Archive for Larry Rondeau

Facelift Disasters – Why They Happen and How to Avoid One


With permission from LookYounger.News        By Dr. Brian Machida with Larry Rondeau

Editor’s Note: Dr. Brian Machida is a double-board certified plastic surgeon practicing in metro Los Angeles. He taught facial plastic surgery for years at the University of Southern California.  He can be reached at Second to Creation Plastic Surgery in Ontario, CA, part of California’s Inland Empire.

Magazines often feature stories about disastrous facelift results.  This really is news, because in a major satisfaction survey, after one year, 97.8% described their results as “very good or beyond expectations.”  Even after 12 years, 61% still felt that way.

All the media attention on “facelift disasters” can give the wrong idea to people who are considering the many advantages of improving their looks.  Still, as we can see, they clearly do happen sometimes.  And some patients, while not experiencing “disaster,” are not completely happy with their results.  We’ll consider the answers to these questions:

  • What’s behind many of these problems?
  • How can you be sure to get the look you want and avoid the kind of results you don’t want?

The basis of many unsatisfactory facelifts

Patient 4 Before & After (Dr. Machida)Problems can occur if your surgeon doesn’t have the level of experience necessary to do a good job with the procedure you need.  Industry statistics show that the average plastic surgeon, who works on the entire body, may perform only 15 to 17 facial plastic surgeries in the average year.  In contrast, a number of my colleagues and I have each performed more than 2,500 facelifts in our careers.  Practice really does make a difference.

For example, the once popular Deep Plane facelift can provide outstanding results.  But it is a very demanding operation with a steep learning curve that requires a highly experienced surgeon.  If the surgeon does not perform it regularly enough, there is higher risk of damage to the facial nerve.  .

Patient 4 RS Before & After (Dr. Machida)The SMAS facelift targets a layer of tissue that covers, surrounds and attaches to the deeper tissues and structures of the face and neck.  It’s attached to the platysma, the superficial muscle covering the lower face and neck.  The SMAS layer underlies the entire cheek area.

Tightening the SMAS and the underlying muscles effectively lifts and rejuvenates the face.  Once the surgeon removes the excess skin, the new look can “turn back the clock” 10 years or even more.  Unlike the “windblown” look that less experienced surgeons or other techniques may produce, the effect can be very natural and attractive.  In the right hands, the SMAS facelift can provide reliable, excellent results.

Promising more and delivering less

Another source of unsatisfactory results (though not the disasters featured in the media) is selecting an inappropriate procedure.  It’s the surgeon’s responsibility to tell the patient exactly what it will take to achieve their (realistic) goals.

But in some areas competition is stiff.  It can be very tempting to allow a patient to believe that a lower-cost Mini Lift will give them the look they want when they really need a full facelift.  True candidates for less expensive Mini Lifts are primarily people whose facial aging is just past the point where non-surgical treatments can help.

Turkey NeckSo, if you have a double chin, a “turkey neck” or excessive neck fullness and your surgeon recommends a Mini Lift, ask:

  • What will you do to correct the laxity (or fullness) in my neck?
  • Will you tighten my platysma?

If your surgery will not address these areas, you would probably be happier with the results a different surgeon would provide.  It’s better for the doctor to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.

“Nightmare” Prevention

Effect of cigarettes on face-CUMany “plastic surgery nightmares” publicized in the national media appear to come from two main sources:

  1. Problems in the healing process
  2. Too many procedures

Both of these can often be avoided by better communication with your surgeon.  If you smoke, have diabetes, or are on blood thinners, be sure to tell your doctor.  All of these can get in the way of good healing, which could lead to a “nightmare.”  If the surgeon takes the right precautions regarding healing, you’re already halfway to good results.

Many of the “plastic surgery nightmares” I’ve seen result from too many procedures.  Again, here is where honest communication is crucial.  Patients who expect miraculous results are likely to be disappointed if their procedure results in anything less.  They may visit another surgeon.

Unfortunately they always manage to find someone willing to take their money and perform one more surgery.  But too many procedures can leave a face looking worse than not having needed work performed.  This can result in the “nightmare” photos we often see.

Realistic expectations, and consulting with an experienced, skilled, honest and straightforward plastic surgeon can make the difference between a disappointing result and getting the new look you really want.

Patient 4 Before & After (Dr. Machida)

Feature Photo (at top):  Renowned Italian fashion designer Donatella Versace at TIME 100 – photo by David Shankbone

People First Judge Your Competence by Your Face


Everyone needs to influence someone.   Salespeople, business executives, financial professionals, attorneys, political leaders and parents must sway the opinions of others to succeed in their roles.  And while most concentrate on honing their message and delivery techniques to succeed, research reveals that another factor can play a big role.  Surprisingly, it’s your appearance – especially your face.

Why is appearance so important?  Science has uncovered three underlying reasons:

  1. Loss Aversion: We automatically look for good opportunities and try to avoid people and things that could cause us problems.
  2. Our minds quickly size up and form first impressions of people we meet.
  3. First impressions last.

business people team at a meeting in a light and modern office environment.When most meet others for the first time, their minds automatically try to assess them to determine:

  • Is this a friend or foe?
  • Do I like this person?
  • Can I trust this individual – are they ethical and competent to help me?

Think about it:  When you first meet a doctor, attorney, financial professional, salesperson or repairman, don’t you look for clues as to whether you can rely on them to do the job right?

Mature Male Businessman smiling on phone (portrait)Substantial research has found that in this quick search for clues, appearance – especially facial appearance – has a lot to do with whether we will believe and trust people.  Most don’t realize they’ve been influenced by this unconscious process.

Repeated studies have also proved the truth of the saying:  First impressions last.  Perhaps because most always want to feel that they’re right, what psychologists call confirmation bias takes hold.  It causes your potential clients to tenaciously hold onto their first impression of you, unless you provide overwhelming evidence that they misjudged you.  You may never get the chance.

Proof of the face’s role in assessing competence

In business, it’s crucial to project an air of competence.  Princeton University reports how voters may assess that crucial quality:

Princeton psychologist Alexander Todorov has demonstrated that quick facial judgments can accurately predict real-world election returns.

Todorov and his research partner conducted three experiments asking several dozen study subjects to make snap judgments about people’s competence by looking at their faces – some for just an instant, others longer.

Subjects were show pairs of photos and asked which one appeared more competent.  They didn’t realize they were assessing front-running candidates for upcoming U.S. Senate or gubernatorial races in faraway states.  If a participant recognized either face, their choice was removed from the data.  Princeton University reports:

Percentage of political races won by candidate with more competent-looking face

Percentage of political races won by candidate with more competent-looking face

“Researchers compared the competency judgments with the election results.  They found that the judgments predicted the winners in

  • 72.4% of the senatorial races
  • 68.6% of the gubernatorial races.”

This was no surprise.  Influence expert Dr. Robert Cialdini reports that a 1974 study of Canadian federal elections found that attractive candidates received more than twice as many votes as unattractive ones.  People often equate an attractive face with competence.

The makeup of a successful look

The New York Times reported that researchers from Boston University and the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute measured the effect facial appearance had on judging competence.  This study photographed 25 white, black and Hispanic women aged 20 to 50.  With the help of a Black Models-study cosmetics on competence judgmentprofessional makeup artist, each was shot with four different looks:

  • Barefaced – no makeup
  • Natural – minimal makeup
  • Professional makeup
  • Glamorous makeup

To avoid any model’s confidence level changing because of her look, none was allowed to see herself in the mirror.  Two different groups of more than a hundred subjects viewed the photos – some for a split second and others for as long as they wanted.  Then they rated each woman on competence.

Women wearing makeup – even the glamorous variety – were consistently judged to be more competent than barefaced women with no makeup.  As seen in the Times sample photos (link below), even the glamorously made-up women did not appear out of place in a business setting.  But those with better makeup clearly appeared more attractive.  Again, a better-looking face imparted an air of competence.  FF-White Models-Cosmetic Effect on CompetenceIn fact, Dr. Cialdini stated:

Other experiments have demonstrated that attractive people are more persuasive in changing the opinions of an audience (Chaiken, 1979).

