Boy Nukes Father in Grocery Store

It’s 4:30PM, and I just witnessed an atom bomb being dropped.

A psychological atom bomb that is.

Here’s how it played out…

I was standing in line at the grocery store, when a man with a young boy and a girl in tow came walking past.  There was a display of candies, nuts, etc. and the boy (I’m guessing about 8 or 9 years old) took immediate notice of it and spotted opportunity.

“Dad, can we get pistachios like we always used to?”

An instant, knee-jerk answer almost escaped the man’s lips but was just as quickly held in check.

A seemingly eternal 3-second pause followed.  I could almost hear the anguished mental struggle.

“OK sure, go and grab them,” came the confident answer.

I don’t think the boy had any conscious idea of the weapon of mass persuasion he had just used, more effectively than any soldier could hope to wield a knife.

Do you see it?  Do you recognize what happened?  If you do you’re probably laughing in admiration as I was.  But if not, allow me to explain what I saw in the exchange…

First, let me preface this by saying that I’m in the middle of reading Robert Cialdini’s book, “Influence”, and it has – pardon the pun – definitely influenced me in terms of recognizing the psychological impact of certain words and phrases.

In this instance, the child deftly employed a brutally powerful principal known as consistency.  Cialdini cites many studies conducted that have established pretty conclusively, that human beings will go to great, even completely ludicrous, lengths to appear consistent in their words and deeds.  If someone has gone on record at any point in time as being a certain type of person, or doing certain types of things, then they are almost magically forced to hold true to that position pretty much forever.  If you can find a way to tap into someone’s established behavioral traits, you can pretty much force them to comply with you by leveraging their desire to remain consistent with those traits.

In this case, the boy used two phrases – just three words – that I found to completely destroy the father’s ability to resist, and ensure that the boy got what he wanted.

“Always” and “used to”.

By finishing up the request for pistachios with “… like we always used to”, the boy accomplished two things:

1)  the word “always” established that this was something that could not be avoided, could not be broken, and simply had always happened.  This means there can be no other outcome but for it to happen again.

2)  Finishing with “used to” does several things at once, all combined into a powerful cocktail.  First it hearkens back to times past… bringing back memories of good times with the kids.  Happy times where they all sat on the back porch eating pistachios and tossing the shells out to the pigeons… or whatever.  Next, it helps seal the consistency deal.  If the father “always used to” do this, then in order to remain consistent to his past behavior, he MUST DO IT NOW. There is no other escape.  He’s trapped by his desire to be seen as consistent in the eyes of his child, and now he’s also awash in memories of those happy days gone by.

I was completely blown away by this… I swear the father was about to say no to the request, but swallowed his words and visibly wrestled for a few seconds with himself, probably having no idea why he suddenly was unable to say no.  And sure enough, in the end the boy got his pistachios no problem.

So what can you, dear marketer, take from this?

Find ways to tap into consistency in your sales letters or other calls to action.  Talk in terms of “always”, such as:

“Have the white teeth you’ve always wanted…”

“… the body you’ve always dreamed of…”

“… the mate you’ve always been searching for…”

and so forth.  You can safely assume if someone is at your page for a teeth whitening, weight loss, or dating offer, that they’ve “always” wanted a certain something.  But what if you know much more about your visitor?

What if they’re your customers?

And what if you can see their purchase history, and make note of the products they have and have not purchased.

Don’t you think you could possibly craft an email to them, detailing what they’ve done in the past and how they’ve “always” been striving for some sort of result – preferably one that you have a product to address?

Obviously this won’t automatically work for every possible market everywhere, but I’d be willing to bet that a good writer who puts some time into understanding her/his customer base, could work wonders in terms of increasing sales by a combination of list segmentation and psychological tactics like the young boy displayed.

Now imagine applying this sort of thing when you speak, be it selling from the stage, conducting interviews/webinars, or even recording a message to play to visitors of your web page.

If you haven’t already read it, go get Cialdini’s “Influence” right away and devour it.  You’ll start seeing everything around you in a very different light, and realize that we both influence and allow ourselves to be influenced constantly, every day.  And most of the time I’d say that we, like the boy’s father, are utterly clueless about it.

Parting words… when you have a nuke in your arsenal, please use it responsibly!  🙂


4 thoughts on “Boy Nukes Father in Grocery Store

  1. Johnathan,
    Dude… I’d forgotten what a great writer you are. I’ve removed myself of most lists to regain my focus. But after your Robert B. Cialnini reference, you are certainly back on my radar.

    QUESTION: I’m assuming LP Generator was removed because of Google’s latest changes to it’s algorithms… So please tell me when your new version is due? And what is different about it?

    I am really interested to know the ins and outs of why the earlier LP Gen stopped working.

    Kind regards,

  2. Hey Glenn! Thanks for the kind words. =) I’ve always loved writing and this post was a chance to get a little more “eloquent” than I usually do. 😉

    So to your question… what makes you think LPGen was “removed” or “stopped working”? In fact I was just chatting with Gauher Chaudhry the other day and he sent me this:

    [9/22/2009 8:03:16 PM] Gauher Chaudhry: i did a call with Jason Potash on landing pages yesterday… and it kept ending with me talking about LP Gen .. lol
    [9/22/2009 8:03:22 PM] Jonathan van Clute: LOL
    [9/22/2009 8:03:22 PM] Jonathan van Clute: nice
    [9/22/2009 8:03:28 PM] Gauher Chaudhry: well it was true…
    [9/22/2009 8:03:46 PM] Gauher Chaudhry: he kept sayign how do yo get amazing quality scores.. I said a damn good silo site and lp gen…lol

    So clearly LPGen still “works” but you do need to have a silo site in the root of your domain. Oh and backlinks definitely help too!

    Version 2 is just the natural evolution of LPGen. We’re adding in a lot of stuff we’ve had in our own back pockets for a long time, as well as a bunch of new things we’ve been meaning to build but hadn’t gotten around to yet. It’s a HUGE undertaking actually as we’ve ended up basically rewriting the entire program almost from scratch. But the results are going to be well worth all the hard work.

    I’m close to announcing a date, but not quite there. One or two milestones to cross first. Stay tuned!


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