If you’ve stayed over night at a hotel recently most likely you’ve seen the signs that ask you to reuse towels. If you wonder how effective it is to provide proof that others are following what you are requesting you’ll find Dr. Cialdini’s recent work at hotels in the Phoenix area interesting.
In their exercise Dr. Cialdini’s students measured the response using the current hotel signs that asked guests to reuse towels to conserve energy. They then created a second sign that focused even more on the “green” theme asking guests to cooperate to save the environment. The outcome offered no significant difference to results from the first sign. A third sign was created that said, “The majority of guests who stay at this hotel recycle towels.” This time the number of guests reusing towels increased a whopping 34%. This demonstrates the power of consensus or social proof as Dr. Cialdini refers to it. When you want to get someone to respond, provide them proof that many others have followed the same action. Even more powerful then many others doing what you are requesting them to do is to let them know that others just like them did what you are requesting. In the hotel situation a fourth sign was created that said, “The majority of guests who stay in this room recycled their towels.” The result? Reuse of towels went up 52% from the original sign.
The point of this is that when we as consumers see that many others are doing something, we get into almost a herd mentality and feel that if it’s good for them it must be good for me too. If we see similarities in ourselves to others the action becomes even more compelling. Here’s another good example. Want to know how to get an item on your restaurant menu to increase in popularity? Simply list it on your menu as your most popular item. Immediately it will become the most popular.
It makes sense doesn’t it? How many times have you gone into a restaurant and couldn’t decide what to eat? If it’s the restaurants most popular item, what do you think? Well others must really like this, I guess I’ll try that.
Finally Dr. Cialdini offered an example of infomercials and one of the greatest marketers in this field who found a secret that uses this principle extremely well. You’ve seen these TV commercials where they say, operators are standing by, please call now. Instead of this phrase she had the ad say, if operators are busy, please call again. Instantly calls shot up!
Social proof or consensus recognizes that when we are confused or uncertain we’ll follow the leads of our peers.
In a selling situation, which is more important, for you to be liked or for you to like the person you are trying to sell? The answer may surprise you. Discover this in the final Principle of Persuasion # 6 in my final blog on Dr. Cialdini’s Growth Summit presentation.