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Show Them Who They Are

Social scientists know that direct persuasion is a useless tactic. The harder and more obviously we try to sell something, or to change a behavior, the more push-back we’re going to get. This is why people slow down when they’re tailgated in traffic. Humans don’t like to be bullied and we don’t like to be “sold.” When we get a sense of someone doing either, we react by doing the opposite of what they want.

The same is true for video marketing. In experiments tracking eye movements, 40% of participants will shift attention away from an ad as soon as they see the company’s logo. In other words, as soon as customers sense the sale, they’re no longer interested.

Here’s something to try: instead of “selling,” paint a picture of the kind of person your prospect is (or wants to be). Smart or wise or a fiscally responsible, a rugged individualist or a serene-faced septuagenarian. Show us an experience or lifestyle we’d happily project ourselves into and you’ve already made the sale, no heavy-handed pitch required.

Your move, dentist.

Tying a brand to someone’s identity also increases the chance they’ll actually make a purchase, instead of just being “convinced.” (I might be convinced that daily flossing is essential to dental health, but until I start thinking about myself as the kind of person who flosses daily, my gums will go neglected.) It’s the difference between a changed mind and changed behavior. Purely logical arguments about what we “should” do aren’t motivating, but we’ll go a long way to make sure our life fits our self image.

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