6 Principles of Influence

October 25, 2019 - Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marketing, at its crux, is all about influence.

The ultimate aim of a marketer is to persuade your target consumer to do something, whether it’s to buy your product or engage your services.

This is where Robert B. Cialdini’s book – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – will come in handy.

In his book, Cialdini lists six principles of persuasion: liking, reciprocity, social proof, commitment & consistency, authority, and scarcity. Here’s how marketers can apply these principles to their field of work.

1. Principle of Social Proof

People rely on social cues on how to think, act and feel from those they believe to be similar to themselves. Cialdini calls this “social proof”. For example, when new mothers see another new mother buy diapers from Brand X, they are more likely to follow suit. Consumers are more likely to be convinced to do something if they see someone they perceive to be similar to themselves do it.

This means that having a visible review and rating system is important. Allowing customers to review and rate your product or service publicly will help alleviate buyer uncertainty and provide social proof. Be prepared to receive both positive and negative feedback though. The thought of receiving a bad review might be frightening but when managed with tact, negative reviews provide opportunities for brands to build a more intimate relationship with their customers. Make sure you’re up to the task before setting up a rating system.

The principle of social proof is also a useful concept to bear in mind while you’re picking an influencer to represent your brand. The person you pick should be similar to your target audience in terms of demographics and psychographics. If you’re targeting mothers, for instance, then your brand representative should also ideally be a mother herself.

2. Principle of Authority

Who would you take culinary advice from – Gordon Ramsay or someone whose diet consists predominantly of cup noodles? It’s safe to say that most of us would pick the former.

In order to be taken seriously, you need to establish your authority in the field. You will have a better chance of persuading your audience to do something if you appear credible. How you establish credibility is really up to you. You could start a blog to establish thought leadership or you could rely on endorsements from celebrated people in the field. Sports brands like Nike and Adidas, for example, regularly rope in athletes to front their marketing campaigns. Do what makes the most sense for your brand.

3. Principle of Liking

The principle of liking is actually pretty common sense – if people like you, they’re more likely to comply with your requests.

In a marketing context, this principle highlights the importance of establishing a common ground with your audience. Do your research to find out what resonates with your target audience and use that to frame your marketing messages.

Another way to make someone like you is to look good. Don’t compromise on good design. A product with visually-appealing, eye-catching packaging will win you half the battle.

4. Principle of Commitment & Consistency

People want to be consistent. If they make a voluntary public commitment, they have a high tendency to follow through.

This foot-in-the-door technique, for example, is a great example of this principle in action. The idea is to get people to agree on something small so that they will agree to something bigger later. Free trials, for instance, can help you attract potential customers before you try convincing them to sign up for a membership.

However, getting your foot in the door doesn’t guarantee a commitment to purchase. You still need to provide value to your customers, even at the initial stage. A free trial, for example, is more effective at attracting customers than, say, simply asking potential customers to give away their contact information. The former provides people with something in return; in other words, it has value. What is the value of your product? Ensure that it is clearly communicated to potential customers at the outset so that it will be easier to close the deal later on.

5. Principle of Reciprocity

Treat others the way you want to be treated. A little kindness goes a long way. People tend to remember small acts of kindness and pay it back later down the road. Pro bono work, for example, is a good way to give back as well as to boost awareness for your brand.

6. Principle of Scarcity

Scarcity is created when demand exceeds supply. People value what is scarce. Highlighting scarcity is an effective tool of persuasion because it creates urgency. One way to incorporate this principle into your marketing strategy is to limit the supply (e.g. limited edition products) or the time allowed to make a purchase (e.g. sales that happen for a limited time period).

Enhance your next marketing campaign with these principles of persuasion. Find creative ways to apply them and you’re on your way to building your influence!


LEGO: How to Assemble Your Brand’s USP

October 11, 2019 - Reading Time: 5 minutes

Let’s begin with a little imagination exercise.

Suppose you want to buy milk. You head over to the dairy section of the supermarket but you’re confronted with dozens of milk brands. How do you decide which brand to buy?

From a marketing perspective, this question takes a different form: How do you make your brand stand out so that consumers will buy your product?

A unique selling point (USP) is what differentiates your product from others. If you were marketing your brand of milk, for example, you could highlight how your product packs a whole lot of vitamins and nutrients. Another way to differentiate yourself is through price; you could sell the lowest priced milk.

