Psych Eye for the Social Media Guy [Download] and more...

Psych Eye for the Social Media Guy [Download]

Ice Bucket Challenge Zuck LeBron Gates

Here’s a short downloadable refresher on need-to-know psychology for social media professionals that I’ve put together for my new advanced class on social media at ISOC. It contains examples from Adobe, ALS, Burberry, DNC, Ford, Heinz, L’Oreal, Mercedes, Nike, P&G, Samsung…

All in the service of the central point that smart, effective social media communication delivers on one of our three core psychological needs

  • Affiliation
  • Power
  • Achievement

The deck also includes examples of how organisations are using social information to appeal to our System 1 (fast, intuitive) mind in social media.

Thoughts welcome.



10 Digital Insights from 10 Most Controversial Psychology Experiments


Time for a quick ethical-bypass? From Minority Report ‘pre-cogs’ to recovered memories, the BPS (British Psychological Society) has just published a wondrous list of the ten most controversial psychology experiments ever published. Many took place before the Internet, and today many could never be replicated – at least officially and published – since they contravene changing standards in research ethics. Others are simply controversial.  But all have implications for digital marketers…

  1. The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971, Philip Zimbardo) Give people power, and they won’t just abuse it, they’ll abuse you: Is digital abuse the dark side and consequence of digital empowerment?
  2. The Milgram “Shock Experiments” (1961 Stanley Milgram) Give people an authority figure, and they will blindly follow, even kill: Could digital tech be creating a generation of digital sheep?
  3. The “Elderly-related Words Provoke Slow Walking” Experiment (1996 John Bargh) Hear, read or notice elderly people, and you behave elderly: Could using the power of suggestion through digital priming be the future of digital marketing?
  4. The Conditioning of Little Albert Experiment (1920 John Watson) Condition a baby to fear all things white and fluffy by scaring them every time they see a white rat: How could we use conditioned responses to sensory stimuli to make digital more effective?
  5. The “Lost in The Mall” Experiment (Elizabeth Loftus 1995) Implant fictitious memories such as being lost in a mall as a child by simply recounting them alongside true memories: Could digital marketing implant false memories about brands by presenting them alongside actual memories?
  6.  The Bem Pre-cognition Experiments (Daryl Bem 2010) Minority Report ‘precognition’ – scientifically demonstrated (but rarely replicated) by a highly respected researcher; you can know the future and be retroactively influenced by your future actions (revise for an exam just after you’ve taken the exam improves exam results): If we are ‘precogs’ (and it’s not a freak spurious data artefact), could post-purchase marketing influence prior purchasing???
  7. The Voodoo Correlations in Neuroscience Study (Ed Vul 2009)- A meta-analysis of neuroscience experiments linking behaviour and emotions to specific brain areas found results to be at best questionable (or like voodoo, spurious, non-existent): Should digital marketers adopt a healthy skepticism when it comes to neuromarketing?
  8. The Anti-Depressant Placebo Effect Study (Irving Kirsch 2008) – Suffering from mid to moderate depression? Then the benefit of taking a anti-depressants versus placebo may not be clinically meaningful: Could digital marketers use the placebo effect to shift perceptions? (For example would brand experience improve simply by telling people they have been enrolled in a VIP scheme)?
  9. The “Nurture Assumption” Study (Judith Harris 1995) Parenting has less influence on children than many parents want to believe – what matters most are peers and personality – not parents: Every consumer is unique, but if we are going to target ‘types’ or ‘clusters’ shouldn’t we focus on personality types (and peer groups)?
  10. Libet’s Free Will Challenge Experiments (Benjamin Libet 1983) You body moves just before you choose for it to move, so is free will and consciousness an effect rather than a cause: Behaviour before belief; should digital marketers focus on nudging behaviour rather than influencing intentions?


30 More Psychological Nudges to Get People to Buy from ‘The small BIG’ (speed summary)

Small BIG 2

Here are the remaining 30 psychological nudges that will help you sell smarter from  ‘The small BIG – Small Changes that Spark Big Influence’, the new book on marketing persuasion psychologists Robert Cialdini and Noah Goldstein, and Steve Martin (see here for summary of the first set).

