How do ads change our behaviour? What influencing techniques work best?

Posted by on 2 March 2016 | Comments

Marketing departments spend an astonishing one trillion US dollars a year on advertising. So what types of persuasive messages pack the most punch?


Hidden Persuasion cover


 In their book, Hidden Persuasion the authors, three Scandinavian researchers , Marc Andrews, Dr. Matthijs van Leeuwen and Prof. Dr. Rick van Baaren, com­pare the impact of 33 persuasion techniques in advertising.

Rating advertisements for persuasive power
The authors compare 33 persuasion techniques on three levels: ‘Effectiveness’, ‘X-Factor’, and ‘Ease of implementation’. 

The Effectiveness factor indicates how strongly the technique will affect the viewer/reader. It catches the potency of the technique and the chance it has to achieve its desired results.

X-Factor describes the “WOW element” of the technique. How sexy is it? How innovative and interesting is it from a scientific perspective? How intriguing are the workings of the technique?

The Ease of Implementation factor indicates how easy the technique is to use in practice.

So how do the authors rate self-persuasion?

In reviewing the evidence the authors point out, “self-persuasion has repeatedly been demonstrated to trump any kind of given high quality argument.”


5 stars for effectiveness
For theeffectiveness factor the authors rate self-persuasion 5 out of 5 stars. Self-persuasion they say is, “the holy grail of persuasion research.” When advertisers use self-persuasion they dissolve and eliminate resistance.

Self-persuasion works because it solves the biggest problem in persuasion, overcoming a buyers resistance to influence.


5 stars for X-factor
For the X-Factor the authors rate self-persuasion 5 out of 5 stars. The WOW factor comes when advertisers discover how powerful advertising can be when it helps customers find their own reasons for wanting to change.

3 Stars for ease of implementation
For ease of implementation the authors rate self-persuasion 3 out of 5 stars. Self-persuasion campaigns require more imagination.


 An example of a Canadian ad that uses self-persuasion
Here is an example taken from Hidden Persuasion.



 This Canadian advertisement uses a guided or suggestive type of self-persuasion. There is an implicit choice between “sick” and “enjoying life”. The assumption is you will always choose “enjoying life”.

In my experience to use self-persuasion effectively influencers need to understand the science that underpins it. Sadly few do. That’s why I wrote my book, Zero Resistance: the science and secrets of selling more by eliminating skepticism and mistrust.

Once trained in the science of self-persuasion influencers tell us self-persuasion is easier to use than the traditional forms of tell-and-sell or direct persuasion.