The Minimalists Want You to Be Happy With Less

And in a country where many struggle, they’ve found a huge audience.

Source: The Minimalists Want You to Be Happy With Less


OCTOBER 10, 2017

Growing up in Colorado Springs, Sonrisa Andersen’s parents were hoarders. The tide of extraneous stuff was out of her control. “I tried to clean it up, but as a kid, you could only get so far,” the 31-year-old recalls when we meet at a bar in Cincinnati, Ohio. At 17, she joined the Air Force and moved to New Mexico before landing another military job back in Colorado. But the oppressive environment of her childhood had changed her relationship to possessions: “I started to accumulate, because everything I couldn’t have growing up, I was like, I need it.”

Across moves to Alaska and then to Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she now lives with her husband, Andersen’s house began to overflow with decorations from Ikea, gadgets from Amazon, souvenirs from running marathons, and piles of scrapbooking materials. She bought things on reflex, more out of a desire to buffer herself against scarcity than actual necessity. She ended up with $13,000 in credit-card debt, on top of debt from two cars and her husband’s student loans. “The idea of clutter would wear so heavily on my mind,” she says. “The inability to accept or live within our means took its toll.”

Then, Googling ways to get out of debt, she found the Minimalists. It’s a blog started by two guys from Ohio in their mid-30s, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Since 2010, the pair has carved out a lifestyle-guru niche for themselves through blog posts, books, a podcast with 6 million monthly downloads, and a Netflix documentary instructing their audience in getting rid of all the material possessions weighing them down and renegotiating their relationship to objects. Their doctrine of minimalism isn’t just a Marie Kondo–style cleaning method; it’s more of an anti-materialist moralism. “How might your life be better with less?” as Millburn often asks.

The Minimalists have found a rabid following among Americans exhausted by their own consumerism and stricken by a sense of lost agency. Problems with stuff — having too much of something or too little of another — abound, and the audience for an anti-materialist message is wide. Among Millburn and Nicodemus’s fans are millennials with no hope of buying real estate, much less retiring, without stringent saving tactics, as well as families who need to downsize because of lost jobs or divorce. Even for the wealthy, corporate jobs are uninspiring and McMansions tacky. We’re encouraged to build our identities on consumption, but lately capitalism seems less satisfying than ever, and not just for proto-socialists.

Millburn and Nicodemus are currently sermonizing in a national “Less Is Now” tour that’s selling out theaters from Boston to Los Angeles. Becoming a minimalist makes everything so simple: “You’re just happy with what you have,” Andersen tells me. “It’s a meditative thing, almost like repeating a mantra.”

By the time Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was published in the United States in 2014, the country was already in the midst of a quiet cleaning binge. Call it minimalism, intentionalism, or just simple living; a group of bloggers had gathered around the idea that you don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. There was Joshua Becker, a Phoenix, Arizona, father who embraced minimalism in 2008 when he got overwhelmed with the clutter in his garage; Colin Wright, an entrepreneurial millennial traveler; and Courtney Carver, who gave her blog the aspirational title Be More With Less. But with their combination of multi-platform publishing and relentless self-promotion, not to mention the particular charm of their buddy-act, the Minimalists have become the movement’s American ringleaders.

I meet Millburn and Nicodemus one afternoon while they’re assembling their stage set (two chairs and two microphones) at Bogart’s, the sticky-floored music venue near the University of Cincinnati that’s one of the tour’s three stops in Ohio. Millburn is the brains behind the operation, prone to referencing Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace. Quiet, whip-thin, with a feline face and swept-back hair, he wakes up before 4 a.m. every day to write the Minimalists’ material. Nicodemus is stockier with long, dark locks like an aging metal guitarist, and contributes a gregarious charisma. He says man and dude a lot, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that he played tons of Halo before giving it up as a minimalist. Both are dressed entirely in black.

