The 40 Most Powerful Persuasion Tactics
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The article that you are about to read is an incredibly exhaustive look at persuasion tactics that can be used to get people to think, feel, and take action right now. As you are about to see, many of these tactics trigger emotional or psychological responses rather than focusing on facts, logic, or reason.
Lines of Appeal
An appeal is the overall approach used to present your message. It is the flavor or tone of your message. Appeals gain people’s attention and maintain their interest throughout your message.
Appeals are selected based upon the conditions of your target audience. For example, a target audience that does not believe the government of its country is legitimate will not be swayed by an appeal to legitimacy or authority.
1-4. Legitimacy Appeals: Legitimacy appeals use law, tradition, historical continuity, or support of the people. The following are types of legitimacy appeals:
- 1. Authority: An appeal to laws or regulations, or to people in superior positions in the social hierarchy. For example, the Constitution, police officers, parents, or government officials. Your target audience must recognize the authority for the appeal to work.
- 2. Reverence: An appeal to a belief-teaching institution or individual that is revered or worshiped; for example, the Dalai Lama, the Roman Catholic Church, or even a sports figure such as Michael Jordan.
- 3. Tradition: An appeal to that which your target audience is already used to. It is behavior that is repeated continually without question. Why do people have turkey on Thanksgiving? Because it has always been that way.
- 4. Loyalty: An appeal to groups to which the target audience belongs. Examples are military units, family, or friends. This appeal is usually used to reinforce behavior that already occurs.
5. Inevitability Appeals: Inevitability appeals most often rely on the emotion of fear, particularly fear of death, injury, or some other type of harm. For example, if a person does not purchase car insurance, he will be fined, jailed and have his car impounded.
It can also be an appeal to logic. Both require proof that the promised outcome will actually occur. Therefore, it is crucial that credibility be gained and maintained throughout the argument.
6. In group-out group Appeals: An in group-out group appeal seeks to divide a target audience or separate two target audiences. It creates an enemy of one group, and encourages the other group to rebel/discriminate against them.
This appeal frequently points out major differences between target audiences, or factions of a target audience. If you cannot effectively portray the in group in a negative manner, the appeal will fail. This is commonly used to promote political agendas during election seasons.
7. Bandwagon Appeals: Bandwagon appeals play upon your target audience’s need to belong or conform to group standards. The two main types of bandwagon appeal are an appeal to companionship and an appeal to conformity. Peer pressure is an example of the conformity type of bandwagon appeal.
8. Nostalgia Appeals: Nostalgia appeals refer to how things were done in the past. This appeal can be used to encourage or discourage a particular behavior. In a positive light, it refers to the “good old days” and encourages your target audience to behave in a manner that will return to those times. In the negative, it points out how things were bad in the past and how a change in behavior will avoid a repeat of those times.
9. Self-Interest Appeals: Self-interest appeals are those that play directly to the wants and desires of the individuals that make up your target audience. This type of appeal can play upon target audience’s vulnerability for acquisition, success, or status.
A self-interest appeal can be presented in the form of a gain or loss. An appeal to loss would be exploiting the fact that if the target audience does not engage in the desired behavior, then they cannot satisfy a want. An appeal to gain would inform them that to satisfy a want, they must engage in a desired behavior.
Techniques refer to the specific methods used to present information. Effective persuasion techniques are based on the conditions affecting your target audience and the type of information being presented.
Determining the most effective technique or combination of techniques to persuade is only accomplished through a cultivated understanding of your target audience and their behavior.
10. Glittering generalities: These are intense, emotionally appealing words so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that the appeals are convincing without being supported by fact or reason. The appeals are directed toward such emotions as love of country and home, and desire for peace, freedom, glory, and honor.
11. Transference: This technique projects positive or negative qualities of a person, entity, object, or value to another. It is generally used to transfer blame from one party in a conflict to another.
12. Least of evils: This technique acknowledges that the call to action being taken is perhaps undesirable, but emphasizes that any other course of action would result in a worse outcome.
13. Name-calling: Name-calling seeks to arouse prejudices in an audience by labeling the object of the message as something your target audience fears, loathes, or finds undesirable.
14. Plain folks or common man: This approach attempts to convince the audience that the position noted in your message is actually the same as that of your target audience.
This technique is designed to win the confidence of the audience by communicating in the usual manner and style of the audience. Communicators use ordinary or common language, mannerisms, and clothes in face-to-face and other audiovisual communications when they attempt to identify their point of view with that of the average person.
15. Testimonials: Testimonials are quotations (in and out of context) that are cited to support or reject a given policy, action, program, or personality. The reputation or the role of the individual giving the statement is exploited.
There can be different types of testimonial authority. Official testimonials use endorsements or the approval of people in authority or well known in a particular field. Personal sources of testimonials may include opposing leaders, famous scholars, writers, popular heroes, and other personalities.
