Itchy. I’m itchy. Not just a little itchy, but really itchy. And guess what, you may be feeling a little itchy too. That’s the power of thought; I may think or say something and you will be influenced to think of the same thing as me. You see, there’s a disease going around, one that’s so contagious it spreads without contact, and that’s “thought disease.” Marketing tactics that use the “Law of Social Proof” are capitalising on the fact people tend to follow the pack, as it is the “socially correct” thing to do. This will include thoughts, beliefs, values, actions, etc.
Why is it that Apple is one of the most successful companies today, and competitors struggle to compete? Whilst players like Samsung, HTC and Blackberry have released their own versions of the tablet, Apple still holds the majority of the market share for tablet computers. You will notice that every time a new Apple product will launch, Apple advocates would talk about it everywhere – in person, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, on TV, etc. When you hear that everyone is buying a product or service, you may feel you are missing out.
The Sixth Face to Persuasion is the Law of Social Proof
Marketing consultants understand that most people are imitators; we look at others as guidance on how to speak or act, and to determine what is right or wrong. People are more willing to behave in a certain way if there is evidence that everyone else is doing it, however this generally works in two conditions:
Like the Law of Liking, we’re most susceptible to being influenced when the persuader is similar to us. Testimonies from everyday, satisfied customers or clients are strong as we can identify with these people who are just like us. Comparably, teenagers commonly take up drinking or smoking, as they see other teens doing it.
When we’re unsure with a decision, we are more likely to go with the crowd, as it will seem the safe thing to do – this comes as an evolved survival instinct. As we also learnt from the Law of Scarcity, people are driven by a fear of losing on an opportunity and may purchase a product or service when they see others doing it.
However, sometimes the Law of Social Proof may work the opposite way. There will always be people that do not follow the crowd. We will always have the Blackberries yelling “Wake Up” to the crowds, who strive to be independent against the mass of Apples.
Nonetheless, the law can still be used to persuade others in negotiations. For example, you may convince co-workers that your suggestions should be considered, as staff in other departments are already following similar proposals to you. People like to feel that they are part of an established community that knows where it is going (Greer 2006). Marketing tactics will employ this insight within their communication; they can exhibit pictures of excited people similar to you using the product or service, display figures of how many customers/clients they already have, or cite mentions in respected media.
“Thought disease” is incredibly powerful, influencing people to catch the same thoughts as everyone else. If others are using the Law of Social Proof, why shouldn’t you?
Are you with me?
Greer, E 2006, ‘How To Use the Six Laws of Persuasion during a Negotiation’, Global Knowledge, Cary, North Carolina, viewed 13 September 2012 <http://www.globalknowledge.com/training/whitepaperdetail.asp?pageid=502&wpid=181&country=United+States>.