How did Derren Brown influence an advertising agency to arrive at the same solution he’d already sketched out? As a ‘mentalist’ Derren says he is playing the ad men at their own game, using persuasion techniques and nonconscious processing.

“If you knew the amount of effort we’ve gone into to make this work, you’d be absolutely flabbergasted.” Derren Brown.

Marketers and other creatives practice the art of distraction and creating bias. Whether they are aware of it or not, their efforts influence what other people think, feel and do.

Creating peripheral stimulus, the things our brain takes in unconsciously doesn’t have an immediate effect but it does guide decisions later on. We store up experiences and information that we’ll process later and create positive or negative associations. This happens over time, we accumulate subtle details and seemingly irrelevant stuff which can be hard to pinpoint or articulate if asked.

I find the ‘evidence’ that research and focus groups provide less interesting as what goes unsaid or the unconscious behaviour and attitudes discovered by ethnographic research. A qualitative method where researchers observe and/or interact with a study’s participants in their real-life environment.

Creating communications seems straightforward, it’s simply a matter of tell or show, right? Not always, what we think we’ve said isn’t always what people have heard, they often ignore, edit or misunderstand the message. Instead, other associations, what we’ve heard or experienced separately, shape our perception.

We buy on emotion, our feelings help us to make better decisions. Feeling comfortable or uncomfortable influences our actions and how we react to something, do we fight or flight or do we desire or want to remain comfortable. Positive emotions are connected with what we want our audience to do and bad emotions with what is not wanted.

Whilst researching this article I discovered a new game for developing communication tactics. Using this list of persuasion principles to ask the question “What if…”

Persuasion principles

The techniques group into different categories based on human needs:

Reciprocate
We are obliged to give back to others.

Scarcity
We desire things more when they are harder to get.

Authority
We want to trust the experts.

Consistency
We like to follow up on what we have previously said or done.

Liking
We like to say yes to those that we like.

Consensus
We will look at the actions and behaviours of others to determine our own.

And here’s a bit of further reading, if you’re feeling frustrated or curious:

We buy on emotion

Thanks for taking time to read this. I really appreciate it. If you like the piece, give it a “clap” and help others find this article.


Persuade me! was originally published in Prototypr on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



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