Find corroborating evidence

Friday, March 13th, 2020

In The Catalyst Jonah Berger explains how to change anyone’s mindreduce reactance, ease endowment, shrink distance, alleviate uncertainty, and find corroborating evidence:

For big changes, sometimes hearing from one person isn’t enough. You can follow up multiple times with new information, but the listener is still faced with a translation problem. Sure, you think something is the right course of action, but you’re just one person. How do they know what you’re saying is right?

There’s strength in numbers. That’s why substance-abuse counselors use group interventions. Hearing from multiple loved ones at the same time often provides enough proof to drive action. Corporate boards wait to adopt new practices until they’ve been adopted by several peer institutions. Doctors wait to adopt new drugs until multiple colleagues start using them. And companies wait to adopt supply chain technologies and management strategies until they’ve been piloted by a number of other firms.

In my own research, I found that the incidence of people signing up to use a new website was almost directly proportional to the number of Facebook invitations they received. Invites from two people led to almost double the sign-ups from a single invite; sign-ups were even more likely when multiple invites came in quick succession. As the adage goes, “if one person says you have a tail, you laugh and think they’re crazy. But if three people say it, you turn around to look.”

Whether you’re trying to convince a client, change an organization, disrupt a whole industry or just get someone to adopt a puppy, the same rules apply. It’s not about pushing harder or exerting more energy. It’s about reducing barriers to action. Once you understand that, you can change anything.


  1. Dave says:

    I prefer Darwin’s method of argument. Let people convince themselves that AIDS doesn’t exist or that it’s perfectly safe to date a black person. Stupid people remove themselves from the gene pool, though they’d do so much faster if we didn’t have a welfare state.

    Darwin also approves of the tranny craze that permanently sterilizes mentally defective children of liberal parents.

  2. Harry Jones says:

    Yikes, Dave. I’ve dated black women. It didn’t kill me.

    I’ve got no problem with stupid people not breeding. Never mind the genetics, they make terrible parents.

    Here’s hoping everyone here survives the current pandemic scare. Me, I’m close to my baseline level of fear.

    Back on topic: I learned long ago that most people know nothing, and adding one more person who knows nothing won’t make me more convinced. I understand multiplication with a zero on the left hand side.

  3. Kirk says:

    Never mind the fact that these short-sighted “influencers”, “manipulators”, and the people who use/hire them don’t pay attention to long-term issues, like “Are the people we sign up for this crap still using it six months from now…?”.

    There’s a BS thing going around the local business community, which looks like yet another iteration of LinkedIn. Out of curiosity, because everyone and their cousin was sending me links, I signed up for it just to see what the excitement was. Took about ten minutes to suss out the whole thing, and I’ll never go back to it for anything–But, I can’t turn off the email crap they started sending me. I’m sure that there’s some marketing-droid out there who’s been turning in great numbers for sign-ups, but… Yeah. Complete waste of time and electrons.

    This is the problem with most of this crap. About the time I was stuck out in the Army’s recruiting branch, there was a lot coming out about the whole “social influence” idea, and I did a lot of reading on it. All of it seemed to make sense–The idea is basically that there are certain people who are trendsetters and “thought leaders” who influence the masses around them, and if you can sway those parties to do their thing in your favor, well… You’re in like Errol Flynn.

    The thing is, though… While the trend-setter thing has a certain amount of truth to it all, it’s not the whole truth, or even a thing of real significance. It’s like this: Say you see your buddy eating something new and different–Something like a lime-pepper flavored pistachio. Now, you’re an open-minded sort, so you try a handful when he offers it to you, and you discover that either they’re the flavor-combination you’ve been waiting for all your life, or that they’re an unholy matrimony of flavor notes that leave you nauseated and dry-heaving. Third option would be somewhere along the spectrum between the two, but the fact remains that while you’ll likely try something your “thought-leading” buddy offers you, you’re not going to buy the damn things unless they answer a need for you–And, more importantly, you like them. That’s about 90% of the population, right there, and only the remainder, about 10%, are really willing to choke those nuts down if they don’t like them, just to look cool next to their “thought-leading” buddy.

    No amount of advertising or “cool influencer” influence is going to really shift the opinion of the middle-mass population. Advertisers and market-droids will tell you that they can do that opinion-shifting, but the fact is simply that you’re not going to do it short of a mass reprogramming of the public opinion, which ain’t at all affordable on the scale for most advertisers.