The pair grew up around Dayton, Ohio, in challenging circumstances: Millburn’s family was poor, and their electricity would sometimes go out for days at a time; Nicodemus was raised as a zealous Jehovah’s Witness, and his parents separated when he was 7. They became close friends as students and cheered each other on toward that emblem of the American dream: well-paid corporate jobs. Eventually, they both reached high positions in sales at a local telephone-service company coordinating hundreds of employees. By the time they were 28, they had everything they thought they wanted: “the six-figure salary, the luxury cars, the designer clothes, the big suburban house with more toilets than people,” Millburn says, setting up the well-rehearsed parable.

But they got disillusioned, scrambling to keep up with 80-hour workweeks, in over their heads with drugs and alcohol (Nicodemus) and debt (Millburn). An epiphany arrived when Millburn’s mother passed away and he traveled to St. Pete Beach in Florida to deal with everything she left behind. “Three apartments’ worth of stuff crammed into her tiny one-bedroom apartment,” he says. Struggling with what to keep and what to throw away, he came across one of blogger Colin Wright’s videos about minimalism and was quickly converted.

Rather than packing his mother’s stuff in a storage unit, he donated it to Goodwill. “Our memories are not inside of things; they’re inside of us,” he realized, repeating one of the duo’s commandments. Back home, he challenged himself to throw out at least one thing a day for a month. When Nicodemus noticed how happy Millburn was with this newfound lifestyle, he wanted to join in, too. So the pair hosted what they now call a “packing party.” It’s less twee than Kondo’s “spark joy” ritual, but perhaps more efficient: You pack all your stuff into boxes and only take something out when you actually need it. After a few weeks, you get rid of anything still packed up.

The pair launched the blog in 2010, building an audience through national tours of cafés and bookstores. They self-published books, launched a podcast, and shot a feature-length documentary about minimalists around the world. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things was acquired by Netflix in 2016, providing them a massive platform that brings in the majority of new fans today. The pivot to video “made the message a bit more accessible,” Millburn says between sound checks. “The average person in Cincinnati isn’t reading books anymore.”

A particular minimalist doctrine evolved that’s now codified on the duo’s website, designed to make participating as simple as possible to the point of glibness. You can play the “Minimalism Game”: Partner with a friend for accountability, pick a month, then throw out one thing on the first day, two things on the second, and so on. Or take the “21-Day Journey,” which devotes days to reconsidering your possessions as well as your beliefs — i.e., that objects will make you happy — and your relationships —surrounding yourself with people who support your newfound minimalism.

Like any cult of lifestyle, they created a specialized vocabulary. “Stuff” is our chief pathology. Possessions are needless “pacifiers”; “value” is to be sought above all else. Like an AA meeting for materialism, the podcast provides a consistent reminder to follow the principles, as does the Minimalists’ Instagram, which posts black-and-white memes with phrases like, “It’s easy to get what you want when you want less” and “Limitations breed creativity.”

Other minimalist bloggers might offer similar content, but Millburn and Nicodemus have the mainstream packaging down. They’re youthful and photogenic, with an air of worldly experience — they had a taste of that corporate success, and like two large prodigal sons, renounced it. They bring to mind an off-brand, non-sibling version of the Property Brothers, with their partnership giving fans access to two different personality types, the introvert and the extrovert (“He’s OCD and I’m ADD,” Nicodemus tells me). Part of their success can be explained in their lack of any ideology that might prove divisive. They are firmly middlebrow, de-emphasizing political beliefs, spirituality, and even class. “We’ll have Christians and atheists, men, women, old, young,” Nicodemus says. “I think minimalism is something where everyone can find at least one ingredient to help them.” You can be a millionaire CEO and still be a minimalist, according to the pair, as a handful of their fans are.

