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The Psychology of Persuasion and How it is Used by Advertising Agencies

An average person is exposed to advertising and marketing communication throughout the day. From binge-watching content, scrolling through social media to being bombarded with billboards on the road, none of us can escape the web of advertisements.

Most of the ads that we see today are brought to us by digital platforms. Such ads collect data from the viewer, which marketers use to review the customer profile. Though advertising trends continue to change, what remains constant is the use of age-old persuasion techniques. Top advertising agencies use these methods while building a campaign to improve conversion rates. Some of the most common persuasion styles are outlined by Dr Robert Cialdini in his book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’.

(Source: Highbrow)

The six principles of persuasion are:

  1. Reciprocity

  2. Consistency

  3. Social Proof

  4. Authority

  5. Liking

  6. Scarcity

  7. Unity

Reading between the lines will help you understand the underlying message in any advertisement. Let's dive deeper into the seven principles of persuasion!

I. Reciprocity

We very often see children learning new behaviours by imitating adult behaviour and replicating what gets rewarded. And so, 'Reciprocating the desired action leads to rewards’ is the basic idea behind this persuasion technique. Often you will find this used for different offers in the following way:


  • Purchase books worth Rs. 1600 and more to enjoy a 30% discount

  • Sign up for our newsletter and get 10% cashback on your first purchase

  • Shop from our app to receive gifts.

(Source: Amazon AWS Blog)

II. Consistency

This is also known as the commitment technique. It supports the idea of people preferring consistency. Once someone commits, it takes an effort to switch from that choice and often leads to consistency. Once you post about being at a restaurant on social media, for instance, it is less likely for you to leave that place.


  • Leave us a review to get a free dessert with your next meal

  • Collect stamps on each purchase and get exciting prizes after 12 stamps

  • Your gift is waiting for you; looking forward to seeing you again

III. Social Proof

Humans are influenced by others' actions. Social proof or social influence is where we seek validation from others, thereby creating a sense of safety. Reviews, testimonials, and rating systems are examples of social proof.


  • Bestseller novel

  • Enjoyed by over 5000 customers

  • Most popular choice

IV. Authority

We tend to respect authority and learn to do so from a very young age. Authoritative figures are considered knowledgeable, trustworthy and credible. Brands use this to leverage their business.


  • Trusted by 9 out of 10 doctors

  • Created by experts

  • Our chef's recipe for the perfect meal!

V. Liking

We appreciate friendliness over short and cold replies. The company of a warm, likeable person is enjoyable, and brands optimise this by being approachable. For example, customers react well to compliments, and so -


  • Join other successful attendees at the biggest Expo in town

  • Our friendly staff will make you feel at home

  • Your expert feedback is awaited

(Source: Miro Medium)

VI. Scarcity

Demand rises during scarcity. When the availability of a product or service is not guaranteed, one is persuaded to take prompt action. This is what the principle of scarcity does.


  • Hurry! Offer valid for limited time!

  • 30% off on all products only today!

  • Hurry! 10 shoppers have this in their carts.

VII. Unity

Unity drives people together. It drives a sense of belonging. Often consumers make a purchase based on the popularity or widespread desirability of a product.


  • 300 readers have downloaded this book.

  • 1,50,000 people trust our airlines!

  • Join 100 volunteers to bring a revolution!

Once you start understanding how each statement of communication revolves around these principles of persuasion, choosing the right message for your brand becomes easy. In addition, this knowledge will allow you to be thorough with your target audience and their preferences. You can incorporate this knowledge into your customer relationship management practices to improve client retention.

If you want experts to create persuasive campaigns for your brand just like our existing clients, click here to connect with our team.


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