Book review: “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion”

Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Summary:  This book can’t be summarized.  It can only be very, very strongly recommended.

Recommended? YES. Buy it now if you haven’t read it.

Table of contents:
1 Weapons of Influence
2 Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take…and Take
3 Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind
4 Social Proof: Truths Are Us
5 Liking: The Friendly Thief
6 Authority: Directed Deference
7 Scarcity: The Rule of the Few

Below are my key takeaways and some interesting points, but I’m telling you.  Buy it.  Read it. Trust me.

  • Expensive implies quality. Example: gems in a jewel case that weren’t selling were marked up and then sold at a “discount” to the markup (a price higher than the original price), and they sold like hotcakes.
  • Power of contrast. Example: If you go into a men’s store they’ll try and sell you an expensive suit before the sell you the expensive sweater, because the contrast makes the sweater appear more affordable.
  • Reciprocity. Example: If someone buys you something (say, a Coke), you’re more likely to by something from them (say, raffle tickets).
  • Concession. Example: If someone tries to sell you something and you pass (say $5 of $1 raffle tickets), they’ll try and sell you something less that you’ll end up buying because you feel bad (1 $1 raffle ticket).  Another term used here is “reject then retreat.”
  • Commitment leads to consistency leads to collaboration.  Example: During the Korean war, the Chinese got American soldiers to make public commitments of various things.  Then they made those commitments even more public, which the American soldiers had to stand by to be consistent.  That consistency then led them down a path of minor forms of collaboration – without them really thinking about it as such.
  • Writing something down, even privately, strengthens your commitment to something.
  • People like and believe in commitment because their image and reputation is on the line (ie the Chinese concentration camp example above).
  • People like more what they struggle to get, even if it’s not that good. Example: frats (hey, it’s in the book, don’t hate the messenger).
  • People like to feel they have control over a decision – even if they really don’t.
  • The power of social proof, or the idea that if others do it it’s good.  Example: introverted pre-schoolers who saw introverted kids become social in a movie were more inclined to go play. Another example: cults.  People follow the crowd because they believe in the “wisdom” of the crowd.
  • Convince and you shall be convinced.  Example: cults, where people who convince or convert others become more convinced (that’s why so many are evangelical).
  • Assign responsibility if you want things done. Example: a stabbing that took place over many minutes had 38 witnesses…it happened cause everyone figured someone else would call the police.
  • The power of copycats that’ll play on social proof.  Example: if you find a wallet of someone like you and you’re more likely to return it (it’s true).   Another (scary) example: more suicides when the press publicizes a suicide…more fatal “accidents” too.
  • Liking is an important part of influence.  Attractiveness, similarity (identity and context), compliments, contact & cooperation all can make someone more influential.
  • The reason good cop/bad cop works is because the subject feels someone is on their side.
  • Associations are powerful. Bearers of good news get treated well, and bad news get treated poorly.  Examples: weathermen (or Roman messengers reporting lost battles!)
  • People tend to defer to authority/experts.  Examples: experiments involving shock therapy where people listened to a guy in a lab coat to inflict pain on another human being (incredible how strong this is).
  • The power of connotations and context over content, and how it can imply authority.  Titles and clothing do this.
  • Gaining trust.  Example: a waiter who advises against a more expensive item early in the meal will gain the trust of everyone at the table, and then he can suggest more expensive items and more items through the course of the meal.
  • Scarcity is powerful. There’s a psychological reaction…people don’t want to lose their freedom, and don’t want to lose.  This plays to a second point: competition. Invite 3 used car buyers at the same time and you’ll sell the car faster.  A cookie is more attractive if there are two of them than if there are 10 of them. (Always as yourself when something is scarce: will the cookie taste as good if there are 10 of them?). Plus, if you saw that the number went from 10 to 2, you want it even more. It can even lead to revolt…when something is given and then taken away, people get mad; if something is never given at all, they don’t know what they’re missing.
  • “It appears that commitments are most effective in changing a person’s self-image and future behavior when they are active, public, and effortful.”
  • “The most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favor.”
  • “Social proof is most powerful for those who feel unfamiliar or unsure in a specific situation and who, consequently, must look outside of themselves for evidence of how to best behave there.”