At a kitsch-bedecked bar around the corner from the venue, I meet Sonrisa Andersen and a dozen other Minimalists fans to pregame the event. Over beer and French fries, the group swaps minimalism-conversion stories. Like Andersen, people often turn to it as a response to difficult experiences or anxiety in their lives, whether it’s mental illness, overwhelming debt, or job change. Minimalism prompts you to restart from zero: “It’s not only stuff; it’s your whole lifestyle,” says Pam Schley, who drove from Dayton to attend. Millburn and Nicodemus inspired her to confront her husband’s paper-hoarding habits.

Kyle Schott, an energetic entrepreneur and Pilates instructor, volunteered as the Minimalists’ Facebook-group leader in Cincinnati after moving here from Chicago this year. “This feels like a change in the lens that you look at life through,” she says. Like taking up yoga, playing in a kickball league, or going to church, it also provides an ad hoc social structure, Schott explains: “I was totally looking to build my own community here.”

Several people ask if I’m a minimalist, too. I answer that most New York City–dwellers are by default, space being the ultimate luxury commodity. Possessions don’t build up in our basements and spare closets, because those places don’t exist. But Millburn and Nicodemus have connected a network across the country of people who are struggling, giving them a mutually recognizable label.

Once a month, the Minimalists’ local Facebook groups meet in person, discussing anything from cleaning strategies to personal problems. Online, however, the communities have a more obsessive vibe, as on the Minimalist Life, a 118,000-member group started by an Ohio fan named Heather Rose. There, homeowners post photos of their renovated kitchens, reduced down to four plates on open shelving. Replacements for toilet paper are often discussed (look up “family cloth,” or don’t), as are tips for downsizing as a single parent and how to tell relatives that you don’t want birthday gifts for yourself or your children. Like religious novitiates, everyone is on their own minimalist “journey” toward total clutter absolution.

We arrive at Bogart’s to find a crowd of around 500, surprisingly diverse in age and gender, if not race — from punk teenagers to entire families in sports gear, the dads swilling Rhinegeist in clear plastic cups. The lights dim; an apropos theme song plays (“Every little thing that’s just feeding your greed / Oh, I bet that you’d be fine without it”); and Millburn and Nicodemus walk out on stage, to raucous applause.

The event is halfway between a TED Talk and a hipster-megachurch sermon — the crowd is here for easy answers delivered in familiar patterns. Minimalism tends to attract seekers and life-hackers, anyone in search of a new idea to fine-tune their psyche and optimize their happiness. Yet the lecture is based on experiences and feelings, instead of data or doctrine. The guys are less authority figures than sympathetic fellow journeyers sharing what they’ve learned, a “recipe,” as they call it, for late-capitalist living.

“We’re not talking about an easy life, but a simple one,” Nicodemus intones. “To get there, we might have to get rid of some stuff along the way. Who here wants to talk about letting go?”

Letting go of your stuff — like they did — but also letting go of the idea that materialism can bring satisfaction. First, the pair recounts their origin story, and after an intermission, they take questions from the crowd. A 20-something man comes up to ask if he should take on loans to go to grad school. Answer: “If you don’t have a clear vision on why you want that, then you’re going to be chasing for the rest of your life,” Nicodemus says from his seat onstage.

Then, an older man asks how he can quit his corporate job while still maintaining health care for his diabetic son. “I wish I could tell you that minimalism is going to solve all of your problems, but it’s not,” Millburn says, suggesting that he figure out how much money it would take to sustain the health care and go from there.

The questions that the Minimalists get — how to leave unfulfilling careers, raise children to be happy, or simply find meaning — are as much about personal identity, about how to make a life in trying times, as they are about clutter. We can’t quit jobs because there are so few left. We worry about money because we pay so much for unsubsidized medicine and rent. We buy things because we’re missing other ways to measure our progress. Minimalism — taking up the least amount of room and resources possible — is presented as a solution when perhaps it’s more of a stopgap.

The mania over clutter seems like a symptom of a larger alienation. And though, on the surface, their message is more or less positive, there’s a tacit pessimism to Millburn and Nicodemus’s movement. Rather than trying to change this mindset of austerity (whether through therapy, politics, or protest), they advocate making do with the lack.