The Halo Effect

For all but models, facial attractiveness has nothing to do with competence.  Why do people upgrade those with better-looking faces and downgrade those with less-attractive or aging ones?  Because of what psychologists call The Halo Effect.  Expert Dr. Cialdini stated:

Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty and intelligence.

Further, studies cited in “Could an Aging Face Send the Wrong Message About You?” revealed that unattractive or aging faces were judged to belong to people who were less intelligent, friendly, kind and helpful than faces rated average in attractiveness.  Other research found that less attractive salespeople were at a disadvantage in gaining new business.2

Anyone whose role requires them to persuade others would do well to give serious thought to improving their facial appearance.  The Halo Effect unfairly penalizes good, intelligent, competent professionals whose looks have faded.  But it is a fact of human nature that the wise will recognize and act upon.  Highly experienced facial plastic surgeons can recommend affordable ways to get a natural, more attractive look.

Business TeamClick to locate a highly experienced facial plastic surgeon in your area.


  1. The New York Times – “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand” (10-21-11)
  2. Improving your Appearance – Could it Improve your Income?”
  3. Etcoff NL, Stock S, Haley LE, Vickery SA, House DM (2011) Cosmetics as a Feature of the Extended Human Phenotype: Modulation of the Perception of Biologically Important Facial Signals. PLoS ONE 6(10): e25656. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025656

Marketing When No One Knows your Name – Part Two

How can businesses in their first year get off to a good start in marketing?  As we considered in Part One, name recognition is an important key.  The first steps to becoming favorably known by your best prospects include understanding their interests and the real reasons why they would buy.  Once you understand those things you must effectively use that information to reap greater sales.

An important key

Businesses often start out with little revenue and a lot of expenses.  It can be tempting toOpen padlock & key skimp on marketing.  That would be a costly mistake.  We’ve all heard the expression, “familiarity breeds contempt.”  That may be true in some cases.  But extensive social psychology research finds that familiarity most often breeds the crucial success factors of liking and trust.  In fact, studies show that all but negative encounters between people have a very positive effect on their relationships.  Further, research finds that messages that become familiar are accepted as true.

doctorClearly, for your business to succeed, prospective customers must see and hear from you regularly.  It’s crucial to attract new business.  My own experience confirms the research findings.  For instance, I could use but am unlikely to get a hair transplant.  Yet, if I decided on one, the first person I would likely visit is a local doctor whose name has become very familiar through advertising.  Despite doing no research, I already view him as the authority in my state.

What kind of message?

People are bombarded with a myriad of marketing messages today and will only pay attention to information that is significant to them.  If you know what about your product or service that interests your audience and why they would buy it, you can use that information to craft messages that will attract their selective attention.

Understanding your prospects’ real motives for buying can help you gain their notice.  By effectively featuring those factors in your headlines and taglines, you can focus their minds on information that will move them in your direction.

Learn your clients’ shortcuts

shortcut - woodsNobel prizewinning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman and Princeton researcher Amos Tversky discovered that busy people often take shortcuts, called judgment heuristics, when evaluating information and making decisions.  If you can learn your audience’s decision shortcuts, your marketing can feature ways you satisfy these key requirements.  This can bring more customers to your door.

Having tried strenuously to help save facial plastic surgery giant Lifestyle Lift despite its deep debts and ineffective marketing, I will use some examples from the plastic surgery field.  The decision to have facial plastic surgery is an emotional one.  Patients often seek to recover the self-esteem and favorable attention that looking older takes away.  Marketing and sales must focus on their ability to give patients what they want most at affordable prices.

surgeonIn addition, establishing trust is a crucial accomplishment for doctors seeking to schedule more surgeries.  Lifestyle Lift’s facial plastic surgeons were among the nation’s most experienced.  Helping patients recognize this was an important step in making the sale.  Lifestyle Lift procedures used local anesthesia, the safest method available.  Bringing this to patients’ attention was another key to establishing vital trust.

What media?

Since familiarity, name recognition and effectively repeating key messages are so crucial, it is vital to find the right media mix to make your name and message familiar.  Research finds that using several media is best. Infomercials are great, but extremely expensive.  Television is costly, and DVRs allow viewers to zoom right through your commercial.

The best answer for a growing business may be a mix of radio, social media, email and a heavy dose of web-based marketing.  Blogging can allow professionals to establish their knowledge and authority, building vital trust.

A magnet website that would draw genuine prospects to read news, blogs and articles on subjects of interest could be an ideal component.  It could establish vital trust while gathering business leads.

Select the right messages to transmit through a good media mix and you’re on your way to success.

Larry Rondeau is a marketing writer and strategist.  Effective use of marketing psychology helps him achieve outstanding results. Email him at

Building Vital Credibility with Prospects and Clients – Part One

Brian Williams

These days, credibility is often in short supply.  NBC’s Brian Williams’ standing with viewers took a big hit when it was revealed that, despite his earlier claim, the helicopter he was riding in didn’t take one from an RPG.  We have all become too accustomed to learning that something we’ve heard from someone we trusted just isn’t true.

Research by Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely found that many people are willing to fib for their own benefit– but just a little.  And when people we believe in tell us less than the whole truth, it’s not always an attempt to maliciously deceive.  An NBC staffer, responding to questions about Brian Williams, told The Washington Post, “He’s a

Warren Buffet 2great storyteller. But sometimes storytellers embellish.” But, as the Williams case illustrates, the habit of stretching the truth a bit too far can devastate your reputation. As legendary investor Warren Buffet put it,

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

A good name as a trustworthy, expert professional is one of the most valuable assets you can have.

Years of research in persuasion psychology explained by eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson reveals that to effectively persuade others, you must be viewed as both expert in the subject and trustworthy.   Salespeople, attorneys and marketers may know their facts, but unless their audience trusts them they will have a hard time winning over clients, consumers or juries.Presenting

People hear so many stories about swindlers and their scams that a straight shooter who knows what they’re talking about is truly refreshing.  People seek to do business with someone like that.  How can professionals – salespeople, marketers, and attorneys whose professions are sometimes viewed skeptically by the public – build and keep vital good reputations? And how can they assure that clients, juries and audiences recognize them as the credible sources they are?

The most important factor

AvisSocrates said, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” So, when DDB copywriter Paula Green came up with the iconic “We Try Harder” tagline for Avis Rent-a-Car, the agency explained to Avis executives that they had to live up to what they were telling consumers.  Avis employees really had to try harder and give customers what they wanted. They did.  Advertising Age relates:

It was a huge success for Avis. In a matter of a single year, that campaign reversed the company’s fortunes, helping it to go from losing $3.2 million to turning a profit of $1.2 million for the first time in 13 years.


Although this campaign is often cited as an example of great advertising, it is also a case study in the benefits of making consumers a promise – and then keeping it.  Making exaggerated claims for products and services is common.  It can result in short-term success.  But there are few better ways to ruin your good name than promising things you do not deliver.

Should you ever lie to clients?

No.  True, lying can help you make a sale.  But once your customer realizes that you’ve lied you will lose credibility, and they’ll often tell others.  Even if lying works in the short run, once the lie is discovered your ability to persuade will nosedive.  And if the falsehood was about something significant, you will lose a customer and may well make a vocal enemy.

1896 Toyota CorollaDeceiving people may injure them.  Years ago, during my 25 year sales career, I went to a well-known dealer and found what I thought was a great deal on a new car.  Left over from the previous model year, it had less than 80 miles on the odometer.  The salesman offered me a full 1/3 off the sticker price.  When he told me the car was brand new and had only been used as a demo, I asked, “Why are you giving me so much money off?” “We have to clear the lot for a new shipment,” he explained, “the boss said to do whatever it takes to sell these cars now.”

I bought that car because it had a great reliability rating, a full warranty and a terrific price.  It sounded too good to be true.  It was.  The manufacturer was dumping them.  Its high crash-test rating turned out to be for frontal impacts only.  My new car lacked reinforced doors, which a new Federal law mandated.  And when a speeding full-size SUV broadsided me, I quickly learned the truth.

