Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Today's New York Times cites a study that shows if you're trying to sell something, people are more likely to buy if you imitate (not irritate) them.
Psychologists researching the art of persuasion gave 37 Duke students what was described as a new sports drink, Vigor, and asked them to answer a few questions about it. With half the students, the interviewer mimicked the student's body language, mirroring the student's posture and movements. If the student crossed his legs, the interviewer would wait two seconds and cross his legs, too. If she touched her face, the interviewer imitated that motion. By the end of the interview, students whose motions were imitated were significantly more likely than others to “buy”.
Trying to sell a wacky spot to a creationist brand manager from Cincinnati? Forgo wearing black and cut the Bush jokes. To an overworked (as in nip ‘n tuck) blonde from Southern California? Get that fur out of mothballs, you can wear it today. Imitate your client's annoying habits, but wait a few beats. Don't play back his honking laugh or ear-pulling too quickly, or, the study warns, mimicry turns into mockery and has the opposite effect.
Scamp posts advice along similar lines in a recent blog poll about dressing for creative success.
When John Webster wrote a script for a lager ad about a pool-playing bear, and presented it dressed as a normal bloke, he was subliminally communicating to his audience: "Look, I know a pool-playing bear sounds a bit wacky, but it will appeal to regular blokes, and you can trust me on that, because I am one."
I bet whoever sold P&G on Tide's “Talking Shirt" also talked up a storm about Skyline Chili.