Why You Can’t Resist Persuasive Techniques (Even When You Spot Them)

image of woman with an orange

I am such a sucker.

Every year around the same time, the catalog comes in the mail. And every year, I think “maybe I’ll skip ordering this year. Maybe I’ll take a break.”

And then, I make the fatal mistake. I decide to take a peek inside.

And before I know it, I’m placing an order for the most expensive oranges I’ll eat all year. I cannot resist.

Even though I understand full well all the persuasion techniques they employ to make their product irresistible, I cave.

Robert Cialdini would be proud, because they follow the concepts in his classic book, Influence, to the letter.

Here’s what makes HoneyBell oranges so irresistible (besides the taste):

1. Liking: we buy from people we find agreeable

When you peel back the catalog cover, you’re met with a headline that introduces an engaging story about how this particular strain of orange was discovered.

It’s descriptive, folksy, and uses humor. It sounds like you’re hearing a story told by a likable friend.

2. Authority: we respect and respond to those in charge

The story gives you the impression that the HoneyBell was discovered by the company sending the catalog. Is that true?

Who knows, but they tell the story best and quickly establish that their authority with this fruit goes back to 1945.

3. Reciprocity: we’re driven to pay back “debts”

If you’ve ordered from them before, the HoneyBell folks make sure you get your catalog in plenty of time so you won’t miss the ordering window for the next year.

They also send a free plastic “bib” with every order to protect your clothing from the overflow of juice.

And sometimes they even include a “juice straw” that you can use to pierce the fruit and draw the juice out directly.

All these free gifts make you feel grateful — and slightly indebted to them — which motivates you to place your order year after year.

4. Commitment: we strive to make our actions and decisions consistent

Sorting through the mailer, you find an order form that is pre-filled with the names, addresses, and items you purchased last year.

Want to delight your family members with HoneyBells again? (Better yet, want to upgrade your order?) They make it easy. Last year’s orders beckon like a voice from the past, “You did this once. Do it again. It’s easy!”

5. Social proof: we feel safer about buying something others have tried

Just in case you’re not convinced, the HoneyBell catalog is sprinkled with testimonials in every available nook and cranny.

Customers send candid shots of themselves eating their oranges, bibs on.

The latest catalog features a photo of a black Labrador Retriever in a bib, with a straw in its mouth that’s stuck in an orange. Who can resist that?

6. Scarcity: we want things more when their availability is limited

Here’s the clincher: Florida HoneyBells are only available once a year for a few weeks.

This might be the most persuasive technique of all: if you don’t order now for next year, you’ll have to wait two years before you can have these oranges again.

Making oranges out of lemons

When I come across a campaign I admire, I imagine what it must have been like to plan and implement that campaign.

Here’s what I think happened at the meeting with the ad agency that produced the HoneyBell campaign.

Client: “We have these oranges that are so juicy they make a mess when you eat them. But they’re not round and pretty -— they have a weird bulge on one end. And they’re only available once a year. Oh, and we can’t ship them until after the major year-end holidays are over.”

Ad agency: “No problem. We’ll send out plastic bibs with every order, call them “bells,” and we’ll tell people that their holiday gift will be appreciated even more because it will arrive after the holiday rush.”

Sometimes legendary campaigns are born out of necessity.

How about you?

Are you ever influenced by these persuasive techniques, even though you understand what’s happening?

Do you find yourself picking apart campaigns, trying to figure out which elements came together to make them work? (If not, try it; it’s a great way to learn.)

As for me, it’s now the second week in January … so if it takes me a while to respond to your comments below, come looking for me. I’ll be the one with the orange juice dribbling down my chin. :-)

About the Author: Pamela Wilson shows you how to combine strategic marketing and great design to create a memorable brand at Big Brand System. Have you seen her free Brown Bag Webinars?

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