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Using Scientific Persuasion techniques in Growth Marketing

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


Using scientific persuasion in growth marketing

When it comes to marketing and persuading customers, science can be just as effective as art.

In fact, using scientific principles of persuasion can often be more effective at increasing customer conversion rates than traditional advertising techniques.

This article will explain three major psychological principles of persuasion — the Milgram Principle, the Decoy Effect, and the Ben Franklin Effect—and provide examples of how you as a marketer or business owner can use each one to improve customer conversion rates on websites and apps.


Milgram Principle


First up is the Milgram Principle. Named after psychologist Stanley Milgram who devised the famous experiment exploring obedience to authority figures in the 1960s, this principle basically states that people are more likely to obey a request if they believe it has come from an authoritative source.


This authority can be real, such as a well-known celebrity or expert in the field, or it can be perceived through the use of design elements and language.


For example, you can emphasise a call to action with bold font and vivid colours to make it stand out from everything else on a page. You can also use authoritative language like “must” or “instantly” to give your message more impact.


The Decoy Effect


The Decoy Effect is another powerful persuasion technique that taps into people’s natural tendency to compare options against one another when making decisions.


The idea here is to offer customers two similar items but with one being slightly better than the other in some way.


This causes customers to focus on the differences between the two items and makes them more likely to choose the better one.


For example, if you’re selling a subscription service, you can offer customers a basic plan for £5/month and a premium plan for £10/month.


The decoy here is the basic plan - the idea is to make the benefits so basic compared to the premium plan that the extra £5 per month for the premium makes the most sense.


Ben Franklin Effect


Finally, there’s the Ben Franklin Effect. This technique essentially says that people are more likely to do favours for someone they already like than for someone they don’t know or have no opinion on yet.


You can use this principle by offering existing customers exclusive discounts or special offers in exchange for their loyalty—this not only makes them feel appreciated and liked, but it also encourages them to make additional purchases.


Another to apply the Ben Franklin Effect is through content marketing—if you’re producing great content that your target audience finds valuable and entertaining, they are more likely to become customers even before they have interacted with your company directly.

In conclusion, using scientific persuasion techniques in marketing can be a powerful tool for increasing customer conversion rates on websites and apps.


The Milgram Principle helps customers consider an authoritative source when making decisions; the Decoy Effect gets customers to compare options side-by-side; and the Ben Franklin Effect encourages people to like your brand in order to increase sales.


20 Scientific Persuasion Techniques to Increase Conversion Rates on Websites


Jump to the relevant Scientific Persuasion technique:


1. Social Proof


This technique involves using endorsements from others to persuade someone to take an action. This can be in the form of testimonials, social media shares, or user-generated content. Social proof works because people tend to follow the actions of others.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use fake testimonials or misleading social media shares.


An example of Social Proof being used

An example of a website that uses social proof is TripAdvisor, which displays user reviews for hotels and restaurants.



2. Scarcity


This technique involves creating a sense of urgency or limited availability to persuade someone to take an action. This can be in the form of limited time offers, limited stock availability, or limited spots available. Scarcity works because people fear missing out on something valuable.


What to be careful of

However, be careful not to use false scarcity or create a sense of desperation.


An example of Scarcity being used

An example of a website that uses scarcity is Amazon, which displays the number of items left in stock for certain products.



3. Authority


This technique involves using the credibility of an expert or authority figure to persuade someone to take an action.


This can be in the form of endorsements from experts, certifications, or awards. Authority works because people trust the opinions and actions of those they perceive as experts.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false authority or endorsements from unqualified individuals.


An example of Authority being used

An example of a website that uses authority is WebMD, which displays endorsements from medical professionals.



4. Reciprocity


This technique involves giving something in order to receive something in return. This can be in the form of free samples, discounts, or bonus offers. Reciprocity works because people feel obligated to give back when they receive something.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to over-give or use false promises.


An example of Reciprocity being used

An example of a website that uses reciprocity is Sephora, which offers free samples with purchases.



5. Anchoring


This technique involves using a reference point to influence a decision. This can be in the form of pricing tiers or comparison charts. Anchoring works because people tend to rely on the first piece of information they receive when making decisions.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false comparisons or set unrealistic expectations.


An example of Anchoring being used

An example of a website that uses anchoring is Mailchimp, which displays pricing tiers for its email marketing services.



6. Consistency


This technique involves using a person's previous actions or beliefs to persuade them to take a certain action. This can be in the form of surveys, quizzes, or opt-ins. Consistency works because people tend to feel committed to past actions and beliefs.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false claims or manipulate responses.


An example of Consistency being used

An example of a website that uses consistency is HubSpot, which offers free content in exchange for contact information.



7. Urgency


This technique involves using a sense of urgency to persuade someone to take an action. This can be in the form of countdown timers, limited time offers, or flash sales. Urgency works because people fear missing out on something valuable or timely.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false urgency or create a sense of desperation.


An example of Urgency being used

An example of a website that uses urgency is Booking.com, which displays a countdown timer for hotel reservations.