After the event, Nicodemus greets his mother and siblings, who live nearby. Kelly Nicodemus, a gruff presence in a multicolored caftan, says her son has sharpened his message from a few years back — “It doesn’t surprise me; Ryan’s a salesman.”

As fans file out of the theater, they gather in the lobby to buy books and join a hug line, which concludes every Minimalists event. At the front of the line, fans tell the pair how the documentary, podcast, or blog changed their lives, get books signed (Millburn suggests they “minimize” the books later), and then lean in for bear hugs and selfies. Some confess to the guys that they haven’t gotten rid of as much as they would like to; others talk about moving into smaller homes or pursuing their creative passions. “You’re here because the message resonates,” Millburn says. “We happen to be the messengers.”

I meet Andersen farther back in the crowd looking a little nonplussed. “I’m a late-stager; I don’t need any convincing,” she says, adding that it was nice to see the message reaching other people, the minimalist tribe growing, the stranglehold of stuff on our selves loosening. She paid off all that debt in February of this year and rid herself of the object-based dregs of the 20th-century American Dream. “You see it on TV and that’s what people aspire to be. It’s something we do without thinking,” she says, with a discernible hint of sympathy for those unconverted materialists.

We stand by as the long hug line furls out before the Minimalists, whose enthusiasm, at least, is undeniable and unflagging. When each follower steps forward, they squeeze the need for stuff out of them, one by one.

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VW’s Latest Move: A Hippie-Dippy Ad Without a New Car in Sight

VW is bringing back its classic microbus in a new ad.

Source: VW’s Latest Move: A Hippie-Dippy Ad Without a New Car in Sight

By Published on


It’s rare—if not unheard of—for an automaker to run a TV ad that does not include a single shot of a new car. But that is what Volkswagen is doing with a hippie-filled spot touting its new six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that is twice the length of what is typically offered by competitors.

The so-called “People First” warranty comes as the German brand continues to climb back from the 2015 diesel emissions scandal that chipped away at the consumer trust VW had spent decades building.

The new spot, called “Rain” by Deutsch L.A., goes back to VW’s cultural glory days with scenes of hippies cramming into a classic VW microbus amid a rainstorm in a recreation of the music festivals of the 1960s, like Woodstock. The soundtrack is Joe Cocker’s rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends.” After hippies push the microbus out of the mud, a classic VW Beetle appears. A voiceover plugs the new warranty, saying, “VW drivers have always put others first, now we are returning the favor.”

“I don’t think there are many manufacturers that would do a 60-second commercial without showing any new cars,” says Greg Tebbutt, VW of America’s marketing director. “But I think what’s powerful about it is we’ve got a heritage story that is unique to us and only we can tell.” The spot, he adds, evokes the “good-natured, kind, free-spirited” VW buyers who helped build the brand in the 1960s. The new warranty is “our acknowledgement and appreciation of them, a way of us returning the favor,” he says.

VW, of course, lost some of that love when sales fell in the wake of the 2015 emissions testing cheating scandal. But the brand is now on an upswing. Sales in the first nine months of 2017 jumped 9.2% to 252,456 vehicles, according to Automotive News.

Tebbutt declined to say that the new warranty was a direct response to the emissions issue. “There was obviously damage to the brand, but certainly the brand has recovered from a sales perspective,” he says. The goal of the new marketing is to remind people what they loved about VW and heritage plays a big role in that, he says.

“I think this warranty is going to add a shot in our arm to our entire range in terms of helping us get to that next level of sales volume,” he says.

The six-year warranty was first introduced in April for the 2018 Tiguan and Atlas crossovers as a way to build demand in a segment that is hot, but for which VW has been a small player. VW in late September extended the warranty to its entire 2018 lineup, except for the battery electric e-Golf.

The new ad is the beginning of a sustained marketing push for the warranty. The TV spot is backed by significant investment, including airplay during NFL games, Tebbutt says. The spot also signals a new creative direction that focuses more on branding and less on product attributes, he says.

