus readied for) the coming authoritative evidence in the message, making them more likely to pay attention to it, assign it importance, and, consequently, be influenced by it.

Reciprocation People say yes to those they owe.

Requesters who hope to commission the pre – suasive force of the rule for reciprocation have to do something that appears daring: they have to take a chance and give first. They must begin an interaction by providing initial gifts, favors, advantages, or concessions without a formal guarantee of compensation. But because the tendency to reciprocate is so embedded in most people, the strategy frequently works better than the traditional approach to commercial exchange, in which a requester offers benefits only after an action has been taken: a contract signed, a purchase made, a task performed. Dutch residents who received an advance letter asking if they would take part in a long survey were much more likely to agree if the proposed payment was sent to them before they decided to participate (the money accompanied the letter) than if it was to be paid, as is normally the case, after they had participated. Similarly, hotel guests in the United States encountered a card in their rooms asking them to reuse their towels. They read in addition either that the hotel had already made a financial contribution to an environmental protection organization in the name of its guests or that it would make such a contribution after guests did reuse their towels. The before – the – act donation proved 47 percent more effective than the after – the – act one.

Meaningful and Unexpected.

Requesters of various sorts can elevate the likelihood that they will receive high levels of benefit from others if they first deliver benefits viewed by the others as meaningful and unexpected. But besides these features, there’s a third element in the reciprocity – optimizing triumvirate that, in my opinion, is more influential than the other two combined.

But by far, two specific ways to create positive feelings got the most attention. We were instructed to highlight similarities and provide compliments. There’s good reason why these two practices would be emphasized: each increases liking and assent.

So by my lights, the number one rule for salespeople is to show customers that you genuinely like them. There’s a wise adage that fits this logic well: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

A great strength of social – proof information is that it destroys the problem of uncertain achievability. If people learn that many others like them are conserving energy, there is little doubt as to its feasibility. It comes to seem realistic and, therefore, implementable.

Of the many types of messengers — positive, serious, humorous, emphatic, modest, critical — there is one that deserves special attention because of its deep and broad impact on audiences: the authoritative communicator. When a legitimate expert on a topic speaks, people are usually persuaded. Indeed, sometimes information becomes persuasive only because an authority is its source. This is especially true when the recipient is uncertain of what to do.

A credible authority possesses the combination of two highly persuasive qualities: expertise and trustworthiness. We’ve already considered the effects of the first. Let’s concentrate on the second.

Trustworthiness.

In a persuasion – focused interaction, we want to trust that a communicator is presenting information in an honest and impartial fashion — that is, attempting to depict reality accurately rather than to serve self – interest.

Rather than succumbing to the tendency to describe all of the most favorable features of an offer or idea up front and reserving mention of any drawbacks until the end of the presentation (or never), a communicator who references a weakness early on is immediately seen as more honest. The advantage of this sequence is that, with perceived truthfulness already in place, when the major strengths of the case are advanced, the audience is more likely to believe them. After all, they’ve been conveyed by a trustworthy source, one whose honesty has been established (pre – suasively) by a willingness to point not just to positive aspects but also to negative ones.

The tactic can be particularly successful when the audience is already aware of the weakness; thus, when a communicator mentions it, little additional damage is done, as no new information is added — except, crucially, that the communicator is an honest individual. Another enhancement occurs when the speaker uses a transitional word — such as however, or but, or yet — that channels the listeners’ attention away from the weakness and onto a countervailing strength. A job candidate might say, “I am not experienced in this field, but I am a very fast learner.” An information systems salesperson might state, “Our set – up costs are not the lowest; however, you’ll recoup them quickly due to our superior efficiencies.

We want more of what we can have less of. For instance, when access to a desired item is restricted in some way, people have been known to go a little crazy for it.

Although there are several reasons that scarcity drives desire, our aversion to losing something of value is a key factor. After all, loss is the ultimate form of scarcity, rendering the valued item or opportunity unavailable. At a financial services conference, I heard the CEO of a large brokerage firm make the point about the motivating power of loss by describing a lesson his mentor once taught him: “If you wake a multimillionaire client at five in the morning and say, ‘If you act now, you will gain twenty thousand dollars,’ he’ll scream at you and slam down the phone. But if you say, ‘If you don’t act now, you will lose twenty thousand dollars,’ he’ll thank you. ”

In the consumer’s mind, any constraint on access increased the worth of what was being offered.

