The Persuasion Game

By February 14, 2016 No Comments

Super Bowl Ads, Politics, & Hypnosis

These days, getting customers to buy is more difficult than ever. Between online retail, auction sites, local classifieds and forums, we’ve never had as much choice as we do now. People expect more for their dollar and have a variety of options to choose from outside of the traditional brick and mortar offerings. With this in mind, what persuades consumers to make purchasing decisions or decisions about products in general?

I’ve often wondered about the ROI on traditional advertising, especially for large sporting events like the Super Bowl. At $5 million a spot, this year’s Super Bowl had many flashy and expensive commercials. But historically, the amount of new customers generated by these commercials is minuscule and often falls flat during the year or so following their debut. Beyond perhaps the entertainment value (or just freaking us the heck out as in Mountain Dew’s puppymonkeybaby spot), they don’t do much to change people’s already established thoughts about the brands.

One study went so far as to say 90% of viewers were not likely to buy something in a Super Bowl ad. Based on those numbers, it would seem that there’s a lot more that could be done with that money than putting it into the ad budget. Or, is keeping the brand top of mind the most important thing a company can do? More people are tuning in to watch them, which means a bigger audience for the NFL. In that case, perhaps Super Bowl ads are working as intended.

Are the Old Rules that Govern sales No Longer Relevant in Today’s Economy?

So how can a company get the public to buy and raise their sales numbers? Well, they may need to get back to basics and do some old-fashioned persuasion, suggestion, and Permission Selling.

Political parties have been using advertising to sway popular opinion about certain issues and influence the public’s actions for decades. Cause and affect campaigns help shift public opinion and manipulate society’s psyche. We’ve seen the success of grass roots efforts that helped Obama get elected now being employed by a new batch of  candidates. The use of advertising-like practices to change public opinion on issues like gender, immigration, and gun control are at an all time high.

Let’s Look at the AIDA Model

A prime example of where advertising goes wrong is the AIDA Model that says to Arouse a customer’s Interest, then get them to Desire the product, and then have them take Action.

As we have seen with the Super Bowl ads, this doesn’t work very much if you just look at the sales figures. However, Seth Godin postulates that getting the permission of a buyer up front can make sales more attractive to the customers who are looking for a particular product. In his book on Permission Selling, Seth outlines his paradigm that converts potential clients into customers by getting their permission up front prior to showing them product ads or marketing information.

If you think about this, that’s what search engines are doing every day. They are helping people find what they are looking for, and by getting your product onto the first 3 search results pages, they have the best chance of making a sale. Smart businesses understand the Search Engine is the de facto access point to the customer for which showing them what they are looking for provides permission to show them other things they might be interested in. What the customer doesn’t know is the results they are shown are often skewed and manipulated into showing them the selections that the Search Engines decide should be shown. Try searching on a variety of search engines from Bing to Yahoo to Google and you will see how varied the results can be.

Conversation Hypnosis as Another Way to Persuade

Igor Ledochowski is using the English language to affect your buying habits and get you to buy and politicians have jumped on the bandwagon to use this methodology to get past the conscious thinking process of the public.

Ambiguities of human speech are manipulated to confuse and bypass the conscious mind. When this doorway to your inner mind is opened, you can be lead in almost any direction desired. Similar techniques are espoused in books like Unlimited Selling that give you a complete blueprint on how to manipulate a person’s mind to get them to buy. This is the same (albiet modified) technique used by men of a certain character in an attempt to seduce unsuspecting women in bars.

Apple has taken Seth’s model and is using it to create a complete product ecosystem that makes people dependent on Apple and their products and like a real ecosystem, you are in a sealed environment that shows you only what the creators of that ecosystem want you to see and experience.

Apple has taken Seth’s model and is using it to create a complete product ecosystem that makes people dependent on Apple and their products.

Hardware, software, media content, and even your finances are all part of Apple’s customer product ecosystem. It has garnered millions in sales as customers flock around Apple’s keynote events, stores that are specially designed to get you to buy, and even your iPhone helps Apple in the persuasion and selling process with built in tracking settings. Another example is Amazon’s Dash device. With one click of a button, you can order a specifically curated item from their store without ever having to place the order online. The technology that puts a button to order a product in the hands of a consumer to order anywhere makes the prime retail space in the grocery store shelves look amateurish (image below courtesy of website. All rights reserved).

dash buttonChips designed to take the consumer’s decision-making out of the buying equation and letting them click to order has become the new shopping paradigm.

This has been a long time coming

Eugene Swartz showed that as little as 10 words create a picture in a person’s mind. From there string the pictures together leads to mind down a path that the creator of those images desires. In his seminal book, Breakthrough Advertising he lays it out for you and today this book is sought after and studied by anyone who wishes to influence customers and persuading them to buy.

The Bottom Line

Sure, there are many ways in which advertising is persuading us into at least thinking about a particular brand or topic. In the long run, it is we who are opening ourselves up to marketers and giving them the power to influence. Being mindful of the techniques employed by advertisers will help you better understand how you are being manipulated and whether or not you want to go along for the ride or disengage altogether.

Learning about these methods for yourself increases awareness whether you are sales-focused or are a consumer who wants to be better informed. By knowing the trigger mechanisms in marketing, you put the power squarely in your hands.

To that end, here’s a list of references that offer valuable insight into this fascinating world:


Other titles:

  • Permission Marketing, Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into customer, Seth Godin
  • Street Hypnosis, Igor Ledochowski
  • The Robert Collier Letterbook, Robert Collier
  • Seven Steps to Freedom, Ben Suarez
  • No B.S. Marketing, Dan Kennedy
  • Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples
  • Breakthrough advertising, Eugene Schwartz


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