Tebbutt joined VW earlier this year after serving as chief operating officer at Johannes Leonardo. Prior to that he worked on VW in South Africa while at Ogilvy. Since May he has been filling in on an interim basis for Vinay Shahani, the former senior VP-marketing who left for Toyota. Tebbutt confirmed he is in the running for Shahani’s job, which is expected to be filled soon.

E.J. Schultz

E.J. Schultz is the Chicago Bureau Chief at Ad Age and covers beverage, automotive and sports marketing. He is a former reporter for McClatchy newspapers, including the Fresno Bee, where he covered business and state government and politics, and the Island Packet in South Carolina. His journalism awards include a 2012 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for best range of work by a single author and a 2011 Best in Business award for a feature story from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. A native of Cincinnati, Mr. Schultz has an economics degree from Xavier University and a masters in journalism from Northwestern University.

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How To Use 10 Psychological Theories To Persuade People | Fast Company

Influence your audience without feeling sleazy about it with these tips on social media.

Source: How To Use 10 Psychological Theories To Persuade People | Fast Company

What are we really talking about when we’re talking about conversions?

Persuasion, right? Influence.

When we talk about conversions, we are, most of the time, discussing ways we can be more persuasive, more influential. We’re interested in meeting the needs of customers, fans, and followers and doing so in a way that truly speaks to them.

So how can you persuade–i.e., convert–better?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the hacks for conversion and persuasion begin with psychology. Understanding why someone clicks or why they retweet requires you to look at the way the person is wired, the way we are all wired. To understand persuasion and social media influence, to get at the heart of conversion and likes, it helps to understand how your audience thinks and feels. Here’s a primer.


One of my favorite places to learn about psychological theories is Dave Straker’s Changing Minds website, which is full of theories written in layman’s terms, organized neatly into specific categories and clusters for easy reference. One of those categories is persuasion, and Straker lists that deal with how to influence others.

Here is a brief snapshot of each of the 10 theories, many of which might sound familiar to you–either because you’ve employed them in the past or because you’ve had others try them on you. For more information on any of these, click through the links to see Changing Minds’ cited research and examples.

1. Amplification Hypothesis

When you express with certainty a particular attitude, that attitude hardens. The opposite is true as well: Expressing uncertainty softens the attitude.

2. Conversion Theory

The minority in a group can have a disproportionate effect on influencing those in the majority. Typically, those in the majority who are most susceptible are the ones who may have joined because it was easy to do so or who felt there were no alternatives. Consistent, confident minority voices are most effective.

3. Information Manipulation Theory

This theory involves a persuasive person deliberately breaking one of the four conversational maxims. These are the four:

  • Quantity: Information is complete and full.
  • Quality: Information is truthful and accurate.
  • Relation: Information is relevant to the conversation.
  • Manner: Information is expressed in an easy-to-understand way and non-verbal actions support the tone of the statement

4. Priming

You can be influenced by stimuli that affect how you perceive short-term thoughts and actions. Here’s a really smart example from Changing Minds:

A stage magician says ‘try’ and ‘cycle’ in separate sentences in priming a person to think later of the word ‘tricycle’.

5. Reciprocity Norm

A common social norm, reciprocity involves our obligation to return favors done by others.

6. Scarcity Principle

You want what is in short supply. This desire increases as you anticipate the regret you might have if you miss out by not acting fast enough.

(Note the “Just for Today” text in the example email below.)

7. Sleeper Effect

Persuasive messages tend to decrease in persuasiveness over time, except messages from low-credibility sources. Messages that start out with low persuasion gain persuasion as our minds slowly disassociate the source from the material (i.e., a presumably sleazy car salesman and his advice on what car is best).

8. Social Influence

We are influenced strongly by others based on how we perceive our relationship to the influencer. For example, social proof on web copy is persuasive if the testimonials and recommendations are from authoritative sources, big brands, or peers.

