23 February 2007

Gardasil, anyone?

As a consultant, one of the greatest challenges is helping clients find solutions to their toughest problems. Recently, a New York Times outlined the anatomy of a television commercial for Gardasil, "a vaccine intended to protect women against some strains of the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that has been linked to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases."

Here's the challenge: "A vaccine against cancer: it sounds like the easiest sell in the world. But Gardasil, which can be administered only to girls and women ages 9 to 26, has an audience problem. It has to sell itself to young women who are in charge of their own health-care decisions. At the same time it has to sell itself to the parents of teenagers and preteenage girls. All this is complicated by the fact that HPV, as the virus is known, is a sexually transmitted disease. Parents are being asked to vaccinate their daughters against a sexually transmitted disease before those daughters have even thought about becoming sexually active (or so their parents fondly hope). Further, even as Merck advertises directly to the consumer, it is lobbying state by state for a universal mandate that the vaccine be given to all girls. Pro-abstinence groups are leery of the mandate, as are groups that monitor the legislation of vaccines."

Read the entire article here

20 February 2007

The (Inverse) Power of Praise, by Po Bronson

For those familiar with Cialdini's Six Principles, you know that when giving praise, you are activating two principles simultaneously: reciprocity and liking. Praise is a powerful tool, though often underused. Who was it that said: ”There are two things people want more than sex and money -- recognition and praise." (answer: Mary Kay Ash)

Research suggests that praise is not given nearly enough, especially in the workplace. People managers will argue that only exceptional achievement deserves praise, but as human beings, we have a deep need for praise and recognition, and let's be brutal: no employee has ever said in their exit interview: "you know, I'm leaving this job because I'm receiving too much recognition and praise from my bosses."

Here, then, from Po Bronson, a completely different take on The (Inverse) Power of Praise. Parents, this one's for you.

18 February 2007

Harnessing the Power of Persuasion

Just recently, I was interviewed by Donna Nebenzahl at The Montreal Gazette for their weekly section entitled "Working."

Here's the best link to the electronic edition (good until at least Feb 24, 2007).

Here's the standard online link (should be good for a while).

10 February 2007

Test Your Influence Skills

Ever wonder how well you're already using influence and persuasion to get results? Here are two quick and simple ways to test yourself.

What's Your Influence Quotient?
Developed by Dr. Cialdini's team in Arizona.

The Influence Assessment Questionnaire
From the the Influence at Work in the UK.
Please note: the answers are not provided in the quiz, so email me if you're curious.

08 February 2007

If You Were Prime Minister...

Last night, David Suzuki (renowned environmental activist and author) stopped in Montreal for his If You Were Prime Minister Tour, a cross-Canada dialogue on the environment. Over 1,000 people, including Justin Trudeau, came to hear Canada's "foremost environmental conscience" deliver a passionate call to get involved not only with local environmental organizations, but also in the political process.

Before Suzuki took the stage, an eloquent address from the members of the Mohawk tribe stirred the crowd with insights into the First Nations' relationship with Mother Earth. Asking first how their actions and decisions will affect their children and their children's children, the Mohawk of Kanawahke seem to understand their duty to protect the one resource we cannot live without - planet, our home.

Suzuki's speech was a forthright 45-minute take on the good, the bad and the ugly. Since he's been at the forefront of environmental activism for so long, he's got plenty of stories to tell, including a neck-tingling one about Lucien Bouchard (former Quebec Prime Minister), who told Suzuki in 1988, when he was Brian Mulroney's Environment Minsiter, that his greatest concern was global warming and the devastating impact of greenhouse gases. This was 1988, almost 20 years before scientists supposedly arrived at a consensus that global warming was caused by greenhouse gases.

The tour is a 30-day, election-style campaign operation that will stop in 40 communities across Canada, before wrapping up in Ottawa, where Suzuki will take Canadians' concerns about the environment to the politicians on the hill (in the form of I Vote for the Environment cards and short 20-30 seconds video clips that audience members can record on-site.

So what does this have to do with persuasion? OK, good question. Here's my answer:

David Suzuki has been doing fighting for the environment for a long time – he was in Rio in 1993 (Earth Summit), and in Kyoto in 1997 – and one of the key messages that stood out last night, and it's the one that will probably make all the difference moving forward, is that there is now agreement among all the major political parties in Canada that it is time to take the environment seriously. Why is that? Because we are on the verge of realizing that we have more to lose by not sustaining the environment than we have to gain by ignoring it. And as human beings we are programmed to avoid loss. As the Law of Scarcity so clearly states: we are more motivated by loss than we are by gain.

So, this is a perfect example of how the principles of persuasion do not operate independently. In this case, fear of loss (scarcity) drives and helps establish agreement (consensus) on the need to act.

For more information, please visit the foundation at http://www.davidsuzuki.org/

06 February 2007

Rule #4: All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere?

A blog caught my eye today. It's called Healthy Influence (love the title) and it's a serious-minded look at the world of influence from an academic's point-of-view.

I'm still trying to understand rule#4 above, so if you have any thoughts, please leave a comment.

04 February 2007

The Super Bowl and Scarcity

The Scarcity Principle tells us that people want more of what they can have less of. Think of luxury goods, champagne, diamonds, or limited editions. From this year's Super Bowl, we take the lesson one step further, courtesy of Richard Siklos' Media Frenzy article in the New York Times, entitled: Beyond the X’s and O’s, a Lesson in How to Be Big.

"A lesson lurks in today’s big show — with its 90 million viewers watching $2.6-million, 30-second commercials and consuming untold vats of seven-layer dip. To my eye, part of the Super Bowl’s pre-eminence stems from one of the savvy and counterintuitive ways in which the National Football League has reinforced its brand value: by emphasizing its scarcity [italics added]."

Siklos goes on to describe how the NFL earns more profit than all other professional sports leagues, despite a schedule that includes only 16 regular season games per team, as opposed to the 82 in basketball, 84 in hockey, and 162 games in baseball. He also cites how the NFL doubled its merchandising revenue (to $3 billion a year) after slashing the number of suppliers by two-thirds.

The major take-away is that the volume of what you offer can sometimes diminish the value of the offering itself. Studies have shown that when consumers are presented with many choices (for example, of jams in an upscale supermarket), they tend to value the product lower – and buy with less frequency – compared to when they are presented with fewer choices under the exact same conditions. What explains these results? Researchers suggest that the number of choices actually becomes a burden, thereby diminishing desirability and attractiveness.

Siklos continues: "Keeping its core product tight and finite is something that the N.F.L. has in common with some other notable media ventures. The astonishing popularity of “American Idol” in its sixth season is partly a testament to the fact that the Fox network has not fiddled with its winning formula and spun off all sorts of additional contests under the “Idol” banner. In other words, it hasn’t diluted “Idol” the way ABC memorably short-circuited the run of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” a few seasons back."

The power of scarcity: people want more of what they can have less of.