Leveraging “Social Proof” for Sustainability

Introduction (via Learnedon)

Why do people do what they do?  This has long been studied to benefit the marketing of goods, but how can we leverage what we know about human behavior to forward the sustainable practices of consumers and organizations?  With that in mind, I revisited Robert Cialdini’s now-classic book, INFLUENCE: The Psychology of Persuasion.  And, in this case it was the concept of “social proof” that drew me in.

When a consumer hears or reads that “others think this is the way to go/product to buy,” that may be all it takes.  And that’s one reason marketers have gotten so savvy in their use of testimonials, or in the care they take to select actors of several different looks/races/ages  for ad campaigns.  People like to “see themselves” in the existing group of those who buy iPods (of course) or among those “billions” who buy burgers at McDonald’s (though this may be changing).

What might this mean for engaging more citizens as consumers and business decision-makers with the concept of sustainability?  We’ve got to leverage the social proof that plenty of other people are already embracing it.  Cialdini points out that the principle of social proof works best under specific conditions which include “uncertainty” and ” similarity.”

Findings (Via Learnedon)

To be clear: knowledge of this social proof principle can and likely will always be used for the… how shall we say… “less than honorable” sell.  But, what we can acknowledge is that a sustainable way of life and thinking is still an uncertainty for a large number of people.  So, those folks, as consumers and business minds, are very likely looking around at “people like them” to get the social proof they need that pursuing sustainability is the thing to do.

So, consider leveraging the powers of persuasion in the direction of sustainability.  Will you and your brand/organization be there to further the proof?

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About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

24. March 2010 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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