9. Yale Attitude Change Approach

This approach, based on multiple years of research by Yale University, found a number of factors in persuasive speech, including being a credible, attractive speaker; when it’s important to first or go last; and the ideal demographics to target.

10. Ultimate Terms

Certain words carry more power than others. This theory breaks persuasive words into three categories:

God terms: those words that carry blessings or demand obedience/sacrifice. e.g, progress, value
Devil terms: those terms that are despised and evoke disgust. e.g., fascist, pedophile
Charismatic terms: those terms that are intangible, less observable than either God or Devil terms. e.g., freedom, contribution

(We’ve written before about the power of specific words, including the five most persuasive words in the English language: You, Because, Free, Instantly, and New.)

You might consider these 10 theories the building blocks of the persuasive techniques explained below. With this foundation of psychology in place, let’s move on to some applications of these theories in your social media marketing, website planning, and content creation.


We all know how important food, water, shelter, and warmth are to survival. Any ideas what’s next most important?

The Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in the 1940s, shows the advancing scale of how our needs lay out on the path to fulfillment, creativity, and the pursuit of what we love most. The version of the pyramid you see below (shared by the Doorway Project) shows the five different layers of needs.

The three steps in between the physiological needs and the fulfillment needs are where marketing most directly applies.

  • Safety
  • Belonging
  • Esteem

In Maslow’s pyramid, the descriptions for these needs don’t exactly have a marketing perspective to them, so it requires a little creativity to see how you can tailor your message to fit these needs. Christine Comaford, an author and expert on the subject of persuasion, has found safety, belonging, and esteem to have incredible value for our everyday work and our creative lives:

Without these three essential keys a person cannot perform, innovate, be emotionally engaged, agree, or move forward … The more we have of (these three keys) the greater the success of the company, the relationship, the family, the team, the individual.

Her experience has helped her hone three phrases that are key for influence and persuasion and for creating this sense of safety, belonging, and mattering that we all need. Here they are:

  1. “What if.” This phrase removes ego from the discussion and creates a safe environment for curiosity and brainstorming.
  2. “I need your help.” This flips the roles of dominant and subordinate, engaging the other person and providing a transfer of power.
  3. “Would it be helpful if.” This phrase shifts the focus from the problem to the solution.
  4. Here’s an example from Nick Eubanks of SEO Nick who uses the phrase “I Need Your Help” directly in the subject line of an email. (Come to think of it, each of these three would be fun to try as email subject lines.)


When you talk about influencing people, our ears perk up at Buffer. Our company culture and values are based on a book by Dale Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People. The advice from Christine Comaford above has that familiar ring of Carnegie to it. Remove your ego. Default to happiness and positivity. Be welcoming to others.

In a lot of ways, a discussion on persuasion and influence could begin and end with Carnegie’s book. Here is just a segment of the book’s table of contents, filled with ideas on kindness, generosity, and partnership. (Carnegie would probably dislike that I’m having you read just the table of contents–he advised readers to read each chapter of his book multiple times.)

Win people to your way of thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Isn’t that great stuff?

We aim to include as many Carnegie principles as we can in the way that we communicate in emails, in comments, and of course on social media. Here are some examples from Twitter of how our Happiness Heroes practice friendliness, sympathy, and seeing things from someone else’s perspective.

We’re not the only ones who love Carnegie’s book, either. An article on Copyblogger by Andrew Schrage and Brian Spero broke down the specific ways that you can grow an audience and market your content based on Carnegie’s principles. The full article contains 10 tips. Here are two of my favorites:

Avoid misleading headlines. A staple of Carnegie’s proven methods involves recognizing the importance of others. Too often we forget this and treat online audiences as easily manipulated rubes.

Instead of writing clickbait headlines that aim to coerce, it’s better to practice clickable headlines that work for more virtuous reasons. aggregates the top stories from the web and delivers them with headlines that are informative and clever without being manipulative.

