Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, November 28, 2016

That was generous! Or was it?

When I visited home the other week, my mother dutifully handed my the pile of post I had missed whilst I was away. Among the pile was this letter, signed by who I can only assume is my new best friend by the tone, Eamon. 
In his unsolicited letter, Eamon offers me a deal I could hardly resist: a free £60 voucher to spend on wine- quite the turn up for the books.
However, this seeming act of unsought generosity is really not that at all. 

In his letter, Eamon applies two main techniques for persuasion which, he hopes, will ultimately get me to spend my money on his website. 
The first- liking. Cialdini says that when we like someone, we are more likely to listen to what they say, and we are more likely to buy things from people that we like (even if we don’t need them). Now, as a student , I can hardly say that £60 worth of wine wouldn't be welcome, but I can’t say that I needed this wine before I opened the letter. To overcome this, Eamon employs the charm offensive- polite (insisting I have no obligation to buy again- but it would be appreciated), and making me feel special: he’s taking ‘a chance on me’. His tone is friendly and overly familiar. Some would be fooled by his cheerful manner into feeling some kind of liking towards the writer. This could be just the trick to persuading someone to take up this deal. 

The second is reciprocity. Eamon is giving me £60 to spend on wine in the hope that I will return and make more purchases from my own pocket. They have, after all, been nice enough to give me a not-insubstantial freebee. There is a chance that this seeming act of generosity would persuade me to give something back and make a purchase. The business is using the concept of a loss leader- giving something for cheap or for free in order to generate sales which will produce good profits. 

Perhaps a few years ago, reading this letter would give me a push to check out their website, but three years of psychology has taught me a lesson. Instead of checking out their website, I took a photo, chucked the letter away, and opened up this blog to pick apart their failed attempt… better luck next time, Eamon!  

Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and Practice. Boston: Pearson Education.

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