More on this book on goodreads!

Book review: “Brand Simple”

Book: BrandSimple: How the Best Brands Keep it Simple and Succeed

Summary:  To build a great brand, pick something different and important about your product, create a simple branding message around it that generates an emotional response, and then stick to it!

Recommended? Eh, not really…you’ll get the gist in this blog post (you’re welcome).

Key takeaways:

What is a brand?

  • “A brand is what your product or service stands for in people’s minds; it might be an image or, perhaps, a feeling. Branding is the process of executing and managing the things that make people feel the way they do about your brand.”
  • A brand is a “promise that links a product or service to a consumer.”
  • “A brand simplifies choice. ‘Let’s go to Subway’”

What makes a strong brand?

  • “It has been proven time after time that the strongest brands are built on simple, compelling ideas that grab people by signaling that something is different from what they’ve heard and seen before and is relevant to their needs.”
  • “’Brevity is the soul of brand.’”
  • “The best brands connect on an emotional level, not a rational level.” Why? “Emotion almost always wins over function, even in the most commonly used or ubiquitous products.”
  • “For a brand to be successful it must stand for something different, and this difference must be relevant to its users.”
  • Brands transcend the category.  Think Kleenex for tissues, Virgin for airlines, etc.

How do you figure out your brand?

  • “If you want to win you must know what you’re selling, find a way to prove that what you’re selling is different, and distill this difference into a focused idea that can drive and unite everything associated with your brand.”
  • Understand the market, the consumer, and the competition, and figure out what factors can enhance the product’s point of differentiation.
  • Speaking of competition, figure out what they say they do better then you, then make sure you communicate to the customer that you do these things at least as well as they do to get to parity.  Then tell them what you do better or different.
  • Make a list of desired – and undesired – associations (and their relative importance), to help you figure out your “brand driver.” What’s a “brand driver”? It’s what your brand stands for.  Find something different to say about your brand, make it simple and focused, and align it with your business strategy.  When finding something different, try to look for “an obvious and universal truth that no one else has seen.”
  • The author talks about something called a “BrandAssetValuator,” which is a fancy tool based on the interrelationships of four brand dimensions:

1.    “Differentiation – what makes your brand unique
2.    Relevance – how appropriate this difference is to the audience you want to reach
3.    Esteem – how well regarded your brand is in the marketplace
4.    Knowledge – how well consumers know and understand your brand”

Branding starts with the team

  • “Everyone on the…team understands the simple idea on which the brand is based and knows how to bring it to life.”
  • Map the customer journey so employees know where and how customers interact with your brand.  If you have partners, resellers, etc., make sure they know how to communicate your brand as well.
  • You need a “brand driver” for external and internal use; the short phrase that captures the essence of your idea.  For example, take GE: “imagination at work.” This is important so employees know how to make decisions that align with the brand. FedEx is great example…what’s their promise to customers and to them selves? On-time delivery by 10:30am.  If you ever watched Castaway, remember the way that brand promise unified everything for everyone in the early scenes? And that last scene where he delivered the package: that’s delivering on the brand promise.

Alright, those are my notes from the book.  At then end he’s got a summary, which I..umm…summarize here:

1. “Understand that brand and branding are different concepts.”
2. “Establish a differentiated meaning for your brand that the consumers you want to reach care about—find relevant—before you try to begin branding.”
3. “Know exactly who you want to talk to—that is, know your audience.”
4. “To find a different and relevant brand idea, look for the obvious.”
5. “Make sure your brand idea aligns with your business strategy.”
6. “Capture the essence of your brand idea in a brand driver—a simple statement of what your brand stands for.”
7. “Draw a map of the customer’s journey with your brand.”
8. “Remember that brand building is a marathon event.”

Check out more on this book on goodreads!