The second Carnegie tip from Copyblogger goes like this:

Save people money. In “How to Win Friends,” we learn the importance of talking about what people want and showing them how to get it.

In other words, talk about benefits instead of features.

Here is a screengrab from the landing page of, an analytics service for developers. Instead of explaining the features of the product–the APIs and the SDKS–Keen talks about benefits.

While not as overt as the analysis on Copyblogger, Minda Zeltin, president of American Society of Journalists and Authors, wrote on about her own experiences with persuasion and influence, referencing indirectly a lot of the attitudes expressed by Carnegie.

Here are a few specific examples that Zeltin cites that deal directly with how you speak to others:

Michael Hyatt nails these elements of persuasive speech in his communication with email subscribers. In addition to a few emails I’ve received apologizing for broken links or other mistakes, Hyatt is also so kind and generous in the way he approaches his conversations. Here is an email that includes both a big thank you and some praise.


Here’s a fun way to look at persuasion: as a playground slide.

The idea comes from Roger Dooley of the blog Neuromarketing who uses the variables of a person on a slide to show how different factors affect the outcome of influence. Here’s the graphic he created to explain the idea:

Essentially, here’s how it works:

You give a customer a nudge (a tweet, a blog post, a phone call, an ad).

Gravity, that customer’s internal motivations, help move the customer down the slide.

Additional motivation that you provide (the angle of the slide) can serve to enhance the gravity. If a customer has low internal motivation, it will take a steeper angle to get him or her down the slide.

Friction, seen here as the difficulty (real and perceived) in converting, causes the slide to slow down to varying degrees.

The nudge could be most anything persuasive, for example a couple of psychological theories that we outlined above. Amplification could mean that the customer is further cementing his values and attitudes as he propels down the slide. Social proof could be a stronger push down the slide, resulting in a faster conversion.


Shane Parrish of Farnam Street reads a lot of books–up to 14 each month–so it means something when he picks Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion as one of the most important books he’s read. In the book, Cialdini outlines six principles of persuasion, most of which will likely sound a bit familiar based on our previous discussion on psychology.

Do any of those sound familiar? Put another way, Cialdini’s list could look like this:

  • Reciprocation, i.e. Reciprocity Norm
  • Consistency, i.e. Amplification Hypothesis
  • Social proof, i.e. Social Influence
  • Liking, i.e. Social Influence (again)
  • Authority, i.e. Yale Attitude Change Approach
  • Scarcity, i.e. Scarcity Principle

One of the common threads from Cialdini’s list is that of social. The principles of liking, authority, and social proof all deal with relationships with others: We are persuaded by those we like, by those whom we deem to be authority figures, and by the general population. Here are a few unique applications of these, as told by Cialdini and Parrish:


One way people exploit this is to find ways to make themselves like you. Do you like golf? Me too. Do you like football? Me too. Although often these are genuine, sometimes they’re not.

Liking is similar enough to consistency that it bears pointing out the difference here. Someone might say, “Do you like having more visitors to your blog?” They aren’t necessarily looking for a connection with you (as in Liking) but rather they’re seeking Consistency. Of course you’ll say yes, and in theory, you’ll have a harder time backing off that statement when you are pitched a product or service later.


Something as simple as informing your audience of your credentials before you speak, for example, increases the odds you will persuade the audience.

Noah Kagan does this for the each guest post he publishes at OK Dork. He writes a quick intro on how he made the connection with the guest writer and all the amazing credentials the guest writer has.

Social proof

People will more likely say yes when they see other people doing it too. Social poof is not all bad. It’s one of the main ways we learn in life.

Basecamp has a great example of social proof on their website, showing the wide variety of respected clients that use the product—and doing so in a fun, approachable way.

Two others that are worth pointing out are consistency and scarcity.

