As an emotional positioning consultant, I help companies make this happen by using emotional positioning to connect their offering with their audience and outsell their competition.
After answering the same questions on emotional persuasion so often, I thought I’d share my answers to the most common questions on how you can use the power of emotional persuasion to gain a competitive edge
Q. What is emotional persuasion, and how can I use it to help my business?
Persuasion is something you were born with. It’s a soft skill embedded in your DNA. As humans, we inherently understand that a smile gets us farther than a frown and asking relevant questions will deepen any relationship. “Can I buy you a drink?” … “If you share your candy with me, I’ll be your best friend forever”. These are instincts we are born with.
By understanding that we are hardwired to persuade and that persuasion influences the decision process based on emotion … you can increase your competitive edge. Whatever your business, whatever you’re offering, whomever your audience, the key is to connect on an emotional level. And, because you are already a natural at this, you have only to enhance these skills.
Q. In your book, “Lions in the Grass”, you write about the power of emotional persuasion, which ones are the most effective?
Studies show that negative stimuli influence our response mechanisms five-times more powerfully than positive stimuli (something I completely believe).
As such, “fear of loss” is typically the emotion leveraged by those looking to persuade, but it is a mistake to use “fear” on its own.
The true power of persuasion comes from a balanced mix of emotions.
Threats, such as “fear of loss” is a strong attention disrupter yet when it is presented without the balance of “reward” it can entice your audience, but it won’t motivate their action. For this, you must include an emotional reward.
Q. Why do we need to balance threat with reward?
In evolutionary terms, humans have developed to process threats by experientially predicting their potential outcome. We’re hardwired to act before a threat becomes a danger. As such, we experience potential threats at a level similar to actual threats. This makes “fear of loss” a powerful instigator.
Reward is motivational, but on its own is less powerful, remaining ineffective until after it has been experienced. Once reward is experienced, neurotransmitters raise our dopamine levels to produce feelings of pleasure. This in turn encourages us to repeat the experience.
So, threat and reward cause different reactions on their own…for example:
Tell a stranger you intend to steal $20 dollars from them. Their reaction is peaked attention. ie. threat = immediate response.
Tell another you intend to give them $20 dollars … but until you hand over the money their response will be disbelief. (Unless you happen to be in a candy store with your 11-year-old; here results may vary).
To achieve maximum effectiveness, balancing threat and reward works together to initiate your audience’s attention and motivate their action.
Q. What is an example of this balance?
Our reaction to the negative is instinctual. We’ve evolved to pay attention to potential threats as if they were actually happening. So, if your headline presents a potentially harmful issue it will have a greater chance of increasing attention. And if this headline can be balanced with reward (i.e. education on how to avoid this harm) it will then motivate action.
Consider your own attention and motivation. Which headline intrigues your attention and motivates you to read further … and which would you scroll past?
“These Five Foods are Killing You”
– or –
“The Five Best Foods to Help You Live Longer”
Because we are inundated with news, information, headlines and calls for our attention, we have become very attention-selective.
Positive news, unfortunately, is often scrolled past, while the negative grabs our attention. By adding a positive reward to your negative statement, you disrupt the audience’s attention and motivate them to act.
These Five Foods are Killing You
and here’s what happens when you avoid them
Q. Why does this emotional balance work?
The science of neurobiology, how our nervous system affects behaviour, supports the theory that our amygdala, the section of our brain responsible for detecting threat and reward, assigns values to our experiences.
Because evolution has designed us to be subconsciously focused on survival, we remain constantly on hyper-alert to anything that potentially signals a harmful situation … or could assist us in this challenge.
Negativity prompts our primal instinct to sit up and pay attention, while reward (potential solution or avoidance of the harm) generates our action.
Q. In “Lions”, you write about mass persuasion; how is this different than individual persuasion?
Large-scale persuasion includes the generation of “crowd mentality” and using it to influence individuals. The biggest difference between mass and individual persuasion is the use of social conformity and how the opinions of others affect our own. “Hey, everyone is doing it so maybe I should too.”
If you want further proof of our inherent need for social conformity, consider how loud you cheer in a stadium full of people … compared to being the only fan in the stands? Or, how you feel when your social media post receives only a handful of likes … or even more appropriate, how you feel when overhearing a group of your friends discussing an event they all attended, which you weren’t invited to. We are all social creatures and like it or not, the need for acceptance and conformity is rooted deep within our DNA.
As such, the need to conform is a powerfully emotional motivator. Acting in accordance with the crowd and adopting its personality is incredibly contagious.
Take the insanity during a Black Friday or Boxing Day sales event. Logic says that the risk of being trampled by a crowd just to save 80 bucks on a soon-to-be outdated PVR probably isn’t worth it. But once the group begins to act, passion, anxiety and the “crowd’s personality” prevails.
This isn’t just theory, neuroscience proves we are chemically compensated for conforming to the opinion of others. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, scientists have studied how the brain reacts during a decision to conform and agree with others about the value of an object even despite conflicting evidence. When agreeing with others, our brain produces ensures that we are chemically rewarded.
This emotionally persuasive tactic is used every day. Be it to generate conformity in fashion or a need to own the latest iPhones or participate in the madness of a Black Friday sale, audiences are influenced by the actions of others.
Individual persuasion is based on threat and reward … mass persuasion adds the emotional anxiety of crowd-think … and leverages the power of conformity.
If you are interested in learning more about the power of Emotional Persuasion check out “Lions in the Grass, a Marketing Insider’s Guide to Mass Persuasion (and why you want the sh!t you want)” And look for the second part of this article on why emotional positioning is related to our evolution and how to use it in your own marketing and business.