My 1986 CorollaI suffered 6 broken bones and a ruptured spleen.  I nearly died in the emergency room.  And none of it had to happen.  If the salesman had told me the truth I would not have bought that car.  But, because his candor would have built trust and credibility, I would likely have bought another, more expensive model from him.  My injuries have healed, but as research predicted, my feelings about that dealership have not.

I have told many people, including their competitor, about my bad experience.

Manufacturing Credibility

Scientific research shows that even someone who has lost the trust of their audience can regain it.  Studies also reveal how to effectively deal with weaknesses in your product or argument, tell the truth, and still make the sale.  Watch for Part Two of this series.

Larry Rondeau’s marketing campaigns have achieved ROI of 16.5 to 1. The psychology-based sales techniques he teaches have improved sales closing rates by as much as 83%.  If you’d like to discuss an opportunity in marketing, sales, training or copy/content writing please email him at






Rejection – the Road to Lasting Agreement?

No one likes rejectionunless they recognize that, used correctly, it can lead to agreements that stick.  Researchers like renowned influence expert Dr. Robert Cialdini found that this truth stood out in many controlled scientific studies.  One example was an experiment where Cialdini tried to encourage college students to volunteer to help troubled youth.

In this study, Dr. Cialdini wanted to see how to best get undergraduates to both Zoo-kidsagree and follow through to chaperone a group of troubled young people on a trip to the zoo.

  • A Direct Request group was straightforwardly asked to participate.  Only 17% agreed.
  • Testing the Rejection-then-Retreat technique, researchers requested that members of a second group agree to spend 2 hours/week every week for a minimum of 2 years acting as counselors for troubled youth. As expected, all refused.
  • As a concession, students in that group were told, “If you can’t help as counselors, we need chaperones for an upcoming trip to the zoo.”  Now 50% agreed, an increase of 294% over the group given a Direct Request.

How many actually showed up (and did not cancel or become a “no show” for the trip)?

  • Direct Request Group:                 50%
  • Rejection-then-Retreat Group:     85%

The Rejection-then-Retreat technique nearly tripled agreements and increased the participation rate by 70%.

Is this ethical?  

The Rejection-then-Retreat technique is derived from the Reciprocity Principle.This principle, which emerged from years of research, describes a fact of human nature.  It’s hard-wired into our brains. The ethics of using this principle hinge on how we use it.  It can be employed in ways that help others or take unfair advantage of them.  The choice is ours.  Those that want to enjoy the many benefits a good reputation brings will use the Reciprocity Principle in ways that work for the good of their customers, employees and community.

How Does it Work?

For the purpose of this discussion the key research-proven points on the Reciprocity Principle include:

  • People automatically feel obligated to repay in kind what others have given them
  • Recipients will often pay back more than they received
  • The need to reciprocate is universal, motivating the majority in every culture examined

Thus, in Dr. Cialdini’s experiment, when students in the Rejection-then-RetreatYes love group refused his large request they did something most people don’t like to do – they said NO.  This influence expert refers to occasions when others tell us NO as “Moments of Influence.”  When we have to say NO it makes most of us uncomfortable.  We look to relieve our “cognitive dissonance” by saying YES to something else.

As a result, when Cialdini or his assistant responded to their refusal with a smaller request, fully 50% of the Rejection-then-Retreat group agreed to it.  And since the researcher had made a concession to them, nearly all (85%) felt obligated to follow through and show up to chaperone the trip.


Women-younger+olderAs a salesperson, do you seek to close more sales and reduce cancellations?  The Rejection-then-Retreat strategy may be the perfect way to accomplish these goals.

Rather than being quick to offer a price concession, persist in first showing prospects how your product provides excellent value.  Help customers see why your standard offer is a good one.  Consumer research shows that a higher price is considered a hallmark of a superior product.  Initially holding to it reinforces its value.

If prospects will not buy without a lower price then and only then offer to Women sales agreementsee if you can give them a discount.  If they agree to let you check, they will feel obligated to wait a reasonable time for you to return with an answer.  If you come back with a lower price, your willingness to compromise makes them feel obligated to make a concession of their own.  If you’ve established credibility along with good customer rapport and your discount seems reasonable, frequently the concession they make will be to accept your offer and buy.

Research has also found that the payback often exceeds the gift.  Thus, as Dr. Cialdini’s study found, not only will more people accept your lesser request, but more will feel obligated to follow through.

Salespeople, executives seeking cooperation and those recruiting volunteers to help good causes can benefit greatly from mastering the Rejection-then-Retreat technique.  If done ethically, asking people to agree to things that will truly benefit them and others, it can be a valuable tool that improves the lives of all involved.




Can Marketing and Sales be Ethical and Effective?

Rock & Hard PlaceMarketers often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Clients require proof that every marketing activity they pay for increases sales. There are ever greater demands to produce tangible results. But consumers often look skeptically at advertising, assuming that marketers are “puffing their wares,” misleading them, invading their privacy or trapping them into paying for services they don’t really want. The actions of a few unethical advertisers have made life difficult for many.

Do they have to cheat to win?

This pressure to produce can make unethical practices seem like the only viable option. I worked for a short time after college at a company where lying was regarded as a magic bullet to increase sales.

Their sales manager said to me, “If you think you can make a living telling people the truth, you’re welcome to try. But I think you’re going to fall flat on your face.”

Was he right? Does success in business demand lying, cheating and tricking customers? Not at all. Within 3 months of starting that job I was one of the top salespeople in the office. I treated customers honestly and gave them a good deal. They, in turn, actively referred their friends and clients to me. Acting ethically made selling – and sleeping at night – easier, not harder.

The psychology of ethical marketing

As mentioned above, marketers face ever-growing pressure to produce results. As more and more advertisers flock to the web, ads are becoming more intrusive. Clutter makes it harder to get consumers’ attention. Some may feel a growing temptation to trick prospects with phantom offers or trap them into visiting websites they never intended to browse.

Deceptive adBut as discussed in “Marketing Works. But Could an Ill-Conceived Campaign Hurt your Business?” tricking consumers irritates them, attaching their anger to the product advertised. This is self-defeating and could actually result in the loss of market share. Social networking, monitored by the national media, makes it easy for negative stories about double-dealing companies to spread like wildfire. Cheating is a risk few advertisers can afford, because negative publicity can decimate a brand.

In contrast, providing helpful information creates good feelings which then become associated in consumers’ minds with the advertised product. Giving customers and prospects something they value produces another helpful effect that makes them want to do business with you.

Reciprocity Rules

One well proven social psychology principle is regarded as a universal moral law. Influence expert Dr. Robert Cialdini calls it the Reciprocity Principle. Research finds that people around the world feel an obligation to help those who have helped them. This can be both an ethical and extremely useful tool for marketers. Cialdini writes:

One of the reasons reciprocation can be used so effectively as a device for gaining another’s compliance is its power. The rule possesses awesome strength, often producing a yes response to a request that, except for an existing feeling of indebtedness, would have surely been refused.

One classic experiment found that people who liked an acquaintance selling raffle tickets were more likely to purchase them from him.  That was no surprise. But those for whom he bought a Coke purchased even more – whether they liked him or not.

Dove Positive_self_esteem


Thus, women and girls whose self-esteem has been raised by Dove’s Real Beauty campaign will feel gratitude, appreciation and a sense of indebtedness to the Dove brand. They will want to buy Dove soap to repay that debt. And if they like what this product does for their skin, they will probably remain customers for a long time.


A better way

Social psychologists have spent seventy years researching what attracts consumers, what repels them and what moves them to action. The ranks of scientists dedicated to the study of persuasion have included some of the most influential psychologists in history. The principles uncovered in their research have been tested in the same painstaking peer review process used for major discoveries in medicine.

A number of effective “tools of influence” that can help any product, service or cause succeed in the marketplace have been revealed. Basing marketing campaigns on the right established psychological principles can significantly increase response rates and have been proven to boost sales.

