Greasing the wheels for persuasion

A few weeks ago I gave a very short speech at the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs society. It bombed. As I was speaking, all I could see was boredom on the ocean of passive faces in the audience.

I thought I had done everything right. I had solid content, I had what I thought was an interesting angle, and I’d prepared well. So why did it go down so badly?

At the time, I blamed Doug Richard. He’d spoken before me. My dull talk was lost in the afterimage of his irritatingly brilliant, insightful, captivating, amusing and apparently impromptu speech. The bastard.

But maybe my talk wasn’t so dull after all.

Jennifer Aaker just tweeted about this article on the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The headline is that if you want your message to stand out, make sure it follows something dull. This is an extraordinary finding:

You can change the impact of your message without altering a single word or pixel.

If your message follows one from a source that isn’t credible, your message will be more credible.

If it follows a message with little information, yours will seem to contain more information.

Of course, the opposite holds true too. I’m now reassured that my talk wasn’t intrinsically dull – that was just an illusion in the minds of the audience.

This opens up intriguing possibilties for marketing too:

Want somebody to reply to your marketing e-mail? Send out a tedious, poorly written e-mail about gardening equipment five minutes earlier.

Want somebody to click on your banner ad? Insert a dull, dummy one for rod draining as the first frame.

And so on. Got any better ideas of how to apply psychology to marketing? Post here …

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