8. Framing


This technique involves changing how information is presented to influence a decision. This can be in the form of positive or negative language, highlighting benefits or losses, or using imagery. Framing works because people tend to weigh the potential outcomes of a decision.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use misleading language or images.


An example of Framing being used

An example of a website that uses framing is Headspace, which uses positive imagery and language to promote meditation.



9. Personalisation


This technique involves tailoring content to an individual's interests or past behaviour. This can be in the form of recommended products or personalised emails. Personalisation works because people prefer content that is relevant to them.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use data inappropriately or misrepresent preferences.


An example of Personalisation being used

An example of a website that uses personalisation is Netflix, which recommends movies and TV shows based on past viewing behaviour.



10. Emotional Appeals


This technique involves using emotions to persuade someone to take an action. This can be in the form of storytelling, tapping into fears or desires, or evoking empathy. Emotional appeals work because people tend to make decisions based on their emotions.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use manipulative or overly dramatic content.


An example of Emotional Appeals being used

An example of a website that uses emotional appeals is UNICEF, which uses emotional stories to drive donations.



11. Contrast


This technique involves highlighting differences to influence a decision. This can be in the form of size comparisons, before-and-after images, or highlighting the best features. Contrast works because people tend to base decisions on what they see as different or unique.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false comparisons or exaggerate features.


An example of Contrast being used

An example of a website that uses contrast is Grammarly, which highlights the differences in their free and premium services.



12. Social Identity


This technique involves linking a person's identity to a certain action or product. This can be in the form of personal interest surveys or targeted ads. Social identity works because people tend to align themselves with groups or identities.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use stereotypes or manipulative content.


An example of Social Identity being used

An example of a website that uses social identity is Spotify, which uses personalised playlists and suggested artists based on past listening behaviour.



13. Simple Language


This technique involves using clear and concise language to communicate an idea or action. This can be in the form of short sentences, bullet points, or removing jargon. Simple language works because people tend to prefer content that is easy to understand.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to oversimplify or misrepresent complex ideas.


An example of Simple Language being used

An example of a website that uses simple language is Dropbox, which uses concise language to explain their file-sharing services.



14. Cognitive Dissonance


This technique involves creating a sense of internal conflict to persuade someone to take an action. This can be in the form of contradictory statements or highlighting the potential consequences of a decision. Cognitive dissonance works because people tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and actions.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false dichotomies or create an overwhelming sense of conflict.


An example of Cognitive Dissonance being used

An example of a website that uses cognitive dissonance is Charity: Water, which highlights the contradiction of access to clean water in different parts of the world.



15. Priming


This technique involves using environmental cues to encourage a certain action or behaviour. This can be in the form of visual cues, smells, or sounds. Priming works because people unconsciously associate certain stimuli with certain actions.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false associations or create an uncomfortable environment.


An example of Priming being used

An example of a website that uses priming is Starbucks, which creates a comfortable and inviting environment to encourage customers to stay and buy.



16. Association


This technique involves linking a product or action with a desirable outcome. This can be in the form of product associations, celebrity endorsements, or lifestyle imagery. Association works because people tend to associate specific outcomes with specific actions or products.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false associations or create unrealistic expectations.


An example of Association being used

An example of a website that uses association is Nike, which uses celebrity endorsements and lifestyle imagery to promote their products.



17. Perceived Value


This technique involves creating a perception of value that exceeds the actual value. This can be in the form of discounts, bonus offers, or perceived scarcity. Perceived value works because people tend to seek out deals and discounts.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false claims or create a sense of desperation.


An example of Perceived Value being used

An example of a website that uses perceived value is Groupon, which offers discounts on a variety of products and services.



18. Salience


This technique involves making something stand out in order to influence a decision. This can be in the form of color, size, or placement. Salience works because people tend to focus on what stands out.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use misleading tactics or create a confusing environment.


An example of Salience being used

An example of a website that uses salience is Google, which uses color and placement to make their search bar stand out.



19. Ease-of-Use


This technique involves making something easy to use or understand in order to encourage a certain action or behaviour. This can be in the form of user-friendly interfaces, step-by-step instructions, or simplified language. Ease-of-use works because people tend to prefer content that is easy to understand and use.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to oversimplify or misrepresent complex ideas or concepts.


An example of Ease-of-Use being used

An example of a website that uses ease-of-use is Hootsuite, which offers user-friendly tools for social media management.



20. Commitment


This technique involves encouraging a person to make a small commitment in order to build towards a larger commitment.


This can be in the form of opt-ins, surveys, or small purchases. Commitment works because people tend to follow through on small commitments.


What to be careful of

Be careful not to use false claims or manipulate responses.


An example of Commitment being used

An example of a website that uses commitment is HelloFresh, which offers a discounted first box to encourage future orders.



Just remember that when used correctly, these techniques can help drive sales, but if used incorrectly or excessively, the results can backfire. Be sure to use them responsibly and thoughtfully in order to maximise their effectiveness.

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