Dove SoapAnd, unlike underhanded tactics, well designed marketing campaigns using these principles strengthen brands and the companies they represent. Dove’s use of just one of them, Reciprocity, will help its line succeed into the foreseeable future. Finding the appropriate influence tool for a product and situation isn’t easy. But once found and properly used, it can bring the kind of ROI that makes clients and stockholders smile.

Behavioral marketing techniques have helped Larry Rondeau design marketing campaigns that have achieved ROI as high as 16.5 to 1.  Email him at



Marketing Works. But Could an Ill-Conceived Campaign Hurt your Business?

Crest Whiting Expressions toothpasteControlled studies and years of experience and have proven that good marketing can substantially increase sales. For instance, a social psychology-based campaign centered on an episode of The Apprentice led to the most successful new product launch in Procter & Gamble’s corporate history. Some 40,000 consumers participated, registering at Crest Toothpaste’s campaign website.  While rival Colgate’s sales were flat the following year, Crest’s rose by 4.5%.

Deceptive adBut all the success stories generated by high quality advertising can be quickly overshadowed by ill-conceived marketing campaigns that leave a bad taste in consumers’ mouths. I came home recently to find a flyer from a car dealer on the table. “You May Have Won His and Hers 2013 GMC Acadias or $100,000 Cash” it proclaimed, “If your symbols match, you’ve won!” “Scratch off to see if your symbols match.” My wife had already scratched where indicated, and showed me that the two symbols matched – for the Grand Prize of $100,000.

A Glimmer of Hope

I should have known better, but this seeming promise gave me a ray of hope on a cloudy day. It’s been a challenging year. I completed a specialized BS in Marketing Psychology. My CEO of 25 years recommended me as “one of the most capable individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” and said of me, “He is tremendously creative as a problem solver and as an innovator.” Despite that, an industry-wide downturn forced my layoff at the end of 2012.

Cialdini InfluenceI received mentoring through an in-depth program in marketing psychology by world renowned expert and presidential adviser Dr. Robert Cialdini. Yet, in this slow economy job offers have been scarce. I won a national award for direct marketing and achieved ROI of 16.5 to 1 in three campaigns. This brought me the appreciation of former clients and praise from New England marketing agency top executives with whom I met, but no job offers. As a 55 year old career changer, my résumé is often screened out by human resource software. This makes it challenging to get interviews for jobs for which I am clearly qualified.

Deceptive advertising leads to disappointed consumers

But now, despite my initial skepticism, it really looked like I had won $100,000. I could envision it funding my search for the right marketing job or providing seed money for a writing and marketing consulting business. I would have to drive more than 100 miles round trip to claim my prize. That seemed a small price to pay. My ride down the Mass Pike was pleasant despite heavy rain. After all, I was going to claim my business future’s foundation.

car dealerBut, as Shakespeare wrote, “What fools these mortals be!” For when I arrived at the dealership, a nice salesperson explained that despite the flyer’s telling me, “You’ve Won!…Go online now to pick the Grand Prize you want,” the fine print I had read stated that I was only guaranteed to win one of the prizes shown on the page. In all my enthusiasm and gratitude for a seeming oasis in my financial desert, the import of that statement hadn’t registered. I walked away, not with the $100,000 I envisioned, but with a $5 Walmart gift card. It wouldn’t even cover the gas for my trip! I left disgusted, feeling that I’d been tricked.

Ignoring basic human psychology

As I re-examined the flyer, I recognized a fact to which my earlier enthusiasm had blinded me. The statements, “You’ve Won” and “Go online to pick the Grand Prize you want” were preprinted. Every recipient had been told that they had won the Grand Prize. This undoubtedly increased showroom traffic at the dealership. But at what cost?

Both science and history prove that raising then dashing their hopes is one of the surest ways to make people angry. Dr. Cialdini quotes James C. Davies statement that “we are most likely to find revolutions at a time when a period of improving economic and social conditions is followed by a short, sharp reversal in those conditions.” Cialdini cites the example of Russia under Gorbachev. This progressive Soviet leader had broken with his predecessors, allowing Russians a bit of freedom and a realistic hope of prosperity.

Gorbachev Time CoverWhen a junta of government, military and KGB officials staged a coup and placed Gorbachev under house arrest in August, 1991, it appeared that Russians would acquiesce and return to the repressive life they had always known. But instead, they rioted in the streets for three days. They ignored the threats of tanks and troops, demanding Gorbachev’s return. Amazingly enough, they won! The plotters were soon begging for mercy.

The sad consequences of deceptive advertising

Soviet officials who tried to deprive Russians of the basic freedoms they received under Gorbachev failed. Similarly, retailers who lead consumers to sure disappointment with misleading advertising campaigns will suffer the consequences. Cialdini states what years of research has revealed:

An innocent association with either bad things or good things will influence how people feel about us.”

weathermanBlameless TV weathermen have received death threats when storms ruined viewers’ vacations. Will advertisers who deliberately hoodwink consumers be rewarded for misleading them? Undoubtedly, the direct marketing initiative this GMC dealer allowed to be run in their name will bring lots of prospective customers to the showroom.

But since both the flyer and its associated website seemed to strongly promise that they had won the Grand Prize, most will leave disappointed in their meager winnings. Some will feel they have been ripped-off. Big corporations devote significant advertising dollars toward making consumers feel good about their companies and brands. This dealer made the vast majority of his prospective patrons feel badly. That will not bode well for future business.

Wise marketers carefully consider both the short and long-term effects of their efforts. Their goal is not myopically boosting traffic, but increasing sales and customer commitment. Hall of Fame car salesman Joe Girard sold an average of 5 cars and trucks every workday by encouraging customers to like him. How will dealers whose advertising makes people dislike them fare? Companies that sign on with agencies who mislead consumers in their name are shooting themselves in the foot. Years of experience have proved wise King Solomon right:

“A good reputation is more desirable than great wealth, and favorable acceptance more than silver and gold.”

That is particularly true in this information age. A good reputation is essential for prosperity. Misleading marketing campaigns rob merchants of this vital asset and hurt their business.

 Larry Rondeau is open to marketing and writing opportunities.  Email him now at




Mobile Marketing Psychology

smartphone arrayMobile as a marketing channel is definitely on the move. A Pew Research study reported that 56% of U.S. adults now own smartphones.  Smartphone usage is highest among younger, better educated and more highly paid Americans.  They represent the very consumers often targeted by retailers, insurance carriers and financial services providers.

It’s important for mobile marketers to get it right the first time. Studies by social scientists confirm the old adage, “First impressions last.” This is particularly true in mobile marketing. The Skava Consumer Mobile Shopping Survey found that 30% of consumers who have a bad mobile purchasing experience never return to the offending site.

How can mobile marketers get it right the first time? 

A key factor is having people with the right knowledge base working on mobile e-commerce sites and advertising. There are undoubtedly many skilled IT professionals in this field. Certainly many talented marketers and website designers work in mobile as well. But what appears to be lacking in many smartphone-enabled sites is a good understanding of mobile marketing psychology­ – the psychological factors that come into play when consumers use their smartphones in making purchases.

Setting the right mood

smarphone scanningClearly, goal and reward seeking is a major motivator for anyone using a smartphone in shopping. When prospective buyers pick up their smartphones, they want to get information, essential product knowledge, price comparisons and money saving coupons. The more easily and quickly they can obtain them, the better they like it.

Mobile websites that facilitate this accomplish an important objective. When consumers quickly and easily obtain what they want, it makes them happy. Those good feelings get attached to the website that provides them. “An innocent association with either bad things or good things will influence how people feel about us,” states influence expert and presidential adviser Dr. Robert Cialdini.

Tom Brady Stetson adInnocent associations – like Pavlov’s dogs salivating at the sound of a bell that was often rung when they were fed – attach good or bad feelings to something that was merely present when the feelings occurred. Thus, advertisers race to associate their products with star athletes and popular celebrities whom their audiences like and quickly distance themselves from those whose words and actions earned public disfavor (like Paula Deen and Aaron Hernandez).

