Fear Not! Commitment and Consistency

commitment consistency

By BRADY EVAN WALKER

EMOTION EQUALS RESPONSE

Persado’s mission is to organize and quantify emotional triggers in language and images so you can inspire action in your audience.

Neuroscience researchers like Antonio Damasio and Daniel Kahneman have demonstrated the primacy of emotions in decision-making. Damasio has even shown that patients whose cortical emotional connections had been severed, i.e., they literally feel no emotion, are paralyzed by simple decisions.  

But there is more you can do to inspire action — techniques of engendering the emotions that give rise to greater response rates and loyalty.

In our series on how tech can help your brand’s reach and influence, we’re exploring the Six Principles outlined in Robert Cialdini’s seminal text, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

We’ve already talked about how to use The Reciprocity Principle and The Likability Principle in digital marketing, and this week we’ll take a look at The Commitment & Consistency Principle.

THE COMMITMENT & CONSISTENCY PRINCIPLE

The principle of Commitment and Consistency hinges on the common discomfort with cognitive dissonance. In other words, people tend to keep their identities consistent by aligning their actions, promises, inner choices, beliefs, and values. When a piece of the puzzle threatens to stray from the fold, it must be reeled in for the sake of a coherent identity.

“So,” you may be thinking, “that just means that on a certain level I unconsciously steer my actions to align with my values. Big surprise there.”

But the shift isn’t a one-way path. Sometimes your beliefs will actually shift to align with your actions. Everything we think and do affects our self-perception and therefore our identity.

HOW CAN THIS PRINCIPLE BE USED IN MARKETING?

People will very often aim for being consistent with choices they’ve already made, even if it was a tiny decision. For the marketer looking for marketshare and mindshare, getting your audience to commit to something small, then getting (gradually) larger commitments from them over time will be easier. They will come to see themselves as the “type of person who does X, likes Y, and thinks like Z.”

In Influence, Cialdini recounts an experiment in which a group of people were asked to wear a small cancer awareness button for one week. Almost everyone who was asked complied to this harmless request. Then, some time later, the button-wearers and a control group non-button-wearers were asked to make a donation to help fight cancer. Based on what you’ve read so far, who do you think gave the most? The button wearers gave far more than the control group.

CONCLUSION: Wearing the button had shifted their identity toward that of someone more committed to fighting cancer than they were before.

All that said, it should be obvious that marketers are already keenly aware of this principle, though they frame it differently: The Marketing Funnel.

GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR

Ask your prospect to agree to a simple request. Try to make this as transaction-minimal as possible. Request a retweet or like. Hold an Instagram contest for taking a picture of your product and tagging it. Asking for an email address might be a high bar, though, so mull over the question: what’s the smallest possible action I can ask of a prospect?

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SQUEEZE IN THE SECOND FOOT

Build on existing commitments. As mentioned in our post on Likability, Daisy London had their fans and fans of YouTube star Roxxsaurus (with whom they were designing a line of jewelry) vote on their favorite jewelry designs. That’s the foot in the door. The next step in such a scenario would be asking them to share their picks on social media. Fans then feel proud of their great taste while making a public commitment to the product.

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OPEN THE DOOR

You now have a prospect involved with your brand. You’ve formed a tender, tenuous alliance. Now, to switch metaphors, water that garden. The value you bring to the table should entice your prospects to larger commitments, like signing up for your newsletter or paying for shipping on a free sample.

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COME BEARING GIFTS. GIVING MAKES YOU PART OF THE FAMILY

Give freebies or sell low-priced products that directly relate to your bigger conversion goals. There’s a reason why Sephora invests heavily in free makeup tutorials, or why Casper employs a massive editorial team to run their VanWinkle blog. These free products work on the unconscious, and shift prospects to an attitude of identifying with the brand on a personal level.

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ASK FOR SOMETHING

This part of the funnel is most obvious in situations involving political activism. You start with a like, share, or retweet. You then request that that person to sign a petition. Only then can you expect higher compliance when a Senator needs masses of phone calls, emails, and letters. Your cause is likely to suffer if you skip steps.

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RECAP

Miniscule commitments lead to tiny commitments, which lead to small commitments, which can snowball into lifetime value. Personal identity is malleable and easily influenced. Use this power for good, but don’t underestimate the power of small commitments.  

Cialdini proves this point by quoting an article from the trade magazine American Salesman:

…when a person has signed an order for your merchandise, even though the profit is so small it hardly compensates for the time and effort of making the call, he is no longer a prospect – he is a customer.

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