16. Insinuation: Insinuation is used to create or increase your target audience’s suspicions of ideas, groups, or individuals as a means of dividing the adversary. You can hint, suggest, and imply, but let your target audience draw its own conclusions.
17. Presenting the other side: Some people in a target audience believe that no marketers are entirely virtuous. To them, messages that express concepts solely in terms of right and wrong may not be credible. Agreement with minor aspects of the competition’s point of view may overcome this cynicism.
18. Simplification: In this technique, facts are reduced to either right, wrong, good, or evil. The technique provides simple solutions for complex problems and offers simplified interpretations of events, ideas, concepts, or personalities.
19. Compare and contrast: Two or more ideas, issues, or choices are compared and differences between them are explained. This technique is effective if your target audience has a needs conflict that must be resolved.
20. Compare for similarities: Two or more ideas, issues, or objects are compared to try and liken one to the other. This technique tries to show that the desired behavior or attitude is similar to one that has already been accepted by your target audience.
21. Illustrations and narratives: An illustration is a detailed example of the idea that is being presented. It is an example that makes abstract or general ideas easier to comprehend. If it is in a story form, it is a narrative. This is the era of storytelling, after all, right?
22. Specific instances: These are a list of examples that help prove the point.
23. Statistics: Statistics have a certain authority, but they must be clear enough to show your target audience why they are relevant. In most cases, it is best to keep the statistical evidence simple and short so your audience can easily absorb it.
24. Explanations: These are used when a term or idea is unfamiliar to your audience.
Primary Influence Tactics
These primary influence tactics are widely applicable to many situations, cultures, and audiences. By using the appropriate influence tactics in products and actions, the persuasiveness of your message will be magnified. The following are examples of primary influence tactics:
25. Rewards and punishments: “If you do X, you will get Y,” or “if you do not do X, Y will happen to you.” Example: “Purchase our car insurance or you will go to jail and your car will be impounded.”
26. Expertise: “Speaking as an authority on the subject, I can tell you that rewards/punishments will occur if you do or do not do X.”
27. Gifts: Giving something as a gift before requesting compliance. The idea is that the target will feel the need to reciprocate later.
28. Debt: Calling in past favors.
29. Aversive stimulation: Continuous punishment, and the cessation of punishment, is contingent on compliance. Example: “You will continue to be fined until you purchase health insurance.”
30. Moral appeal: Entails finding moral common ground, and then using the moral commitments of a person to obtain compliance.
31. Positive and negative self-feeling: “You will feel better/bad if you do X.” Example: “Become part of something bigger than yourself, know honor and take pride in your work…help us send fresh food and water to Africa!”
32. Positive and negative altercasting: “Good people do X / Bad people do Y.” Example: “Americans are brave and honorable people who care about the future of their country and their fellow citizens. Call today and donate to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund!”
33. Positive and negative esteem of others: “Other people will think highly/less of you if you do X.” Example: “Earn the respect of your friends and the pride of your family…”
34. Fear: “Bad things will happen to you if you do X.” Example: “Only jail and fines await those who fail to purchase car insurance…call now.”
Weapons of Influence
These six principles (popularized by Robert Cialdini) are relevant to virtually any culture and any audience. By applying and combining these six basic principles, you can increase your effectiveness in persuading your target audience. These principles are particularly effective in face-to-face conversations.
35. Principle of scarcity: People value more what they can have less of. They typically associate greater value with things that are rare, dwindling in availability, or difficult to acquire. You should highlight unique benefits and exclusive information to persuade.
36. Principle of authority: People are more easily persuaded by individuals perceived to be legitimate authorities or experts. They defer to experts who provide shortcuts to decisions requiring specialized information. You should not assume your expertise is self-evident.
37. Principle of social proof: People often look to the behavior of those around them for direction about what choices to make. This action is heightened when those around them are similar in terms of age, education, social standing, and experience.
38. Principle of liking: People prefer to say yes and to comply with the requests of those they like. To influence, you should uncover real similarities and offer genuine praise.
39. Principle of reciprocity: If someone grants favors, invited or uninvited, an overpowering need to repay that favor immediately blooms within the recipient of that favor. This human trait transcends all cultures and races.
40. Principle of consistency: The desire for consistency is a central motivator of behavior. The drive to look and be consistent is a highly potent weapon of social influence, often causing people to act in ways that are clearly contrary to their own best interests.
People do not like to appear inconsistent to others. Inconsistent behavior produces psychological tension that must be avoided. It is human nature that people strive to feel good about themselves, which includes behaving in accordance with their important values and beliefs.
When the behavior is consistent with who people are and what they value, they feel good. People align with their clear commitments.