If brands earn points by merely being seen in the presence of sports heroes and popular celebrities, imagine how quickly good or bad feelings can get attached to mobile sites that readily give us what we want (or fail to) when we’re in a hurry.

Calming fear of loss

Consumers naturally seek to avoid loss and reduce risks. Dan Ariely, MIT Professor of Behavioral Economics writes, “We focus on what we may lose rather than what we may gain.”  People go out of their way to minimize risk. Thus when founder Jeff Bezos wanted to help consumers become comfortable with purchasing online, he wisely chose to start with a low-risk product: books. Purchasers recognized it was highly unlikely that a book they bought there would turn out to be fake.

smartphone thiefMany who regularly shop online may hesitate to do it on their smartphones. After all, mobile uses a different system and may not feel as secure. We see news stories or dramas on TV showing how easy it can be for knowledgeable persons to “clone” our phone or perhaps pick up personal data.

Mobile sites that make it clear they are secure (and live up to that claim) can gain an edge. Merchants that allow customers to voluntarily store a credit card number on that site and permit them to use that card automatically for purchases help patrons avoid the feeling of risk. They may feel unsafe entering their credit card information while in public and transmitting it over the air.

Make consumers feel comfortable and safe shopping on your mobile site and many will return regularly. The need for security is a major motivator.

Avoid irritating customers

Imagine how you’d feel if, while navigating an unfamiliar highway with your GPS and trying to find the right exit at high speed, your navigation page or map was suddenly replaced by an ad. Even if the advertisement is for a product you like, or if it offers you a useful money saving coupon, chances are you will find it pretty irritating, even infuriating.

mobile pop up adsMobile advertisers often do something similar. Determined to give clients’ products the widest possible coverage, they will arrange for ads to pop up on key sites. Often the ad fully or partially blocks the content users seek, perhaps when they really need it. Trying to close the ad on the small screen may result in an unintended visit to the sponsor’s homepage. It can feel as if hijackers have taken over the phone!

Mobile marketers who do this are truly harming themselves and the products they thus advertise. As Cialdini stated, ‘an innocent association with bad things will influence how people feel about us.’ Products associated with aggravation in ways that appear less than innocent will certainly not escape.

By making mobile ads invasive and irksome, marketers inadvertently connect the bad feelings they generate directly to the advertised product. Marketers who are schooled in social psychology will find better ways to deploy mobile advertising. They will see their ROI and reputations steadily improve as competitors continue the unwise practice of making mobile ads pop up in ways that inconvenience users.


Marketing psychology is the practice of using scientifically proven tools of influence in crafting marketing strategies and tactics. Research has revealed a number of effective ways to increase response rates, conversion and sales. As mobile continues to grow as a source of revenue, those who market effectively on this burgeoning channel will only increase in value to their clients and organizations.

Learning consumer psychology and how it applies to mobile (or adding a marketer schooled in this discipline to your team) will improve your chances of success now and in the future. If you’re interested in discussing this further, please email me here.





Why is it So Hard to Change People’s Minds?

WriterYou could be an attorney defending an unpopular client, a marketer trying to induce consumers to try a new and better product, a writer attempting to enlighten readers to a better point of view or a community leader endeavoring to improve conditions in your area. All face the same challenge: It’s often very hard to get people to change their minds and adopt a new point of view.

But why? Don’t humans want justice, superior products, more accurate knowledge and better living conditions? Don’t we yearn to know the truth? For the most part, yes. And yet, as Mark Twain observed, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Right or wrong, ideas spread quickly and once people have adopted them most hesitate to give them up.

Research shows why

Segretation argumentSocial psychologists examined the reasons why people are so reluctant to accept new viewpoints. One reason became apparent in a series of studies starting in 1959. Eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson explains that research began in a southern town deeply divided over racial segregation. Most today clearly recognize the evils of apartheid, but in 1959 it was a burning issue, particularly in the South.

Researchers selected people with strong feelings for or against segregation. Then they presented a series of arguments on both sides of the issue. Some were plausible, others were lame.  A survey on the points each recalled was telling. People remembered the logical arguments supporting their position and the illogical arguments that backed the opposing view.

A number of follow up studies produced similar results. The answer was clear.  It showed why strong beliefs are so hard to change.  It revealed why negative pretrial publicity can make a fair trial difficult to obtain. People ignored or quickly forgot points that might prove their opinions wrong. They focused on the opposition’s lame arguments because these strengthened their positions.  This phenomenon is called Confirmation Bias. Finding the right answer took a back seat to proving they were right. The highly respected Dr. Aronson explains:

During the past half-century, social psychologists have discovered that one of the most powerful determinants of human behavior stems from our need to preserve a stable, positive self-image.  Most of us want to believe that we are reasonable, decent folks who make wise decisions, do not behave immorally and have integrity.

Most show a strong need to protect their self-image. The idea that we were wrong makes us uncomfortable. Thus, when confronted with factual information that might show us mistaken or foolish, we automatically tend to ignore or dismiss it, focusing instead on any shred of evidence that might prove us right.

head in sandOne study found that smokers who tried but failed to quit were least likely to recognize the hazards of smoking. Acknowledging that their persistent habit could kill them and their loved ones was too difficult to face. So, with heads firmly in the sand, they saw no danger and continued to smoke.

Timing proves crucial

Research on changing minds uncovered another critical factor: timing. Studies show that at certain periods in a person’s life, their minds are far more open to new ideas than at other times. During childhood, early adulthood and in old age people tend to be open-minded. Opinions and beliefs adopted “when the concrete is wet” may become strongly entrenched once it “dries.”

Bennington women studyConsider a groundbreaking study conducted with students from Vermont’s Bennington College. During the 1930s and early 1940s, Bennington students were primarily women from wealthier, more politically conservative families.  In contrast, many of the college’s professors were leftists. Continual exposure to their ideas molded the opinions of juniors and seniors.

The influence of professors and upperclassmen was strong and its effects long-lasting.  Bennington women became much more liberal than others from the same social background.  Some fifty years later, in the 1984 presidential election, Bennington alumnae in their 70s voted Democratic by a 3 to 1 margin while, nationwide, the same percentage of college educated women in that age group voted Republican.  Social psychologist David Myers, PhD noted, “Their views embraced at an impressionable time had survived a lifetime of wider experience.”


David OgilvyIt’s very difficult to make a comfortable living telling others that they are wrong. Confirmation bias is far too strong in most minds to permit that approach to work. Instead, before telling people that your data or position is better than theirs let them off the emotional hook. It’s no accident that in Confessions of An Advertising Man, legendary marketer David Ogilvy listed “announcing”, “introducing” and “improvement” among the most persuasive words his agency had ever found.

One can improve an old idea or introduce a new one without threatening prospective buyers’ or jurors’ self-esteem. Wise copywriters and lawyers will find ways to avoid making their audience feel threatened by the information they want to impart. An attorney could, for example,  acknowledge the mistakes made by an unpopular client, but point out that they are not responsible for the offense for which they have been charged.  Admitting their client’s wrongs can increase the advocate’s own credibility while giving jurors an acceptable reason for their negative feelings about the defendant. It allows member of the jury to dislike the accused without holding them liable for the charge at hand.

Timing Takeaway

Timing clearly plays a crucial role for communicators. This is particularly important if communicating with adults from 28 to 68.   As Dr. Theodore Newcomb’s Bennington College study and other research reveals, worthwhile ideas and products presented to young adults (18-22) may well be adopted for a lifetime. (Parents and students will thus want to consider atmosphere and culture as well as program quality and facilities as key factors when choosing a college). Research at Stanford shows that as people approach the end of their lives, they may also become more open to new thoughts.

mindUnderstanding how people think is vital if one is going to change their minds. This is why social psychology studies can prove so helpful in determining communication strategies. Marketing researchers provide enlightening answers. But that information is proprietary; no one wants to let their competitors know what tactics really work.

