Advertising Principles - Evidence-based principles

6 books that influence guru Robert Cialdini wants you to read

By Jonathan Burton Dec 26, 2016 MarketWatch.com

Robert Cialdini knows what to say and how to say it in an influential, persuasive way that encourages you to agree with him. Cialdini, an eminent social psychologist, lays out the tools and tactics to master the art of influence in his best-selling book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” published more than 30 years ago and considered a classic of business literature. Now Cialdini offers another set of sophisticated tools in his new book, “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade.”

The art — some would say the dark art — of influence and persuasion is familiar territory for advertisers, salespeople and politicians. But, in fact, presenting yourself with the Glossary Link intention of getting a desired outcome is basic human nature, as is evidenced by the books Cialdini recommended when he talked with MarketWatch about his own research. Here’s what he would have you read:

1. “Rhetoric” by Aristotle.

Cialdini notes that Aristotle was the first to “systematize the idea of a persuasive approach to rhetoric.” The ancient Greek philosopher, in his treatise “Rhetoric,” outlined a way to break through to an audience and obtain their assent — essential tools of influence and persuasion.

Cialdini identifies with Aristotle’s observation that if a speaker keeps information constant but changes the style or the sequence in which it is presented, he gets different outcomes. Says Cialdini: “We’re always advised: Begin with your strengths. Give the most positive features of what you’re offering. It turns out it’s the opposite.

“The audience needs to be assured of your trustworthiness,” Cialdini advises. “There’s a wall of incredulity between you and the audience when they don’t know you. Your best arguments are going to bounce off that wall and be useless until you’ve brought the wall down.”

Adds Cialdini: “The most elegant version of this is when you describe a weakness your audience already knows. When I do consulting with businesses, one question I’ll ask is: “What is the argument that your rivals most often use against you, that your customer is going to hear from your rivals?” Bring it up first. The consequence will be that they are going to hear you say something they’ve heard — but they’ve never heard you say it in a way that establishes your trustworthiness. We see this so rarely. It’s scary and it goes against everything we’re taught to do.”

2. “The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard.

Cialdini credits Packard as being the first to look at the advertising business and show how much of the message was not in the content but in the context — the sizzle, not the steak.

3. “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

Says Cialdini: “Thaler has figured out a way to get people to move in particular directions by aligning his request with their natural tendencies to move in any direction. Remove the barrier. Find the course of least resistance. Find the things that require the least effort. Opt in or opt out.”

4. “Persuasive Advertising: Evidence-Based Principles” by J. Scott Armstrong.

Armstrong, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, has written what Cialdini praises as “the most academically well-documented analysis of persuasive advertising.”

Cialdini adds: “He goes through every single technique and strategy you’re likely to see and provides the research evidence for or against that strategy.”

5. “To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” by Daniel Pink.

This book observes that people, by nature, are salespeople. “We all are sellers,” Cialdini says. “We are doing this every day.” If selling is going on all around us, he adds, it’s important to understand how it works — useful knowledge whether you are selling products or speaking to your family or work colleagues.

6. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth.

Cialdini says he appreciates how Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor, addresses how people can construct a disciplined framework that guides their approach and relationship to the larger world. “You persuade yourself,” Cialdini says, “to go in directions that are consistent with your goals and desired outcomes.”


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