Using emotion to persuade your customers


You have these 2 chicken:

Which one would you rather eat?

If you are like most people, you’d prefer the white chicken.

In a study that was conducted by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, people were asked this question, and the overwhelming majority chose the “pretty” chicken. The reason provided by the participants was that “they value health more than taste”.

Fair enough.

But there’s a twist.

Another set of participants were shown this:

Who was the winner, this time? 

You guessed it! It was the white “pretty” chicken again. By an overwhelming amount.

The reasons provided this time were that “they value taste more than health”.

Just a coincidence? Flawed sampling of participants? Nah, I don’t think so.

What you just read was the perfect example of emotional vs rational reasoning.

In other words, in both cases people were clearly making a purely emotional decision, by choosing the chicken that looked good, but used logic to justify their emotional decision. 

They constructed an argument on the spot to rationalize their already taken, intuitive decision.

Once we realize the truth of that last sentence, we can unlock many answers regarding human behavior as well as interpersonal communication.

Today, I’m going to narrow it down and talk about how we can leverage some aspects of this principle in our businesses, communicate directly to their emotional part of the brain, sell better online and have a bigger impact.

The 6+1 principles of persuasion

I think there are only a few good books and articles about marketing and sales psychology that DON’T mention Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. So I want to talk a bit about these principles and examine how we can use each one for our marketing purposes.


Or the “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine” principle. People are more eager to do something for you when you’ve done something for them first. We notice that to be true in most of our social interactions, and online behavior is no different. Give your audience something for free and they’ll feel obliged to “return the favor” by complying to whatever you want them to do.

How you can leverage reciprocity in your strategy:

  • Offer a freebie in exchange for their email address
  • If you’re in consulting, offer consultation for free to people who are more likely to become clients
  • Surprise your best customers with gifts, thank-you notes and various privileges.


This is the sneakiest of all and my favourite: People have the unconscious tendency to be consistent with their past behaviors, in an attempt to maintain their sense of self. That means that if you make someone say or do something that is in your favor (usually something small and easy to agree to), it will be easier to make them do something else in that direction. It’s the good ol’ “foot in the door” technique, that salesmen have been using forever.

How you can leverage Commitment/Consistency in your strategy:

  • Encourage people to give public testimonials to increase loyalty
  • Create multi-step forms. Make them commit to the first easy step first and make them fill out only one field before revealing the others.

Social Proof

We’ve all seen it. 2 cafes, next to each other. The one packed with customers, the other empty. 

Where will you sit? 

Most probably to the packed one. 


Because “if all those people prefer that one, there should be a good reason for that”. 

How you can leverage Social Proof in your strategy:

  • Place testimonials close to your checkout button to give an extra push to the user before they buy
  • Put a “BEST SELLING” label to your best selling products
  • Use a social proof tool to let users know what others are buying on your website.


Take the shittiest product and give it to Kim Kardashian to promote. It will become an instant hit.

Why? Because people in general have a tendency to obey figures of authority.

Influencer marketing for example is based solely on this very important principle.

How you can leverage Authority in your strategy:

  • Use professional titles from established institutions.
  • Use badges of authority in various places in your website. Maybe a certification or safety badge, or an “as featured in [insert publication]” section.
  • Book Kim


According to Cialdini, “liking” someone increases the chances of being influenced by that individual. So you should leverage tactics that make others relate to you more. Sharing something similar (like interests, beliefs, values), and communicating these similarities to your target audience, can get you a long way.

How you can leverage Liking in your strategy:

  • Write a thorough “about us” page that focuses on your values (and thus your ideal customers’ values)
  • Use humor in your content. Everybody likes people who make them laugh.


Scarcity is defined as the perception of products seeming to become more attractive when their perceived availability is rather limited. It can be extremely powerful, since it triggers a feeling of urgency. It is the ultimate “weapon” to make someone act now, rather than later. 

How many times have you booked a room from just because it said “last book for your dates: 3 hours ago! Only 1 room left!”?

How you can leverage Scarcity in your strategy:

Use the 2 main types of scarcity:

  • Quantity (only 2 items left!)
  • Time (last 5 days to join!)


People love the sense of belonging. They seek to find their “tribe”. They need to have a group of people that will support them as well as a group of people or ideas to go against.

The closer they are to the “poles” the more “united” they feel. 

So, by creating this sense of belonging, you are able to strengthen the ties with your customers.

How you can leverage Scarcity in your strategy:

  • Use Specific and Unique Jargon in your content so that you can relate to the most hard-core fans of yours
  • Convey Exclusivity by creating private groups that have strong criteria for joining
  • State your values boldly and be able to pinpoint who the “enemy” is (usually an idea that you go against, eg. fast fashion if you have a vintage clothing shop)

This is only a small aspect of buyer psychology and it becomes clear that, whatever we are selling, there are countless ideas that we can create using these principles alone, that will help us connect with our audience and sell better.

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