Social psychologists, on the other hand, explore the same vital topics on influencing large groups of people. Their studies are carefully examined by experts and, if found sound and useful, are published and widely available. If the principles they uncover survive this process and are extensively replicated, they become highly useful tools for influential communicators. Employing them well can help change people’s minds for the better.

Larry Rondeau is a marketing strategist and business writer seeking marketing opportunities or freelance writing work. Email him at



Writing and Marketing to an Inattentive Audience

Distracted audienceBusiness writers and marketers alike navigate the same minefield – getting and holding attention.  They must both effectively communicate with audiences that often won’t give much thought to their messages. Why is it so hard to get people to really listen to what you say? What strategies can aid communication when much of the audience is barely paying attention?

Why attention is so hard to get

Researchers have long noted that some individuals, like Einstein, DaVinci and Galileo possess both a love of learning and the brain power to delve deeply into subjects. In contrast, many of us enjoy diving into a topic, but too soon find that we need to come up for air.  Why?

Einstein's brainWhat’s different about the genius mind? According to a National Public Radio report, the pathologist who examined Einstein’s brain after his death found it had an abnormally high number of glial cells. “Glia” means glue. Scientists now recognize that these cells, once thought to merely hold neurons together, actually provide power, speeding electrical impulses throughout the brain. They also re-energize neurons engaged in intense mental activity.

Thus, Einstein (and presumably other geniuses) have high-powered brains that can “refuel in flight,” allowing Refueling planesthem to persist in mental journeys when others are forced to turn back. Most of us lack this ability and live in power-saver mode, trying to get the most done with the least amount of mental energy. Researchers call this majority of the human race “cognitive misers.”

Marketing to cognitive misers

Consumers’ automatic attempts to make good decisions while conserving brain power requires marketers and merchandisers to make a number of adjustments. One effective method is Iyengar Jar Studyto limit their offerings. A marketing study by Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar offered supermarket shoppers the chance to sample 6 different gourmet jams and receive a $1 off coupon. The result: 30% bought a jar. But when the offering was increased to 24 varieties, a mere 3% of shoppers made a purchase. It appears that the large selection made choosing too difficult, so few expended the mental energy needed to make a choice.

Thus, when discussing pricing strategies, marketing experts, J. Paul Peter and Jerry Olson wrote:

The cognitive activity involved in purchasing can be a very important cost…The cost involved in decision making is often the easiest one for consumers to reduce or eliminate.

Shoppers will reduce mental effort in surprising ways. A study of online insurance sites found that ease of use often trumped brand equity when it came to buying insurance on the web. Many prefer to effortlessly purchase policies from lesser-known regional carriers than struggle to obtain them from famous national insurers.

Social psychology’s Elaboration Likelihood Model (see Part Seven of this series) demonstrated that consumers and business buyers alike pay careful attention only to messages they find personally relevant. The takeaway? Accurate data and effective database marketing that shows consumers information they individually value can be crucial in advertising complex, high-involvement products.

Writers and advertisers beware

Hard to read adMost writers and marketers recognize the importance of images in drawing attention to ads and readers to blogs. However, eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson and colleagues warn of the dangers of what legendary adman David Ogilvy called “art-directoritis.” In an effort to make their message attractive, designers and bloggers may set it in a quaint typeface, reverse type or amid a background of dramatic images.

Researchers find that while these tactics can gain attention, they actually make it difficult for readers to absorb the message. Cognitive misers, who make up the vast majority of their audiences, may never fully grasp their compelling arguments. The mental effort needed to examine hard-to-read text or even long paragraphs may prove daunting.

Making it work for skimmers and power-savers

It’s important for communication professionals and copywriters to perform the brainwork that most of their readers seek to avoid. They must simplify and clarify the message to the level that fits the needs of the target audiences. Even industry experts and academics will favor material that doesn’t waste their mental energy on needlessly technical or overly precise jargon and awkward sentence structure.

bleu cheese saladReaders appreciate similes, metaphors and illustrations that make complex concepts truly understandable and memorable. Those that merely sound good without actually aiding comprehension are like breadsticks and heavy salad dressings that fill up the diner before the entrée arrives.

Although it requires more effort, presenting effectively to readers’ and consumers’ power-saving brains reaps many rewards. Those that do it well gain attention, regular readers and customers. And if we choose to spend some mental energy to think about it, isn’t that what marketers and business writers really want?

Larry Rondeau is a marketing strategist and business writer seeking full-time employment, consulting opportunities or freelance writing work. Email him at

Marketing When No One Knows your Name – Part One

Brand XEveryone knows the advantages of brand strength and name recognition. Products supported by substantial advertising budgets virtually always perform better, even during tough economic times. Well-advertised brands have the ability to gain market share during recessions, as rivals cut back and lose ground.

Does a smaller marketing budget doom you to the back of the pack? Not necessarily. Consumer psychology research comes to the rescue, revealing effective ways to advance your brand or cause with the people who matter most.

Gaining Qualified Prospects’ Attention on the Web

Marketers whose products have substantial brand equity (strength and value) enjoy strong name recognition. People will readily find and interact with those brands on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. But who will buy or go looking on social media for a brand they hardly know? How can you gain attention – and market share?

Step One – Determine your Market’s Interest

Skilled advertising strategists and copywriters know how to manufacture a need. Listerine ad - bridesmaid Warner-Lambert did this in the 1920s, turning a surgical antiseptic called Listerine into a major consumer product.  Ads whipped up fears of social rejection because of bad breath with headlines like, “Even your best friend won’t tell you” and “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”  As supermarkets and drug stores across the world can attest, Warner-Lambert’s strategy was a remarkable success.

The Listerine example shows that if you’ve got time and a substantial marketing budget, creating a need for your product can pay dividends.  But if you don’t, it’s vital to determine what your audience already knows they want or need.  It’s much easier to fill an existing requirement than to convince someone they must have something they didn’t know they needed.

Free web tools that help you see what your audience is searching for online can provide needed insight into what concerns your prospects.  Determining this is an important first step in marketing a lesser-known cause or product.

Why would people buy your product?

The next crucial step is understanAir Conditioner - publicdomainpicturesding why people buy your product or service.  It may be for its utility – what it does to help them.  Or it may be how it makes them feel – directly or indirectly.  Understanding this is critical in effectively marketing your product.

For instance, people buy air conditioners for what they accomplish – cooling their home in a quiet, energy efficient manner.  Messaging that emphasizes important product features that make its benefits rise above those offered by competitors could be very effective.

But with Listerine, the ads that made sales really take off emphasized its emotional reward – avoiding rejection by friends and lovers.  Telling consumers that it effectively killed bacteria that caused tooth decay would have sold some mouthwash – but not nearly as much as those that hit consumers’ strong emotional need for acceptance.

Understanding your target consumers’ interests and their real motivation to buy are two important steps in marketing a lesser-known product.  Knowing what to do with that information can really help your product or service succeed.  We’ll consider some points on that in Part Two.

Skillful use of marketing psychology helped Larry Rondeau’s marketing campaigns achieve superior ROI – as high as 16.5 to 1. Email him at


Will Anyone Believe What You Say?

Female Marketer-001You have an important message to deliver. Perhaps it’s warns of an imminent danger. Or it provides key support to injured plaintiff, a great cause or a high quality product. But no matter what you’re trying to communicate, the value of the message is just one part of the equation. When you’re trying to persuade others, the spokesperson’s acceptability to the audience can be even more important than the quality of the message. The greatest expert will not convince people if they do not recognize his expertise, or if they question his honesty or impartiality. Scientists have devoted years of research to the question of what makes any presentation more likely to persuade its audience. Here’s a little of what they learned.

The Image of Expertise

Male AttorneyEminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson wrote some twenty years ago, “Careful experiments have shown that a judge of the juvenile court is more likely than most other people to sway opinion about juvenile delinquency…and that a medical journal can sway opinions about whether or not antihistamines should be dispensed without a prescription.” So, science confirms what common sense tells us:  People are most likely to follow Virgil’s advice, “Believe an expert.” So, they look to an authority. Or at least someone they perceive to be one.

