In our book, Ad Nauseam, we make the case that, to understand consumer culture, you need a grasp on advertising psychology. This list of 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive has some helpful tips on how to embrace the marketing machine for your own evil ends.
5. Too many options necessitate selection, and hence frustration, when brain decides it’s unnecessary work… When Head & Shoulders brand killed off 11 flavors of the shampoo, leaving only 15 on the market, sales rose 10%.
But you not only want to avoid overwhelming potential customers with decisions, you want to avoid making your consumers think at all. When it comes to selling branded goods that are virtually identical to other goods, eliciting any kind of rational thought lowers your chance of a sale.
6. Giving away the product makes it less desirable
After years of publishing Stay Free!, I learned to avoid giving the magazine away at conferences and other events—or I’d end up picking them out of the trash later. Instead, we’d charge $1 and leave a can next to the magazines where people could deposit dollars. The dollar forced people to think about whether they actually wanted the magazine or not. If we had beer money at the end of the day, that was just icing on the cake; we knew the magazine had gotten into the hands of readers.†
And let’s not forget:
9. A small gift makes people want to reciprocate.
Perhaps you have received free address labels featuring cute kittens in the mail. But once you know this marketing tactic, it kinda makes you resent those kittens. Punish them. No way Humane Society, you’re not getting my money. Or maybe that’s just me.
Carrie McLaren & Jason Torchinsky are coeditors of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture. In previous lives, they worked together on the hopelessly obscure and now defunct Stay Free! magazine .