The Role of Emotions and Influencing in Marketing

Marketing that makes people buy is almost always emotionally driven. There is research out there that concludes that people are more likely to make an emotional judgment over a rational judgment when making buying decisions.

Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion are a masterpiece of research, and most of the important tricks we marketers use, or should use, in our marketing messages could be summarised within this framework. To summarise, the six principles are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency/commitment, liking and consensus/social proof.

The Six Principles of Influence


What you give to people, they give back to you. If you help your friend move, he will help you move. For example, an experiment showed that if the restaurant staff leaves a mint or a chocolate with the bill, they are likely to receive 3% more tips than if they don’t. If they added two mints, they got 14% more tips. Reciprocity is real.

A good example of reciprocity in marketing is actually blogging. You lead with value, you build a relationship by offering information, insights and entertainment. The reader is more likely to buy from you if they enjoy your content. The same logic applies to free resources, be it eBooks, guides or whitepapers. Even free trials of SAAS offers can activate this feeling.


You want what you can’t have, or you want more of what you can only have a little of. This really triggers FOMO, the fear of missing out. Cialdini ran a study where people were asked to give ratings on the quality of the cookies in a jar. Some were given a jar of ten, some were given a jar of two. Some of the group that started with ten cookies were later given a jar of two, and this group rated the cookies the highest. Which uncovered the principle that we place higher value on things that recently have become less available or unavailable to us.

A product being discontinued can suddenly experience a spike in sales, or on a more day to day basis: “Hurry, only two rooms left at this price”, at any respectable hotel booking website. In marketing, this could be a limited number available, or a deadline (website countdowns anyone?). In addition to the hotel example, other tricks can involve invite only or waiting list, out of stock, limited time and today only deals.


It’s important to signal the authority of your knowledge and skills to the world. If you’re a psychologist, you should make sure your diplomas are on the wall. If a random person goes into the hospital, dresses up like a doctor and start instructing people what to do, they are very likely to follow it even if it doesn’t make sense. Authority is thus the fact that people tend to follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. In Cialdini’s book Influence he lists three factors that are likely to trigger authority:

  • Titles
  • Clothes
  • Trappings

Titles could for example be Ph.D, Doctor or Chairman, clothes could be uniforms and trappings are accessories which usually accompany certain position like police badges.

A key takeaway for those wishing to use the authority principle is the fact that you need to elicit signals that shows you as a credible and knowledgeable authority ahead of trying to influence people.

A very surprising insights from research shows that it doesn’t really matter who introduces you as an authority (within reason, maybe try to avoid a drunk obnoxious person doing it), as long as somebody else asserts you as one.


This principle is sometimes also referred to as commitment. Essentially, once a decision has been made by a person either through a statement or an action, he or she will have an internal dialogue or feeling that advocates behaving in a consistent manner with what they have done or said previously.

A good example of this is the famous billboard example from Cialdini’s book. In the example, researches asked a group of homeowners if they were willing to erect a small and not too intrusive wooden board on their front lawn to support a campaign about driving safely.  In one neighbourhood, most declined. In another, four times as many agreed.

What was the difference?

The latter group had ten days earlier agreed to place a small postcard in the window of their homes to support the same campaign. When they were asked about the bigger sign, they experienced the aforementioned internal pressure to behave consistently.

A good example of the consistency principle, often used by dieters, is going public with their commitment. This will apply internal pressure to stick their diet and exercise regime.


The premise for this principle is simple enough, we like to say yes to people we like. Of course, the principle itself is about what causes us to like somebody.

We like:

  • People who are similar to us
  • People who give us compliments
  • People who work with us towards shared goals

According to Cialdini, some examples can be that we tend to treat more attractive people more favourably, that we like people who compliment us more and the fact that in those old school ads where there was an attractive woman posing in front of a car; the car sold better.

To harness the liking principle, look for areas of similarity in background, values, attitudes and experiences. It also doesn’t hurt to look your best. Before you start negotiating, try to find out who your counterpart is and find a way to share things you might have in common. This might improve your outcome.

Consensus (social proof)

We will buy, see and do what we see other people buy, see and do. Thus social proof is the power of what others do.

This is why most websites includes testimonials and/or brand logos of customers (if B2B). The social proof principle will work even more strongly when we are uncertain, as we are extra prone to being influenced by other, to understand what to choose ourselves.

In essence marketers need to show people that other people are doing what you want them to be doing (e.g buying the product). Actually a key component of the Google Search engine is links, which overly simplified can be said to be a measure of social proof.


Examples of the scarcity principle

About Persuasion

Image credits:

ID 112994617 © Daniil Peshkov |

Author: pwaagbo

Marketing Geek. Passionate about strategy, digital marketing, social media marketing, SEO and everything business.

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