Thursday, September 8, 2016

Threaten Gently, Praise Vigorously

Persuading a consumer to make a change often involves both praise and criticism. Praise for what they’ve accomplished so far and the acceptance they’ve shown. Criticism—in the form of warning about bad consequences—for not having accomplished more or not having made a decision to comply.
     Researchers at Northeastern University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam recommend you praise vigorously and threaten gently. They explored the degree of compliance for three persuasion objectives:
  • Watching a video about how to plan for retirement 
  • Signing a petition in support of improving water purity 
  • Washing hands thoroughly after using public toilet facilities 
     With vigorous praise and gentle threats, participants in the different studies were more willing to watch the retirement planning video, sign the petition, or use ample amounts of soap compared to the participants in equivalent persuasion conditions who received gentle praise and vigorous threats.
     The optimal degree of message assertiveness also depends on the nature of the persuasion objective. Researchers at Georgetown University and Ben-Gurion University found that highly directive sales messages work fine if the products or services bring happiness. The happiness might come from immediate sensual pleasure. The salesperson for the spa says, “You belong on our massage table.” Or the happiness might come from an anticipated sense of accomplishment. Running the marathon in Nike shoes qualifies under this prong, and so the Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” works.
     Contrast this with what would happen at a bank where the staff wants to store your money. In the Georgetown/Ben-Gurion study, some participants read a message encouraging them to try a chocolate treat. The other participants’ message encouraged them to open a bank account.
     Those in the first condition responded best to an assertive message, “You must try our chocolate.” Those with the bank message responded best to a non-assertive pitch, “You could open a bank account with us.”
     And the optimal assertiveness of a threat to someone engaging in bad behavior depends on abuse severity. Researchers at High Point University and Bradley University worked with people who texted while driving and with another group who gambled excessively. Those who lightly engaged in the problem behavior responded best to sales presentations that portrayed the negative consequences of continuing. For heavy abusers—those who might be considered texting or gambling addicts—behavior change was better when the persuasion pointed out benefits of cessation for people like them.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Tell Shoppers to Be Happier
Toss Positive with Heavy Abusers
Improve Sales Using Guilty Self-Improvement
Wash Your Hands of Warmed-Over Lore

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