Sanka ad (cropped)Influence expert Dr. Robert Cialdini cites the case of Robert Young, the highly successful spokesman for Sanka Coffee in the 1970s and 80s. Young was no expert on coffee or caffeine. He was, though, a highly recognizable actor who played Dr. Marcus Welby in the then popular television series. Young was not a doctor, but fans thought of him as one. Sanka sales soared when their campaign featuring him began. People felt as if their doctor had told them to cut down on caffeine and gave them an acceptable way to do it.

What if you don’t have a real expert or someone who looks like one?

It’s easy to put together a credible campaign if you have a recognized authority on the subject at hand or at least someone who plays one on TV.  But often, marketers must work with much less. How can you increase your message’s believability? Psychological research highlights two ways.

Dr. Aronson and his coauthor write, “Several years ago, we and our colleague Judson Mills did a simple laboratory experiment demonstrating that a beautiful woman – simply because she was beautiful – could have a major impact of the opinions of an audience on a topic wholly irrelevant to her beauty.”

Mustang with modelDr. Cialdini provides an example from marketing research. “In one study, men who saw a new-car ad that included a seductive female model rated the car as faster, more appealing, more expensive-looking, and better-designed than did men who viewed the same ad without the model. Yet when asked later, the men refused to believe that the presence of the young woman had influenced their judgments.”

Research shows that good looking people are seen as more talented, kind, honest and
intelligent.  Thus, if no expert spokesperson is available, an attractive one provides a good substitute. Some products or causes, though, don’t lend themselves to campaigns using great looking models as spokespeople. What then?

The magic bullet

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes once served as an advisor to the campaigns of Presidents Reagan and Bush. Note his comments on the characteristics of a great presenter:

If you could master one element of personal communications that is more powerful than anything we’ve discussed, it is the quality of being likeable. I call it the magic bullet, because if your audience likes you, they’ll forgive just about everything else you do wrong. If they don’t like you, you can hit every rule right on target and it doesn’t matter.

Research shows that Ailes is right. A spokesperson doesn’t have to be Albert Einstein, Brad PittJennifer Lopez or Brad Pitt to be effective. But they must be likeable. ‘All things being equal,’ states Dr. Cialdini, ‘people prefer to do business with someone they like. And when all things aren’t equal, they still want to work with someone they like.’

Credibility can be manufactured

MobsterA study done by Dr. Aronson and his colleagues Elaine Walster and Darcy Abrahams reveal a way to manufacture credibility. This experiment presented participants with a concocted newspaper article relating an interview with a fictitious mobster, Joe “the Shoulder” Napolitano. In the article perused by one group, Joe “the Shoulder” argues for stricter courts and more severe sentences for serious crimes. The other group read about an interview where Napolitano advocated for more lenient courts and penalties that were far less harsh.

Not surprising was the fact that those who read this fictitious criminal’s appeal for less prison time found it totally unconvincing. What was remarkable was that when he argued for stricter courts and tougher sentences, Joe “the Shoulder” was extremely effective. By advocating a position that is clearly against his own self-interest, Napolitano convinced readers that there must really be something to what he was saying. When a real-life criminal, Ted Bundy, admitted in a pre-execution interview that a boyhood addiction to crime novels and a teenage fascination with violent pornography led to his becoming “the only man in America with a PhD in serial murder,” it was easy to believe him.

Therefore, to increase your presentation’s chances with the public, hire an expert, an attractive model or highly likeable spokesperson. If none is available, methods like arguing against your own self-interest can increase your believability. Other ways exist as well. If you’d like to learn more about bolstering your chances of having audiences pay attention to your messages and act on them, please email me at

Research Reveals the Best Marketing Strategies – Part Four

Could a Strategy that Helped Re-Elect a President Improve MarketingMichelle Obama campaign Campaigns?

When searching for the best marketing tactics, strategists and account planners probably don’t give much consideration to presidential politics. But a key factor in the 2012 election revealed a highly effective stratagem for moving people to action. Wise tacticians and digital marketers will find useful ways to apply it.

Writing in Forbes, author Roger Dooley relates:

 A group that calls itself “COBS,” for “consortium of behavioral scientists,” was one part of Obama’s winning marketing strategy. Benedict Carey of The New York Times reports that a “dream team” of behavioral researchers offered input and even helped create scripts for the Obama campaign.

The team was organized by Craig Fox, a behavioral scientist at UCLA. It included experts like Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus at Arizona State University and author of the social science classic Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and the University of Chicago’s Richard Thaler, coauthor of Nudge.

In the weeks before the election, polls showed President Obama and Mitt Romney in a virtual dead heat. A quick response to Hurricane Sandy helped the President open a slight lead. Now his challenge was the same one faced by CMOs and direct marketers every day: moving those with favorable attitudes to action.

Moving people to action

How did these renowned experts in marketing psychology get Obama supporters to show up and vote on Election Day? Dooley continues:

One example of applied research in the Obama campaign drew on a technique well-documented by Cialdini – the power of a written commitment to alter behavior:

Simply identifying a person as a voter, as many volunteers did — “Mr. Jones, we know you have voted in the past” — acts as a subtle prompt to future voting, said Dr. Cialdini, a foundational figure in the science of persuasion. “People want to be congruent with what they have committed to in the past, especially if that commitment is public,” he said.

Many volunteers also asked would-be voters if they would sign an informal  petitioncommitment to vote, a card with the president’s picture on it. This small, voluntary agreement amplifies the likelihood that the person will follow through, research has found.

Getting commitments on the web

Strategies employing the power of written commitments also appeared on the Internet.Obama web commitmentMaking use of a potent digital marketing strategy, visitors to major news sites were greeted with a picture of Michelle Obama and a caption that read, “Join Michelle and tell  Barack you’re in.  Are you in?”

Having received mentoring in marketing psychology myself from Dr. Cialdini, I recognize that this is a very smart strategy based on sound research. Like the President’s speech before Congress in support of the Affordable Health Care Act, it was vintage Cialdini. In that address, Mr. Obama related instances where Congress had courageously passed unpopular bills that proved to be very important to the health and welfare of Americans.

Like reminding voters of their past participation, this acts as a “subtle prompt” to act congruently with what Congress had done in previous decades. Relating courageous acts of previous legislators also employed a favorite tactic of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. It utilized social psychology research on labeling and gave Congress a good name to live up to. And it worked!  Despite the fact that every other universal health care initiative brought before Congress had failed, The Affordable Health Care Act passed.

Improving marketing campaigns with social psychology research

My point in all of this is not to endorse President Obama, although he deserves credit for being smart enough to build his communication strategies around solid research that demonstrates how people really think. Nor is it to praise Dr. Robert Cialdini, though the approaches I learned in the in-depth study through which he mentored me helped me increase conversion rates by over 50% in one marketing campaign and achieve ROI of 16.5 to 1 in three others.  Neither of them needs my help.

My goal is to provide solid evidence that using peer-reviewed and replicated social psychology research really does improve marketing communications campaign results. Madison Avenue has successfully used it for years. Now 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is employing it as well. So, despite my lacking as likable a spokesperson as Michelle Obama, I must ask – “Psychology-based marketing gets better results. Are you in?”

Larry Rondeau, BS – Marketing Psychology has crafted campaigns that have achieved ROI as high as 50 to 1. He is seeking full-time employment or consulting opportunities in Marketing, Account Planning, Sales Training or Content Creation/Management.  Contact him at


Research Reveals the Best Marketing Strategies – Part Two

The battle for consumers’ minds can be won or lost with the opening skirmish. Research into the factors that persuade people to accept a viewpoint and act reveals that effective pre-persuasion is an important first step.  Eminent social psychologist and researcher Dr. Elliot Aronson and his coauthor state, “Pre-persuasion, then, refers to how an issue is structured and how the decision is framed.”  If successful, pre-persuasion establishes “what everybody knows” and “what everybody takes for granted.”