In total, the book covers 50 ‘nudges’ (little things that you can do or say, that have big impact) from recent psychological research and behavioural science.  Psychological nudges appeal to our ‘fast thinking’ intuitive mind that uses automatic biases and decision loops to decide.

  • Nudge 21: people to buy by asking them to voice any concerns first, and leaving your sales pitch to last (and use a checklist to cover off your points)
  • Nudge 22: Nudge people to buy by creating a good ‘first impression’ appear authoritative but also similar to your customers (sharing same values, passions etc)
  • Nudge 23: Nudge people to buy by encouraging them to respond positively in some way to your pitch (we act on how we respond rather than what we see or hear (‘cognitive response model’)
  • Nudge 24: Nudge people to buy pointing out an irrelevant weakness as well as strengths (you’ll seem more objective)
  • Nudge 25: Nudge people to buy by visually and physically positioning the product you want to sell as the middle option by placing it centre-stage (in the middle around other options)
  • Nudge 26: Nudge people to buy by selling in an environment that is associated with the benefits of purchase (e.g. behind the wheel of a car for car sales)
  • Nudge 27: Nudge people to buy using ’home advantage’ – selling on your property, not someone else’s, gives you a psychological confidence-boosting advantage.
  • Nudge 28: Nudge people to buy with absolute confidence – open, expansive, and confident sales are most persuasive
  • Nudge 29: Nudge people to buy using ‘love’ – the association buying = loving is a powerful sales message
  • Nudge 30: Nudge people to buy by selling to their personal expectations and preferences, not those of a ‘typical’ customer
  • Nudge 31: Nudge people to buy by doing them a favour first, whilst setting up an expectation for later exchange (reciprocation) – ‘arrange for exchange’ (e.g. When someone thanks you, say ‘You’re welcome, I’m sure you’d do the same for me’)
  • Nudge 32: Nudge people to buy with a ‘thank you’. Research shows that expressing gratitude (e.g. for a past purchase/payment) can double the effectiveness of a new sales message
  • Nudge 33: Nudge people to buy by offering an unexpected gift at an unexpected time. Give first, sell later works best when you surprise people (too many free trials/samples have changed expectation – your gift needs to stand out)
  • Nudge 34: Nudge people to buy by simply asking them to buy – we underestimate the likelihood people will buy by simply, explicitly and politely asking them.
  • Nudge 35: Nudge people to buy by making the first move – by striking first with an offer, you will ‘perceptually anchor’ your customer to your initial terms
  • Nudge 36: Nudge people to buy with precise pricing; $191.50 feels a more legitimate properly costed-up price than rounded prices such as $200.
  • Nudge 37: Nudge people to buy using the .99¢ trick – there may only be 1¢ difference between $4.99 and $5.00 but our perceptions are anchored to the first number we read - there really is a dollar of perceptual difference between $4.99 and $5.00
  • Nudge 38: Nudge people to buy using ‘perceptual contrast’ (comparison effect) that positions what you want to sell next to a far more expensive option.
  • Nudge 39: Nudge people to buy by simplifying the offer down to a single killer feature - a bundle of features/arguments is less compelling that a single standout feature/argument (although adding an additional custom or personalised benefit can further enhance persuasion)
  • Nudge 40: Nudge people to buy through ‘unit-asking’ show them how much just one use/one unit is worth to boost the impression of value
  • Nudge 41: Nudge people by personalising the specific benefit to who’s buying or benefiting; ‘identify and individualise’ to sell
  • Nudge 42: Nudge people to buy by pointing out what customers could do with the money they save buying from you rather than a more expensive competitor – we often forget ‘opportunity costs’
  • Nudge 43: Nudge people to buy by framing their progress – if they’ve just started out, show ‘progress made’ (e.g. 20% done), but when they’re past 50%, show progress remaining (e.g. 20% remaining)
  • Nudge 44: Nudge people to buy by minimising decision bumps – be ‘rigid’ in your offer, reduce choice and options, and offer structured path to purchase (cf. jam test)
  • Nudge 45: Nudge people to buy using FOMO – fear of missing out – by pointing out what they’ll lose if they don’t buy
  • Nudge 46: Nudge people to buy by giving people physical space to choose (like wider aisles, bigger rooms…) – space gives confidence in our ability to make a good choice
  • Nudge 47: Nudge people by pointing out downsides of not buying or of buying an alternative. Contrary to popular belief, negative arguments and information can be more memorable and persuasive than positives ones
  • Nudge 48: Nudge people to buy by showing your product not be problem-free – but ‘problem-freed’; if something does go wrong, you’re there to take care of it
  • Nudge 49: Nudge people to buy with ‘just-in’ information; it’s more compelling. If that’s not possible, make the source of information as specific (who, when, where) as possible – as specificity lends to credibility
  • Nudge 50: Nudge people to buy with smiles and laughter – making someone smile and laugh induces trust.


