Bringing it Together: Cialdini’s 7th Principle of Influence

Liking

Commitment & Consistency

Social Proof

Scarcity

Authority

But lo and behold, our labor of love continues with a Seventh Principle, added toward the end of Cialdini’s latest book, Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary New Way to Influence and Persuade.

THE SEVENTH PRINCIPLE: UNITY

Besides lending his work a more mythical nuance with the number 7, Cialdini wrote that

…now I believe that there is a seventh universal principle that I had missed — not because some new cultural phenomenon or technological shift brought it to my attention but because it was hiding beneath the surface of my data all along.

This new principle of influence is called Unity, the feeling that the people or entities involved share an identity, that is to say, people perceive the influencer as part of some definition of “us.” By fostering that shared identity, by implying an “us,” you become more influential.

It’s about the categories that individuals use to define themselves and their groups, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, and family, as well as political and religious affiliations.
A key characteristic of these categories is that their members tend to feel at one with, merged with, the others. They are the categories in which the conduct of one member influences the self-esteem of other members. Simply put, we is the shared me.

As ConversionXL points out, the Unity Principle “boils down to the third step on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the need to belong.”

Anyone who’s traveled sufficiently far from their hometown, state, or country is likely to have felt the Unity Principle in effect. When you’re 2000 miles from home, bumping into someone who’s from your neck of the woods engenders immediate camaraderie among people who would likely ignore each other back home.

Again, from ConversionXL:

This ‘minimal group paradigm,’ where we form groups on the basis of completely inconsequential criteria, isn’t always inauthentic or manipulative. In reality, identifying in terms of a group helps us make sense of the world and help us form a sense of self-esteem and pride.

THE UNITY PRINCIPLE IN ACTION

In his book, Cialdini outlines the most salient ways to engender a sense of unity with your audience, interlocutor, or whomever. Not surprisingly, many of these techniques fall neatly in line with a few categories plucked from Persado’s Wheel of Emotives.

INTIMACY

The most basic way to approach this is to use language that directly implies a “we.” This could include using family-related language or something that denotes a team or group.

Cialdini cites one of Warren Buffett’s shareholder letters, which does a particularly fine job of this.

In this case, Buffett was addressing a perennial concern of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders: what happens when Buffett is no longer behind the wheel? In response to this concern, Buffett began with:

I will tell you what I would say to my family today if they asked me about Berkshire’s future.

In doing this, Buffett strongly implied intimacy. He was writing as if to his own children. And the investment community reacted in kind. Many praised it as Buffett’s best shareholder letter yet. (By the way, LOTS of people — not just BH investors — pay close attention to Buffett’s letters.)

At Persado, we classify this kind of language already, under the emotional category of Intimacy.

EXCLUSIVITY

Another way to establish Unity is to create a sense of Exclusivity. There are a few ways to do this. You could use in-group jargon.

“Punk” started as a small, cohesive group of NYC rockers gathered and curated by a small magazine (Punk!) that gave the movement its name before it bloomed out beyond its own boundaries, though it’s still used to establish boundaries of in- and out-groups.

CrossFit junkies cohere by their own unique code: black box (gym), WOD (workout of the day), and endless cryptic titles for various exercises (donkey kicks, star jumps, duck walks, bird-dogs, etc.).

Fashion brands and military branches use Exclusivity to imply elitism. The Navy comprises “the few, the proud, the brave.” In the Army, Unity goes beyond mere teamwork because it is an “Army of One.”

Nike’s “Just Do It” isn’t a far cry from a military branch slogan, implying that the wearer of Nike is in an elite group of athletes who execute on their mission.

Founder Daymond John put in-group sentiment front and center for his urban fashion brand FUBU, which stands for “For Us, By Us.”

A third way to establish exclusivity is trickier for big companies but can be done more easily for niche brands or niche campaigns, and that is to signal an out-group. The best example of this, in my mind, is how Alice Cooper’s manager, the legendary Shep Gordon, made Cooper a star.

We sort of hit on the concept that it would be really easy to get parents to hate us which would get kids to love us. That was easier than getting hit records.

That’s right. Instead of promoting the record to their target demographic, Gordon leveled a shock campaign that ramped up Cooper’s visibility among the blue-blood parents who would bristle at the Alice Cooper brand. By shoring up a load of negative press from conservative parents, Gordon made Cooper cool by negative association.

GRATIFICATION

Co-creation and collaboration gratify consumers the same way anyone would be pleased to have their ideas thoughtfully taken into consideration. As Cialdini writes in Pre-suasion:

Companies struggle to get consumers to feel bonded with and therefore loyal to their brands; it’s a battle they’ve been winning by inviting current and prospective customers to co-create with them novel or updated products and services, most often by providing the company with information as to desirable features…
Providing advice puts a person in a merging state of mind, which stimulates a linking of one’s own identity with another party’s.

Cialdini uses a fast-food restaurant called Splash! as an example. Consumers were asked for feedback on the restaurant concept, but the language varied per survey. They may have been asked for “advice,” “opinions,” or “expectations.”

After this solicitation, survey takers faced the final question: how likely are you to visit this restaurant? Those who gave “advice” rather than “opinions” or “expectations” were far more likely to want to eat at Splash! than the other two groups. As Cialdini interprets the data, the advice group felt they had co-created the concept. The simple word change had given them a sense of togetherness.

Even though it’s not associated with the brand, MyLaCroix.com went viral exactly because it invited people to lightheartedly collaborate on variations of flavored water!


That should do it, fellow marketers and brand advocates! Until Cialdini’s next book, this has been Persado’s survey of the Principles of Influence.