Sometimes practitioners can leverage the force of the consistency principle without installing a new commitment at all. Sometimes all that’s necessary is to remind others of a commitment they’ve made that fits with the practitioners’ goals.

At the first stage, the main goal involves cultivating a positive association, as people are more favorable to a communication if they are favorable to the communicator. Two principles of influence, reciprocity and liking, seem particularly appropriate to the task. Giving first (in a meaningful, unexpected, and customized fashion), highlighting genuine commonalities, and offering true compliments establish mutual rapport that facilitates all future dealings.

At the second stage, reducing uncertainty becomes a priority. A positive relationship with a communicator doesn’t ensure persuasive success. Before people are likely to change, they want to see any decision as wise. Under these circumstances, the principles of social proof and authority offer the best match. Pointing to evidence that a choice is well regarded by peers or experts significantly increases confidence in its wisdom. But even with a positive association cultivated and uncertainty reduced, a remaining step needs to be taken.

At this third stage, motivating action is the main objective. That is, a well – liked friend might show me sufficient proof that experts recommend (and almost all my peers believe) that daily exercise is a good thing, but that might not be enough to get me to do it. The friend would do well to include in his appeal the principles of consistency and scarcity by reminding me of what I’ve said publicly in the past about the importance of my health and the unique enjoyments I would miss if I lost it. That’s the message that would most likely get me up in the morning and off to the gym. The second question I am frequently asked about the principles is whether I’ve identified any new ones. Until recently, I’d always had to answer in the negative. But now I believe that there is a seventh universal principle that I had missed — not because some new cultural phenomenon or technological shift brought it to my attention but because it was hiding beneath the surface of my data all along. I explain what it is and how I came to see it next.

11: Unity 1: Being Together

Our ability to create change in others is often and importantly grounded in shared personal relationships, which create a pre – suasive context for assent. It’s a poor trade – off, then, for social influence when we allow present – day forces of separation — distancing societal changes, insulating modern technologies — to take a shared sense of human connection out of our exchanges. The relation gets removed, leaving just the ships, passing at sea.

12: Unity 2: Acting Together

The Ikea effect, people who have built items themselves come to see “their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations.” As suits our current focus on the effects of acting together, it is worth inquiring into an additional pair of possibilities. Would people who had a hand in creating something hand in hand with another come to feel a special affinity not only for their creation but also for their co – creator? What’s more, might this exceptional affinity stem from a feeling of unity with the other that’s detectible in the characteristic consequences of elevated liking and self – sacrificial support for the partner?

However, within such marketing partnerships, consumer input must be framed as advice to the company, not as opinions about or expectations for the company. The differential phrasing might seem minor, but it is critical to achieving the company’s unitization goal. Providing advice puts a person in a merging state of mind, which stimulates a linking of one’s own identity with another party’s. Providing an opinion or expectation, on the other hand, puts a person in an introspective state of mind, which involves focusing on oneself. These only slightly different forms of consumer feedback — and the nonetheless vitally different merging – versus – separating mind – sets they produce — can have a significant impact on consumer engagement with a brand. That’s what happened to a group of online survey takers from around the United States shown a description of the business plan for a new fast – casual restaurant, Splash!, that hoped to distinguish itself from competitors through the healthfulness of its menu items. After reading the description, all the survey participants were asked for feedback. But some were asked for any “advice” they might have regarding the restaurant, whereas others were asked either for any “opinions ” or “expectations ” they might have. Finally, they indicated how likely they’d be to patronize a Splash ! restaurant. Those participants who provided advice reported wanting to eat at a Splash ! significantly more than participants who provided either of the other sorts of feedback. And just as we would expect if giving advice is indeed a mechanism of unitization, the increased desire to support the restaurant came from feeling more linked with the brand.

One more finding from the survey clinches the unitization case for me: the participants rated all three types of feedback as equally helpful to the restaurateurs. So it wasn’t that those who gave advice felt connected with the brand because they thought they had aided it more. Instead, having to give advice put participants in a togetherness state of mind rather than a separateness state of mind just before they had to reflect on what they would say about the brand — a finding that, I have to admit, pleases me because it implicates the pre – suasive character of the psychological process acting on those advice – giving participants.

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