The Psychology of Persuasion – Week 1 Review

One of my greatest passions in life is learning, it’s the reason why I studied to become a yoga teacher and then as a copywriter.  I recent had the opportunity to apply for a mini degree with the CXL Institute and I’m so glad I did.  As part of receiving a scholarship place I agreed to share my learnings with you on this platform.

So, over the next 12 weeks I’ll be sharing a series of blogs, which will reflect my thoughts and learnings from the course.  The course starts with one of the biggest names in the Psychology of Persuasion, Dr Robert Cialdini who wrote Influence.  He describes the different ways in which people can be persuaded to buy and one of these is there is a community of people who are buying the same thing, such as in the case of trends where something becomes very fashionable.    

Community spirit

When we talk about community, I love the story that Cialdini shares about the Hare Krishna community who would love to have more donations to their society but they were stuck as to how to acquire these donations.  They decided therefore to give a flower to people who they meet by way of introduction and the person doesn’t need to do anything immediately except to accept the flower.  Of course, people are curious and wonder why they are being given something for free and the Hare Krishna person explains to them that nothing is expected, however the recipient is welcome to donate to the Society. This is known as reciprocity the giving of a service or product to eventually receive something in return.

The course in the Psychology of Persuasion has modules which are introduced by CXL’s founder, Peep Laja and are eloquently presented. The second topic for this area looks at the Fogg Behaviour Model, which looks at Motivation, Triggers and Ability. Although I would love to think that I would use positive triggers in my writing to encourage people to buy a product/service, there are times when a negative trigger will be more attention grabbing.    

As this course shows when it comes to buying, we could be considered to have three brains: the thinking, feeling and decision-making aspects.  This also comes in with the practice of yoga where we think about which class we attend, what time and place, we decide to go, and we have feelings throughout the class.

Image by Mike Renpening from Pixabay

Robert Ornstein, a famous neuroscientist claims that our brains are what makes us selfish in the sense of having a need to survive. He refers to it as the old brain.  This comes in heavily in communication when we think about what is in it for us.  Therefore when we want to persuade someone to buy, we have to think about what is known as the Voice of the Customer (VoC) and think about what our customer wants and how we can deliver their wishes to them.

Another powerful aspect is the ability to Keep it Simple.  This applies heavily in copywriting where the style of writing is very much to keep things to the point and not to over egg the pudding so to speak. I love that the CXL course indicates that it’s best to have a maximum of three (Unique Selling Points) USPs and as someone who loves branding I’m aware that I really want to consider my brand as one that is honest, warm and communicative.

Another important aspect of copywriting that comes up in this section is about A/B testing, which shows the message that we want to share with our audience and which message they prefer.  This is about having two versions of an ad, for example and then checking the reaction to each of the ads. 

Another section of the Psychology of Persuasion course is about cognitive bias which is about our prejudices and personal interpretations of situations.  Some certainly apply to my way of thinking. For example, recency bias is the assumption that because something is more recent it will automatically be better.  I was thinking about this only this morning when considering a book list for 2021, which could have been only based on the latest releases. However, the latest releases are not necessarily going to be better than the earlier books. What I do like about more recent information is its ability to improve upon past attempts.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

An aspect of the course looks at the difference of emotional and rational decision making.  I love this part because I feel that I don’t find decision making that easy.  The subject draws upon the research of the neuroscientist, Antonio Demasio, who studied people who had lost the part of the brain function relating to emotions and he found that they could not make decisions.  The importance of this research reflects on advertising as ads play on our emotions and our influence to buy by as much as 3 to 1 for tv commercials and 2 to 1 for print commercials.  This article by Tommy Walker explains this theory in more detail.

As a former web developer, I was reminded of my learnings in the section about website design and the decision to buy.  The research shows that readers will review information in a Z like shape so that what is on the top left side is most important and then the reader will read from left to right and then go down to the next line and read from left to right. This is also important for SEO and website analytics because it is the top three results that are the most important on any web search.  Admittedly personally I’ll do a check of the top five and then narrow down from there.   This section also emphasizes the need for clear, larger photos and strong headlines.

The ecommerce product page study shows how the sizing of an item can influence how much someone is willing to pay for it.  It’s certainly credible information as I’m more attracted to buying items where I’m able to zoom in and see the detail of a product before I purchase it.  The information contained here is particularly useful for product descriptions and web design, though also important for print advertising.

The last section of this first module is about cognitive fluency, which comes back to keeping things simple right down to the language that is used to write and speak about what you want to sell.  This relates to one of my favourite brands, a hypnotherapist by the name of Marisa Peer who over her 20+ years of being a therapist discovered that people’s problems come down for the most part to the simple belief that they are “not enough”.  She is also an authority on her subject and produces videos consistently that back up her research.

I would like to end this blog by thanking the CXL Institute for giving me the opportunity to study this interesting subject and to you the readers for taking the time to read this blog.

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