Your product’s USP helps consumers make purchase decisions. Consumers who prioritise the nutritional value of milk would probably pick the brand known to contain essential vitamins. That is why it is important to establish a USP for your product and also to build your brand around it.

One brand that has succeeded in doing so is LEGO.

LEGO was founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen. It started off as a small carpentry workshop in Billund, Denmark, selling primarily wooden furniture and toys. It wasn’t until after World War II when Ole Kirk bought a plastic injection moulding machine, did LEGO start manufacturing the iconic plastic bricks that have become synonymous with their brand. Those plastic bricks changed the way people viewed toys forever.

How did LEGO become such a pivotal force in the toy industry?

LEGO crafted a truly unique selling point which became the foundation of the brand. We analysed LEGO’s story and compiled a list of ways you can assemble your brand’s USP.

1. Invent something new

The most obvious way to establish a unique selling point is to create something new.

LEGO started out as a business selling wooden toys. In 1949, it started producing and selling the LEGO Automatic Binding Brick.


In 1954, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen – the son of founder Ole Kirk Christiansen – had a conversation with a purchasing agent that would go on to change the face of LEGO forever. The agent thought that toys back then lacked a system. This inspired Godtfred Kirk Christiansen to set up the “LEGO System of Play” which would revolutionise how children played with toys. With this new system, children could build houses with LEGO bricks.

However, there came another problem; children couldn’t lift up their handiwork without the entire thing toppling over. This led to Godtfred tweaking the design of the bricks so that they could be “stuck” together. By introducing “tubes”, LEGO bricks were transformed into blocks that could be used to construct anything and everything, limited only by one’s imagination. Children could build, take apart and rebuild something entirely different with the same set of bricks.

In a time where the toy industry was dominated by ready-made toys, LEGO stood out from the crowd by inventing a way for children to create their own toys.

2. Create a new demand

Not every product is as groundbreaking as LEGO bricks; that doesn’t mean these products should give up finding a USP. You can create a USP by meeting an unmet need. What are your customers looking for that your competitors aren’t providing? Show how your product solves this problem.

In the early 20th century, most of the toys on the market were ready-made products built for only one function. This meant children got bored of their toys quickly and there were few opportunities for children to challenge themselves creatively. LEGO identified this gap in the market and set out to position its products as educational toys – toys that built creativity and problem-solving skills.

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Sometimes, consumers require a little help identifying what they need. By introducing parents to the idea of learning through play, LEGO created a demand for educational toys. It also showed how its products met those new needs. This allowed LEGO to stand out from the rest of the toy brands and create a memorable brand.

3. Flaunt your strengths

In order to develop a unique selling point, you need to let your audience know what they are. This means knowing your own strengths and shouting them from the rooftops.

LEGO didn’t just recognise its own strengths, it did just as well communicating them to consumers, and we’re not just talking about advertisements. LEGO is all about fusing education and play, and its entire brand is built around this concept.  LEGO has also invested in many projects apart from producing children’s toys. The company has also been inclusive to adults, churning out many special products for Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOLs).

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LEGO has made itself relevant to adults by tapping into fan culture. Adult fans can buy these special products and create their own collector’s pieces. These special products can create a space for adults to enjoy LEGO’s creations and to re-enter the world of play.

LEGO has also developed educational outreach efforts, establishing the LEGO Foundation. The LEGO Foundation works with various stakeholders, from parents to governments, to improve the quality of early childhood education through play.

LEGO also built a museum in Billund called The LEGO House. The museum showcases the works of AFOLs from all over the world and houses interactive exhibits that provide visitors with opportunities to learn through play.

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Although these projects seem to veer away from LEGO’s primary business of producing children’s toys, they are essential in reiterating and building upon LEGO’s USP in educational play. The lesson to take away from this is that a USP isn’t an overnight creation, it takes time and effort. Brands with solid USPs have invested plenty of resources to carve out a place for themselves. LEGO, for example, has built its brand so well that it is now difficult to dissociate LEGO from the idea of learning through play.

Apart from inspiring children all over the world to build their own toys, LEGO has also inspired brands to be innovative and set themselves apart from the competition. Start early. Stand out from the competition by establishing unique selling points for your products.