The Small BIG (speed summary) – 20 Psychological Nudges to get People to Buy

small big

Here are 20 psychological nudges to get people to buy from ‘The small BIG – Small Changes that Spark Big Influence’, the new book on marketing persuasion by Persuasion Science rockstars psychologists Robert Cialdini and Noah Goldstein, and Steve Martin.

The small BIG a kind of Nudge meets Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion covering 50 small psychological nudges – drawn from psychological and behavioural science – that can make a big change the persuasive effectiveness of your marketing (or whatever/whoever you are trying to influence).

Many of the psychological nudges are built around Cialdini’s 6 universal persuasion principles (authority, social proof, scarcity, consistency, liking, reciprocity) and are based on the now-dominant idea that our minds have two systems for thinking and solving problems; (system) one – fast, intuitive and mostly unconscious, and (system) two – slow, reasoned and deliberate.

Most people spend most of the time using System 1, only hauling System 2 out to ponder when we absolutely have to. The psychological nudges covered in ‘The small Big’ involve presenting information in a way that fits the automatic biases and rules (heuristics) that make up our System 1 minds.

Here’s the first 20 psychological nudges for your delight and delectation – next week we’ll cover the remaining 30

  • Nudge 1: Nudge people to buy/pay using social proof by telling them about the large number of people who have already bought/paid (UK tax authority HMRC used this to boost payment from late-payers from 57% to 86%)
  • Nudge 2: Nudge people to adopt a new product (go against the crowd/convention) using negative competitor-user imagery by pairing crowd/convention behaviour with unpopular/undesirable people/groups
  • Nudge 3: Nudge people to buy by talking about the costs or benefits of deviating from the norm  (e.g. if buying is the/their norm, then highlight the costs of not buying (deviating from norm), but if buying is not the norm, highlight the benefits of buying (deviating from the norm)
  • Nudge 4: Nudge people to buy a new product (and thereby violate a social norm) using active social proof by showing others actively buying (or in the case of pro-social behaviour, if the social norm is to drop litter, show others picking up litter)
  • Nudge 5: Nudge people to pay attention by using their first name; first name cues our attention (cocktail party phenomenon – from the background din of chatter, you notice when someone uses your name)
  • Nudge 6: Nudge people towards buying by focusing both on how they have similar traits to other buyers and that they are dissimilar to non-buyers (focus on uncommon commonalities)
  • Nudge 7: Nudge people to spot marketing opportunities by pairing them with a fresh set of eyes (familiarity leads to opportunity-blindness)
  • Nudge 8: Nudge people to buy by first securing an active (and public) pre-sales commitment (e.g. sign up for information – for instance missed appointments dropped by 25% when patients filled in an appointment card themselves)
  • Nudge 9: Nudge people indirectly in small steps, by first encouraging them to engage (publicly if possible) in a low-cost activity consistent with buying, and then using further cues to trigger purchase.
  • Nudge 10: Nudge people to buy ‘sinful/guilty’ products by providing them with a way to offset the guilt and ‘licence’ the behaviour (e.g. placing recycling bins in a room will encourage wasteful behaviour)
  • Nudge 11: Nudge people using stories that illustrate the positive ’significance’ of purchase on others – rather than personal benefit.
  • Nudge 12: Nudge people by linking the desired behaviour (e.g. buying) to that of someone they know, whilst linking non-compliance (not buying) to losing (not losing is often a greater motivator than winning)
  • Nudge 13: Nudge people to buy with ‘implementation intentions’ by getting them to predict purchase as likely – and encouraging them to specify the details (when, where etc)
  • Nudge 14: Nudge people to buy with ‘future lock-in’ by inviting them to commit to buying in the future (e.g. subscriptions)
  • Nudge 15: Nudge people to buy now because they owe it to their future selves (moral responsibility to one’s future self)
  • Nudge 16: Nudge people to buy by framing the benefits of purchase as an attainable challenge. We are motivated by challenges, but only when we see them as attainable (5 a day fresh produce recommendation would work better if it was framed as a more attainable 4-6)
  • Nudge 17: Nudge people to buy by first framing their options as a choice between two purchases, and then pointing our what they stand to lose if they don’t choose the option you want them to take (AKA ‘Enhanced Active Choice’)
  • Nudge 18:Nudge people with deadlines – an offer of just a few days will yield more purchases than a more flexible offer with a long expiry date
  • Nudge 19: Nudge people to stay waiting in line/on hold rather than quit using distraction techniques – like Disney queues, give them something entertaining to distract their attention and feeling they are wasting/losing time
  • Nudge 20: Nudge people to buy using ‘preference for potential’ – the way we find future potential to be more compelling than past track record (people preferred a Facebook clip suggesting an artist could become the Next Big Thing, over the same clip suggesting the artist was currently The Next Big Thing’





