by Vicki Press

Updated: January 23, 2023

Copywriting isn't like other forms of writing.

Good copy is about persuasion and direction. As a copywriter, you need to motivate people to take an action of some sort.

As such, knowledge of human psychology is arguably more important than  natural writing ability.

But guess what?

You only need to know a handful of simple psychological concepts to be able to craft compelling, effective copy.

With that in mind, we're going to briefly cover the 6 principles of persuasion that Cialdini talks about in his acclaimed book and hand over some examples of how they play out in modern business.

In no particular order, here are Cialdini's 6 principles of persuasion:

Principle #1: Reciprocity

This is the idea that someone is more likely to give you something if they are given something in return.

We can be quite self-serving and the most common real-life example of this in action would be any kind of 2-4-1 offer.

Because a consumer is offered the chance to get an extra product, this makes the initial purchase more likely.

You can tell how effective this is by how often you see these deals.

Principle #2: Scarcity

The less available a particular service or product is, the more it is desired and valued.

This concept can be seen everywhere, especially when you're booking a hotel room, train ticket or package holiday.

It's also an effective marketing strategy for exciting product launches. Think about the Playstation 5 or the latest iPhone.

In modern times, this is also known as the fear of missing out [FOMO]. If we want something and think that there's a genuine chance that it will run out or disappear, we're more compelling to take immediate action.

Principle #3: Authority

This principle is quite straightforward.

Basically, trustworthy people who are in a position of authority are more influential than those who aren't.

It's clearly why companies that get respected figures to review or endorse something.

Consider why people in white lab coats are used to promote painkillers, toothpaste or exercise supplements.

The implication is that they appear more qualified to give a credible opinion which, in turn, is more influential to consumers.

Principle #4: Commitment and consistency

When one small commitment is made, people tend to seek out information that justifies their actions.

Once they've done that, they become more willing to commit themselves further.

A good example of this is what happens when you're looking for a new car. Often, a car salesman will get a customer to initiate a micro commitment [perhaps either taking a car for a test drive or specifying the colour they're looking for].

This small commitment is significant, as people like to look for things that justify their move. In turn, this amplifies the need to act consistently and make a further commitment.

Principle #5: Liking

The fact is, consumers are more likely to say 'yes' to brands and people that they like.

If you're sceptical about a business with a social or environmental agenda, that's probably wise.

The decision-makers might be genuine, but there's a huge upside.

Away from business, this principle is also commonly seen with juries at court trials.

A jury is more likely to side with a defendant if they like him or her, which is why character witnesses are so vital.

Principle #6: Social Proof

Social proof is also known as the bandwagon effect.

Basically, as a general rule, when we're trying to decide what action to take, we like to find out what other people think is correct.

You often seen phrases like "best selling" or "most popular" in marketing collateral, since it encourages the reader to act in accordance with social evidence.

A brand can talk about a product or service being of high quality, but consumers are far more likely to be swayed by reviews.

Often, if unbiased people think something is good, that is proof enough. In short, the draw of the crowd is surprisingly strong.

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