Personally, consistency is the one I find myself most susceptible to, and I identify a lot with how Parrish describes the effect: ”If you ask people to state their priorities and goals and then align your proposals with that in mind, you make it harder for people to say no.” really hit home for me. Parrish connects this to the Ikea effect, the way you love your IKEA furniture because you’re invested in it from building it yourself.

As for scarcity, Visual Website Optimizer wrote an extensive post on all the different ways you can use scarcity to increase e-commerce sales. Have you noticed that Amazon tells people there are only a certain number of products left? That’s scarcity at play.


Throughout this post, I’ve tried to highlight some good examples of the psychology of persuasion as it exists on the web. It’s great to know the theories; it’s also helpful to see the techniques and applications. Bushra Azhar, a persuasion strategist and founder of The Persuasion Revolution, wrote down several of her techniques that she has used to great effect in creating persuasive copy. Here is a sampling of the ways she’s used to invoke positive emotions in website visitors.

Disrupt then reframe

You can disrupt routine thought processes by mixing around the words and visuals that a user is used to seeing then reframing your pitch while they’re still figuring out the disruption. Researchers tested this technique by pitching a product as costing $3.00 versus 300 pennies; the penny pitch was the clear winner.

A unique implementation of this is on TeuxDeux’s pricing page. Instead of standard names for their pricing tiers, TeuxDeux went with a disruption technique with the copy and then reframed the pitch with the pricing info below.

The key to good storytelling

We mentioned above the theory about ultimate words, and we’ve written recently about the power of storytelling in your content. Azhar points out that a step beyond storytelling is making sure that you are telling the right story. She references the book Made to Stick, which talks about the three stickiest and most memorable story plots.

1. The Challenge Plot: A story of the underdog, rags to riches or sheer willpower triumphing over adversity

2. The Connection Plot: A story about people who develop a relationship that bridges a gap, whether racial, class, ethnic, religious, demographic or otherwise; think of the film The Blind Side

3. The Creativity Plot: A story that involves someone making a mental breakthrough, solving a long-standing puzzle or attacking a problem in an innovative way

The Groove HQ blog regularly starts blog posts with a storytelling element, often using variations on The Creativity Plot to hook readers and give that nudge down the persuasion slide.


By now, I’m sure you can see just how much psychology is involved in the art of persuasion. By extension, you can also see psychology in the social media messages and marketing tactics of some influential brands.

When it comes to applying the principles of persuasive psychology, here are a few places you can start:

  • Your calls-to-action
  • Your headlines
  • Your tweets and updates
  • Your emails
  • Your product descriptions

Almost anywhere that you have words or visuals–anywhere that you create or manage content–you can turn into an opportunity for persuasion.

What places on your website and in your social media marketing have you used psychological persuasion? Which of these theories do you recognize, either in your own marketing or in the marketing of others? I’d love to take this conversation further in the comments.

This article originally appeared in Buffer and is reprinted with permission.

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Is Tech Killing Off Creatives?

Source: Is Tech Killing Off Creatives?

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Consumer Psychology Research

One indicator of how the market is apparently more comfortable with AR than it is with its immersive sibling, VR, is that one of its earliest adopters are toymakers. Read More via Toymakers are the early adopters pushing AR into the mainstream — TechCrunch

via Mainstream AR – Media Psychology — Media Psychology

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Psych Pstuff – Impression Management

Originally posted on Media Psychology: Easy Street Magazine – Psych Pstuff by Dr. Donna Roberts The Story I have a friend who wears a Harvard Law sweatshirt. She didn’t study there. She wanted to, but didn’t. But she doesn’t mind if you think so when you see her wearing the sweatshirt. In fact, that’s pretty…

via Impression Management – Who Does Your Sweatshirt Say You Are? — psych pstuff

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Pitch an Essay

I thought it might be a good idea to post here clarifying what I’m looking for, what are the best ways to pitch me, and what you can expect from working with me once I choose your essay.

via Longreads Essays Editor Sari Botton’s Guide to Pitching — Longreads

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