Psych Eye for the Innovation Guy [Download]

trait tattoo

Digital innovation is not just about technology, it’s about the people who use it.

Understanding why people do the things the do is what psychology is all about, and so here’s a quick primer deck on need-to-know consumer psychology for innovators – focusing on three core insights (from an upcoming innovation training course)

  • The 7 Fundamental Problems – The human brain, with its 100 trillion synapses, evolved to solve problems and it is wired to focus on solving 7 fundamental, timeless and universal problems.  Unless your innovation solves one of these problems, your users/ mindswill be closed for business
    4. STATUS
    7. KIN CARE
  • Appeal to the Automatic ‘System 1′ Mind – Problems are so fundamental to human psychology,it appears that we have each evolved two problem-solving minds – System 1, which is automatic, fast, and mostly unconscious – and System 2, which is slow, deliberate and effortful. Research shows people are guided by the auto-pilot of System 1 problem-solving more than we’d think – and so the opportunity for digital innovation is to appeal to how the mostly unconscious System 1 problem-solving mind works
    1. Your innovation should ‘feel’ effortless – give instant and easy gratification (present bias)
    2. Your innovation should ‘feel’ good by evoking positive associations (emotions, memories) (affect heuristic)
    3. Your innovation has to feel ‘right’ because it’s consistent with what people already (confirmation bias)
    4. Your innovation should ‘feel’ familiar by building on category norms (availability heuristic)
    5. Your innovation should ‘feel’ empowering – giving people control over their lives (optimism bias)
  • Brand People, not Products – Ever since cattle were branded, branding has been about branding goods as a way to signal quality, reduce risk, and help people choose. But in advanced markets, brands have a new important function; people use brands to brand themselves – to signal what’s great about them, rather than the product.  To drive the psychological appeal of your brand, innovators can focus branding efforts on the six key dimensions of personal branding – based on the Big Five OCEAN human personality dimensions, and general intelligence (that together make up your ‘trait tattoo’)
    • i (General Intelligence) – smart is the new black – branding that helps people signal their smarts
    • Openness – branding that helps people signal their creativity and desire for change
    • Conscientiousness – branding that helps people display loyalty, care and attention to detail
    • Extraversion – branding that helps people display their social side
    • Agreeableness – brand that helps people display that they’re a good, nice person
    • Neuroticism – branding that helps people display their sensitivity



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