5 Golden Rules of Successful Suggestion and Persuasion

Rosie Neill

Written by Rosie Neill

4 mins

26th September 2019

I recently went to a local industry event: the Brighton edition of The Curiosity Club. The aim of the evening was to inspire marketers to become more creative, which is something I’m all for. The agenda was certainly a unique one and included a seance of all things! I was sceptical, to say the least…

At the end of the session, the conductors of the seance explained the purpose of the spooky experience. It wasn’t really a seance at all. It was actually a clever demonstration of how to apply the five golden rules of suggestion and persuasion.

Suggestion and Persuasion in Advertising and Marketing

This got me thinking about how the fundamental aim of all advertising and marketing is to persuade. Whether it be to buy a product, fill in a website form, or click on an advert, the goal is always to persuade the target audience to take the desired action. So, as marketers, it’s vital for us to learn how to successfully suggest and persuade.

1. Establish Authority

It’s important to remember that authority doesn’t come only from seniority, and it’s certainly not to do with age. You can also establish authority in terms of knowledge and experience.

The seance conductors, Griffin and Jones, instantly had a level of authority because their names were on the agenda and they’d been booked to run a seance. As a result, the audience automatically presumed they must know a thing or two about seances!

But another way they established authority was by bursting onto the stage very loudly. They exuded confidence. At the end of the session, they referred to the saying: “Where ignorance is mutual, confidence is king”. A good one for reminding you to have conviction in your decisions.

2. Reframe the Situation

Rule number two, reframing the situation, is all about gently shifting your audience’s perception so that they believe it will benefit them. To persuade them to get involved, it’s important that they see the circumstance as worthwhile for them. It’s not going to work if they consider it an annoyance, a challenge or something they have no choice but to do.

Griffin and Jones fostered a sense of excitement straight away. The benefit of participating in the seance was clear; the audience would discover whether there were any creepy goings-on in the historic venue of Proud Cabaret.

3. Condition Desired Behaviour

For those who haven’t heard of Pavlov’s dog, conditioning is the process of causing someone to behave in a certain way through repetition. By repeatedly rewarding the behaviour you do want and chastising that which you don’t, the desired behaviour becomes the natural response.

Griffin and Jones did this gradually through each activity in the seance. There were four activities in total and at the start, every audience member was asked to participate. With each activity, Griffin and Jones eliminated those that didn’t behave in the way they desired.

For example, the first activity was to hold your arms out, shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing. Without forcing your hands to touch, the instructions were to notice how your arms come together slowly on their own as if being pushed by an external force.

For those whose hands didn’t come to touch at all, the instruction was to sit down and watch the rest of the seance without taking part. So, the reward for the correct behaviour was continued participation and the feeling that you had done the activity right. The result on the audience members that “passed” was that they felt motivated to make it through the other activities too.

4. Apply Social Pressure

Humans have an innate desire for self-esteem. In other words, to feel good about themselves. Some of the factors that impact our self-esteem include whether we feel:

  • Safe
  • Involved
  • Liked and approved of
  • As if we are providing a valuable contribution to a given situation

Griffin and Jones fostered self-esteem by asking only the members of the audience who behaved in the desired way to continue participating. This also applied social pressure; no one wanted to be told to sit down. All audience members wanted to be chosen to carry on as this validated their contribution to the seance and fuelled their self-esteem.

5. Appeal to Emotions

Griffin and Jones didn’t use the fifth and final rule of successful suggestion and persuasion as heavily as the others. But they did explain it for us at the end of the session; this one’s all about emotions.

Interestingly, if you can make someone feel something strongly enough, you can completely bypass the logical, critical part of their mind.

So, if you want someone to feel a certain feeling, the most effective way is to ask them to either imagine or remember. Their mind will take them back to how they felt at the time and bring that feeling to life again. Think about it: when you reflect on the last time you felt sad, you can’t help but feel a little bit sad again.

Using the 5 Rules of Suggestion and Persuasion in Your Marketing

Let’s take the last rule, appeal to emotions, and apply it to advertising and marketing. It makes a lot of sense. If you want someone to feel a certain way when they see your ad, try asking them to remember or imagine.

In fact, all five of these rules are applicable to marketers. So, the next time you’re sat at your desk and wondering how to get your target audience to do what you want them to, refer back to this list. How can you take inspiration from the 5 golden rules of suggestion and persuasion?

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like help from our experts to make your advertising and marketing as effective and persuasive as possible. And whilst we’re on the subject of effective marketing, have a read of this blog post about how to measure the ROI from your marketing.