Cardinal Path’s response to COVID-19 Cardinal Path is sharing all we know to help marketers during COVID-19.  Learn more.

When it comes to online persuasion, are you a newbie or a ninja? Find out now!

1.   Which of these infomercial messages is likely to bring in more phone calls, and why?

A)     “Operators are waiting, please call now.”

B)     “If operators are busy, please try again.”

2.   You’re working on a politician’s website and you’re asked to review some copy intended to urge more constituents to get out and vote. The copy reads, in part:

“Our right to vote is sacred, and was hard earned. Yet last election, less than 50% of eligible voters turned out. This time, please vote!”

Would you approve this message? Why or why not?

3.   Which supermarket tasting booth is likely to generate more sales, and why?

A)     A booth offering an extensive choice of 24 flavors of jam

B)     A booth offering a limited choice of 6 flavors of jam

4.   Which of the following statements in NOT true?

A)     If someone demonstrates trust in us, we tend to trust them in return.

B)     If we hear through the grapevine that someone likes us, we will tend to like that person more.

C)     If someone we’re not crazy about asks us a favor, and we grant the favor, we’ll probably like that person even less.

5.   Why did The Economist offer these seemingly nonsensical subscription options? (Note that “Print Only” costs the same as “Print and Web”.)

  • Web Only:               $59
  • Print Only:               $125
  • Print and Web:         $125


1.   In a real-world scenario, option B worked much better. The most likely explanation is Social Proof:  When deciding what to do, we tend to observe what others are doing, then do likewise.

Under option A, it sounds like operators have nothing to do (i.e. nobody’s buying).
Under option B, it sounds like operators are being swamped with orders (i.e. the product is very popular).

2.   You’d be well advised to reject this message. It makes the undesirable behavior (not voting) sound popular. This would likely invoke negative social proof  (i.e. “if lots of people don’t vote, it must be okay not to vote”.)

To make social proof work in your favor rather than against you, try messaging to the effect that neglecting to vote is something that is universally scorned.

3.   In an actual experiment, limited choice (6 flavors) outsold extensive choice (24 flavors) by a factor of ten! The reason is simply that with 24 flavors, it’s too hard to decide. And since it’s not a decision we have to make, we simply walk away.

Make it easier for your customers to decide by offering a smaller number of distinctly different choices. (Read about Decide-O-Phobia.)

4.   Statement “C” is not true. When we grant someone a favor, we tend to like them more. This is an example of Cognitive Dissonance.

5.   Print Only (for the same price as Print and Web) is a decoy. Nobody would take it, but this intentionally unattractive option makes Print and Web look like a much better deal… and that’s what The Economist really wants to sell. This is an example of The Contrast Principle at work.

So… How’d You Do?

If you scored 4 or 5, Bravo!

If you scored 3, don’t feel too bad. They’re tricky questions.

If you scored 1 or 2, it’s time to brush up on your reading.


State of Digital Marketing Analytics

The 2020 State of Digital Marketing Analytics examines the marketing technology that supports the world's most successful enterprises and highlights the challenges and strategies for navigating the new normal..