    And, too… Even if you do reach out and touch those “influencers”, they’re still not going to go very far in influencing things in terms of getting people to do things against their natural inclinations, and if you do co-opt them in your work, as soon as they start making the attempt to work for you as influencers, all of a sudden… They’re not influencers anymore, but merely other voices in the crowd.

    Most of this crap is the product of a very self-referential world that only listens to itself and its chosen sources. Of course the advertising people are going to tell you that they can pump up your sales volume, ‘cos that’s their job. They’re selling you their product, yes? And, because you believe them and buy into it, what do you do? You buy it. But, is there any real proof that they can really do what they say they can? Are the numbers actually there?

    Based on my own observation, I have to say “No. Just… No.”. I almost never buy stuff by brand, based on their ads. Nobody I know does that, either–If there’s a preference for a brand-name item, it stems from the higher quality and better results than you get using the store-brand or generics. I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever walked into a supermarket and said “Yeah, I’m gonna buy that Tide detergent, ‘cos the advertising…”. What happens is, I walk the aisles, look at the prices, do a little math in my head, and the only reason that the Tide winds up in the cart is if the stuff is on sale. All that advertising money that the folks behind Tide spend is wasted, on me and most of the people I know. I bet money that if they simply made the effort to put out an identifiable and superior product, that would be more than enough for them to maintain and increase market share, vice spending billions on advertising.

    Of course, advertising does still work on some people. I just have to question the real numbers who are reachable by it, and whether they’re even worth worrying about. If there’s some dimwit out there that is still buying into the hype in this jaded age, they can’t be all that intelligent or have much likelihood of becoming a bigger, more rewarding customer over the long haul.

  4. Graham says:

    “Brand recognition” has had some baseline effect on me.

    I used All detergent for a while because that’s what my mother used for many years and I figured all detergents were the same. For my needs, probably are.

    All disappeared so I switched to Tide because I knew the name. SO did my mother, I learned.

    Been with Tide ever since. Don’t even know the price comparisons. Doing all that for detergent, as so many other products, would be a pointless pain in the ass for me. I have the good fortune to earn enough money to seriously trade some for time, not a privilege everyone has to be sure.

  5. CVLR says:

    Kirk, a billion dollars is smarter than you.

  6. TRX says:

    > All that advertising money that the folks behind Tide spend is wasted

    On you… but I’ve been along with other people shopping and questioned their choices as they loaded their carts. (yes, I’m *that* guy…)

    A large percentage of otherwise-normal, not-stupid people will pick the most-heavily advertised items, because they’re the best. If they look at prices, they’ll pick the most expensive items, because they’re the best. Obviously higher price means higher quality. And they won’t settle for anything less than whatever the marketers have persuaded them is “the best.”

    Some *do* shop by price… but they’ll always buy the white-box or “family” package, $10 for 64oz instead of the ‘regular’ package of $7 for 58oz because they’re both programmed to buy the big box and too lazy to figure up the cost per unit, even with a smartphone in their hand.

    Then we’ll get up to the register, their debit card is declined, and they have to have a manager come over to roll back the purchase while they remove items from the cart until the card goes through.

    Every. Single. Time.

    You’re probably one of those nutters who figures out which package is the best value, keeps a running tally in his head, and knows how much money is in his wallet or bank account. Your thought processes couldn’t be more alien to those people if you’d just beamed down from the mothership.

  7. Kirk says:

    TRX… You could be right. I don’t spend a bunch of time with people like you describe, so maybe its observer bias.

    I do think that there’s a clearly decreasing trend in credibility for the makers and shakers of public opinion, however. They have to keep getting more and more outre with it all, from advertising to television shows. Where the hell this all stops, I don’t know, but I’m not gonna be surprised if they have live sex game shows and snuff films on TV by mid-century or so–That’s about where the trend-lines are taking us, in that regard.

    I do like to think that most of us are growing up, and not paying attention to this sort of manipulative crap. Perhaps it is but a fantasy of mine, but I would really love to see Madison Avenue shut the hell up about feminine protection products and “male enhancement” items. If people like me ran the world, it would indeed be a more rational place, but it’d also be a lot less “vibrant”.

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