Influence: The 7 principles of Robert Cialdini

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You’ve likely come across Cialdini’s 7 principles before. They’re the essential foundation every marketer should be familiar with to ensure the success of their business. These principles teach you how to influence the behavior of your customers or visitors.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to Robert Cialdini, outline the 7 principles he describes, elucidate their impact on your brain, and demonstrate how you can apply them in your marketing communications.

Who’s Robert Cialdini?

Cialdini is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Arizona. You probably recognize him as the author of the book “Influence.” In this book, Cialdini outlines six principles for persuading people. In 2016, he authored another book where he introduced a seventh principle to the persuasion process, titled “Pre-Suasion.”


1. Reciprocity

The concept of reciprocity is centered on the idea that when someone gives you something, you feel compelled to reciprocate with a favor in return. It’s a powerful principle in persuasion, deeply rooted in social psychology, as it emphasizes our innate desire to maintain positive relationships with others.

In everyday life, reciprocity manifests when, for instance, your colleague surprises you with flowers on your birthday. In response, you feel an obligation to reciprocate the gesture on their birthday. Failing to do so could potentially strain the relationship. This is precisely what we strive to avoid, as our social bonds heavily rely on mutual exchanges and goodwill.

How to apply reciprocity in marketing?

In the realm of marketing, reciprocity is a key tool. Marketers capitalize on this principle by offering complimentary product samples or valuable content to customers. Whether it’s through:

        • downloadable resources;
        • informative newsletters;
        • webinars;
        • exclusive discounts.

For instance, this webshop provides discounts to customers who subscribe to their newsletter. By doing so, they hope to encourage customers to make a purchase sooner, leveraging the principle of reciprocity to cultivate loyalty and engagement.

2. Liking

The likelihood of making a purchase from a store with an unfriendly and unapproachable salesperson is minimal. Instead, we naturally gravitate towards businesses and individuals we know, like, and trust. This is where the principle of liking comes into play.

Practically implementing liking:

How can you ensure that customers are drawn to do business with you? The key is to humanize your organization. People prefer interacting with individuals rather than faceless entities. Showcase the human side of your company by featuring photos of your team on your website and sharing “behind the scenes” glimpses on social media.

Moreover, prioritize user experience on your website. Nothing is more off-putting than slow-loading pages or broken links. Enhancing the browsing experience is a manifestation of liking. By making interactions smoother for your visitors, you increase the likelihood of conversion.

Other effective strategies for applying liking:

Utilize visually appealing images of people or products that catch the eye. Offer compliments to customers or highlight their accomplishments to foster positive associations. Extend birthday wishes to customers’ family members, showing personal care. Highlight the charitable initiatives your company supports, demonstrating shared values.

Example from our client: Certina, a watch brand, adeptly incorporates this principle. Beyond merely showcasing their products, they feature models on their website, adding a human touch to their brand presentation.

3. Consistency

People have a natural tendency to remain consistent with their words and commitments. Once they express a desire or intention, they’re inclined to follow through. For example, if you vocalize your aspiration to adopt a healthier lifestyle to your partner, you’re likely to align your actions accordingly. You’ll resist the temptation of that bag of candy and prioritize regular gym sessions.

Putting consistent behavior into practice:

In practical terms, it’s essential to cultivate a sense of anticipation and maintain engagement with your service or product among your audience. An effective approach involves guiding customers through each stage of the process, gradually building momentum towards a desired outcome.

Take, for instance, fashion retailer Costes, which adeptly navigates customers through the payment procedure step by step. By providing a clear visual representation of the process, customers can track their progress and understand what actions they need to take to complete their order. This transparency and guidance significantly enhance the likelihood of customers finalizing their purchases.

Another effective persuasion technique involves obtaining “yes” responses to smaller requests, known as soft conversions. Encourage customers to engage in simple actions like following your Facebook page or sharing your posts on LinkedIn. When you subsequently present a larger request, they’re more inclined to comply. This principle capitalizes on our natural tendency to follow through on commitments and previous actions.

In essence, soft conversions serve as precursors to larger conversions, priming individuals to be more receptive to subsequent requests.

4. Scarcity

The allure of a product or service intensifies when it’s perceived as scarce, a phenomenon known as the principle of scarcity. Interestingly, we all succumb to this tendency, often without even realizing it!

Practical application of scarcity:

A quintessential example of this principle in action is evident on The ubiquitous “only 1 room left” notification is a prime illustration of leveraging scarcity to drive bookings.

Scarcity extends beyond product availability to include scarcity of time. By instilling a sense of urgency and emphasizing limited availability, you can prompt customers to act swiftly. Utilize phrases such as:

      • “Only ‘x’ items left in stock”
      • “This offer expires in ‘x’ days”
      • “While supplies last”

By incorporating scarcity into your marketing strategy, you create a compelling incentive for customers to make decisions promptly, maximizing conversion rates.

5. Authority

Another principle consumers (often unconsciously) respond to is the principle of authority. When someone in a white coat advises us to walk for 30 minutes daily to maintain good health, we’re more likely to accept it as truth compared to if the same advice came from a family member. Interestingly, this individual doesn’t necessarily have to be a genuine doctor; the illusion of authority alone is sufficient to activate this persuasive principle.

Authority in practice:

We inherently trust experts. Therefore, it’s crucial to establish yourself as one! Display your credentials proudly by showcasing your diplomas, adding certificates to your LinkedIn profile, or highlighting any awards you’ve received on your website. This serves to reinforce your authority and expertise in the eyes of your audience, enhancing the effectiveness of your persuasive efforts.

6. Social proof

We tend to follow the actions of others and make choices based on their decisions. It’s a familiar scenario; if colleagues don’t close their laptops until after 5:00 PM, chances are you won’t either. This phenomenon is known as the power of social proof.

According to evolutionary psychologists, this behavior stems from our innate desire to belong to a group. When faced with decisions, we naturally look to others to guide our choices.

Practical application of social proof:

Social proof is most commonly utilized in the form of reviews. Visitors often harbor uncertainties, which are alleviated when they see positive feedback from others about your product or service.

An exemplary case from our partner, Leadinfo B.V., demonstrates this effectively by showcasing customer reviews. This fosters trust and assurance among potential customers, making them more inclined to make a purchase.

6. Unity

You’d do anything for family. You’d go through fire and water for them. That’s the power of unity. In his book “Pre-Suasion,” Cialdini discusses how to influence others (beyond just family) using this principle.

This principle revolves around camaraderie and connectedness: the sense of “we.” You’re more likely to buy from a seller you feel a connection with.

Unity in practice: There are various ways to apply this principle. Here are a few examples:

Co-creation: Involve customers in the production process. Contests where parents can win something for their child. Build a community and share stories.

Are you eager for more tips on persuasion?

Your brain is currently processing a lot of information. Take it easy and relax! If you’re still keen on receiving more persuasion tips, feel free to check out our other articles or get in touch with me!

<a href="" target="_self">Melissa van Eerden</a>

Melissa van Eerden

As a Consumer Psychology Expert at Neurofactor, Melissa know how buying decisions are made, which help you craft your marketing strategies and grow your (online) business. You can ask her any questions on behavior change and choice architecture.