 A pre-persuasion classic

History furnishes an excellent example of this technique’s power. ImageAbraham Lincoln, a master of pre-persuasion, sorely needed that skill. In 1863, Lincoln was an unpopular figure, not just in the South but to many in the North. The Civil War’s cost in American lives was extraordinary. The Battle of Gettysburg had caused over 46,000 casualties.  At the dedication ceremony of Gettysburg’s new national cemetery, Lincoln spoke for just three minutes. Those three minutes changed history.

In his address, Lincoln needed to convince Americans that the unpopular Civil War was worth the tremendous cost in lives.  To accomplish this, Dr. Aronson and his coauthor state, it was vitally important that he use pre-persuasion to properly structure the issue at hand.  Many in the North were willing to fight to save the union and all it stood for.  They favored prohibiting slavery outside the South, but many were prepared to let it continue there.  After all, slavery had been legalized in the US Constitution in 1789.

Lincoln needed Americans to accept his recent Emancipation Proclamation. To accomplish this, he had to convince Northerners to adopt the viewpoint that the nation really began, not with the Constitution, but with the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  That document had proclaimed, “All men are created equal.” Lincoln achieved his goal with his eloquent, easily remembered opening words:

Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

By accepting this skillful statement, Americans adopted the idea that the nation had indeed begun with the Declaration of Independence. That view that is still widely accepted today (the American Bicentennial was celebrated in 1976, not in 1989). Further, the President framed his message so that his listeners would recognize that the “grand experiment” in democracy demanded that all men be given equal rights.  In addition, Lincoln helped his listeners see that the war must be won if the United States was to endure at all.

His masterful pre-persuasion established a climate in which the North continued to fight the war to its successful conclusion.  Soon Congress amended the Constitution to ban slavery in the US and guarantee equal rights to all its citizens. The long, hard-fought battle for civil rights would have been finished before it started without Lincoln’s successful speech. This shows the power of effective pre-persuasion in establishing a climate favorable to the message.

One effective pre-persuasion tactic

How can marketers accomplish this today? One way is to start a “factoid campaign” (“factoid” is used here to describe “little facts,” not falsehoods which are easily uncovered in this Information Age). Why repeat factoids? For several reasons:

  • Lincoln’s opening tactic in the Gettysburg Address really works. As Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Chip Heath and coauthor write, simple statements that are full of meaning are easily remembered. They can quickly go viral. Varieties of the popular proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” appear in European cultures from England to Russia. That idea appeared in an Aesop’s fable in 570 BC. It may still be quoted in corporate boardrooms today.
  • Research finds not only that “repetition is the mother of retention,” but that even false statements Lancet autism retractionoften repeated are widely regarded as true. News of the study indicating that measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines cause autism, for example, raced across the media in broadcast, print and online. It has since been thoroughly discredited by science. Highly respected medical journals like Britain’s The Lancet have proclaimed the vaccine-autism link false and its research fraudulent. Yet many parents still believe it. MMR vaccination rates have still not recovered, reports The Huffington Post.

This shows the power of factoid campaigns. If people readily believe vivid lies that go viral, what could effective repetition do for the truth? Since proverbial sayings are easily remembered and quickly spread, it clearly behooves marketers to frame salient points about their products into similar “nuggets” and use multiple channels to distribute them. Techniques like these and others can help to prepare the soil in which effective marketing campaigns can grow.

Larry Rondeau, with a degree in Marketing Psychology, is seeking full-time employment or consulting opportunities in Marketing, Account Planning or Content Management. He can be reached by email or on LinkedIn.

Research Reveals the Best Marketing Strategies – Part One

Merchants have marketed their wares for millennia.  But their efforts took a giant leap in effectiveness when Dr. Kurt Lewin began the modern study of social psychology.  One of Lewin’s early research studies, done in 1943 for the USDA, was used effectively by ProcterCrest Whiting Expressions toothpaste & Gamble just a few years ago.  The principle gleaned from Lewin’s study became the basis for the most successful new product launch in company history.

Social psychology research was also behind a successful Bose campaign in the previous decade.Bose Wave Radio + iPodSales of the Wave Radio had gone flat.  Bose hired influence expert Dr. Robert Cialdini to recommend improvements to Wave Radio advertising based on psychology research. He advised changing ad headlines to read, “Hear What You’ve Been Missing.” During that period’s strong economy, many wanted to do just that, and shoppers flocked to Bose stores. Wave Radio sales increased by an astounding 45%. Bose is again using this successful headline in its current campaign.

Clearly, marketers and account planners can benefit from the work of social scientists. Like other scientific research, the studies they perform must survive the painstaking and sometimes painful peer-review process. Those that survive are often the subject of new research by other psychologists. Their studies must pass through the same scrutiny as the original research. Eventually a pattern emerges as important results are replicated again and again. The principles that finally achieve scientific consensus often form a highly reliable basis for marketing and campaign strategies. This is the first in a series of blog posts that will examine some key findings and their application.

Research-based keys to successful campaigns

Research demonstrates that the most successful campaigns accomplish four main goals.  First, they create a favorable climate for influence to occur. Eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson calls this pre-persuasion. This frames how issues are viewed by the public. It allows advertisers to prepare the soil in which their brands will grow. Without it, marketing campaigns, no matter how worthwhile, can wither.

Consider – after the 1973 Oil Embargo by Middle Eastern OPEC nations, a large percentage of Americans favored finding alternative fuels and green energy. But that talk quickly died out when the embargo ended and gasoline returned to prices less than 40¢ a gallon. No effective communication campaigns had enlightened US citizens to the dangers of relying on foreign oil – or dependence of fossil fuels that harm the environment. Decades of valuable time were lost and Americans are still chained to gasoline that is now racing towards $4 a gallon.

Second, according to Aronson and his coauthor is the need to establish source credibility. The communicator
Coke Polar Bearmust be viewed favorably by the audience. This can be done by demonstrating knowledge and expertise so consumers view the advertiser as an authority. Or, efforts can be made to encourage people to like the brand. Research clearly shows that people are more easily persuaded by someone they like.

Like Pavlov’s dogs, we associate positive emotions generated by “feel good” or entertaining commercials with the brands they advertise. In addition, consumers are more likely to listen to organizations they view as trustworthy. So, efforts to support brand authority, liking or trustworthiness can increase the likelihood that consumers will buy the product.
Apple 1984Third, marketers must build and deliver messaging that effectively appeals to prospects, focusing their minds on things that will achieve the advertiser’s goals. Research finds that this may be accomplished by highlighting the brand’s strengths and competitors’ weaknesses in ways that make those traits the features consumers view as most critical. Or advertisements may shine the spotlight on a powerful image that makes their point, like
Apple’s classic “1984” Super Bowl commercial that linked the Macintosh with freedom and avoiding political repression. Studies show that powerful images consistently beat facts and figures.

A different tactic involves marketers impressing a few key thoughts on consumers’ minds by embedding them in ads that are so entertaining that viewers won’t tire of or counter-argue against them. Or account planners can find ways to encourage consumers to sell themselves.toddlers

Fourth, advertisers must arouse and connect with their target audience’s emotions. Studies find that stirring strong feelings and then providing viewers a way to satisfy their sentiments – by supporting the advertiser’s goal – can be a highly effective way to encourage them to take the desired action.

Research by social psychologists, headed by Elliot Aronson and Robert Cialdini, illuminates the path to more effective marketing communications. I have personally applied principles based on social psychology studies in campaign planning and obtained excellent results – in 3 cases getting ROI in excess of 14 to 1.

Technology and social trends change, but people largely stay the same. Understanding how substantial segments of the population will react in certain situations can give advertisers an enormous advantage. Smart account planners and marketers will not miss the opportunity to use the right social psychology research in their campaigns.

Pre-persuasion can be a powerful tool for advertisers. What techniques can prepare an audience to more quickly accept a marketing message? We’ll consider some in “Research Reveals the Best Marketing Strategies – Part Two.”

Larry Rondeau, BS – Marketing Psychology, is seeking opportunities in marketing, writing or content management. He can be reached by email or through LinkedIn.