MARKETING PERSUASION TECHNIQUES
40 Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly APRIL 2002
2002, CORNELL UNIVERSITY
The Science and Practiceof Persuasion
From business owners to busboys, the ability to harness the power of persuasion is often anessential component of success in the hospitality industry.
BY ROBERT B. CIALDINI AND NOAH J. GOLDSTEIN
Simply put, in general people are inclined to favor and tocomply with those whom they like. A good illustration of thisfundamental principle of influence in action is the Tupperwareparty, in which salespeople invite their friends and neighborsto their homes to pitch useful household plastic products. Astudy done by Frenzen and Davis confirmed what theTupperware Corporation knew all along: guests liking for theirhostess was twice as important as was their opinion of theproducts in influencing their purchase decisions.2
In the case of the Tupperware party, the seller is not just alikeable person, but is probably a friend and respected com-munity member as well. The power of the liking principle
1 See also: Harsha E. Chacko, Upward Influence: How AdministratorsGet Their Way, Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly,Vol. 29, No. 2 (August 1988), pp. 4850.
2 Jonathan K. Frenzen and Harry L. Davis, Purchasing Behavior in Em-bedded Markets, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 17 (1990), pp. 112.
Research reveals that there are six basic principles thatgovern how one person might influence another.Those principles can be labeled as: liking, reciproca-tion, consistency, scarcity, social validation, and authority.1
In the pages that follow we elaborate on each of those sixprinciples and highlight some of their applications in thehospitality industryfor instance, how a restaurant managermight reduce the reservation no-show rate by two-thirds; howto influence the size of the gratuity patrons leave for theirservers; how to encourage customers to order additional foodwhen they do not really want it; and how to get customers tocomply with employees reasonable requests.
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PERSUASION TECHNIQUES MARKETING
is so pervasive, however, that even perfect strang-ers can recognize whether there is any affinitybetween them within a relatively short time. Re-searchers have identified four primary determi-nants of our fondness for another person: physi-cal attractiveness, similarity, cooperation, and theextent to which we feel the person likes us.
Looking good. Most of us acknowledge thatthose who are physically attractive have a social ad-vantage held by few others, but evidence suggeststhat we have grossly underestimated the degree towhich that is true. For example, good-looking can-didates received more than two-and-a-half timesas many votes as did unattractive candidates in the1974 Canadian federal elections, despite the factthat most voters adamantly denied that attrac-tiveness had any influence on their decisions.3
One possible explanation for such findings isthat we tend to view attractive individuals aspossessing numerous other positive qualities thatwould be considered relevant to our likingthemsuch as talent, kindness, honesty, andintelligence.4 One practical (and unfortunate)result of the attractiveness principle is that less-attractive individuals who rely heavily on tips forincome may have to work especially hard to gaincustomers affection, approval, and cash.5
The social and monetary rewards that beauti-ful people garner extend far beyond those ben-efits; they are also more successful at elicitingcompliance with their requests. Reingen andKernen found that an attractive fundraiser forthe American Heart Association collected almosttwice as many donations as did less-attractiveindividuals.6 That finding suggests that train-
ing programs in the hospitality industry couldincrease the effectiveness of trainees by includ-ing, for instance, grooming tips.
Simpatico. Similarity is another importantfactor that affects our liking for others. The ef-fects of similarityhowever superficialcan bequite astounding because of the instant bond thatsimilarity can create between two people. Con-sider that in one study a fundraiser on a collegecampus more than doubled the contributionsreceived by simply adding the phrase Im a stu-
dent, too to the request.7 Just as salespeople aretrained to find or even manufacture links betweenthemselves and their prospective clients, individu-als whose livelihoods depend on quick-formingrapport with their customerssuch as food serv-ers or valetsmay enhance their earnings sim-ply by pointing out a connection between them-selves and their guests. Hold the mayonnaise?Yeah, I dont eat it very often myself, and Wow,youre from Chicago? My wife is from just southof there. She sure doesnt miss the winters areexamples of commonplace attempts to create sucha bond.
Similarities need not be overtly called to theother individuals attention to obtain the desiredcompliance. Researchers found that a person wassignificantly more likely to receive a requesteddime from a stranger when the two were dressedsimilarly than when they were not.8 Since themajority of workers in the restaurant and hospi-tality industry wear uniforms, this subtle form
The six basic principles that govern howone person might influence another are:liking, reciprocation, consistency, scarcity,social validation, and authority.
3 M.G. Efran and E.W.J. Patterson, The Politics of Ap-pearance, unpublished paper, University of Toronto, 1976.
4 For a review, see: Alice H. Eagly, Wendy Wood, and ShellyChaiken, Causal Inferences about Communicators andTheir Effect on Opinion Change, Journal of Personality andSocial Psychology, Vol. 36 (1978), pp. 424435.
5 For evidence of the pervasiveness of this discrepancyin the salaries of North Americans, see Daniel S.Hammermersh and Jeff E. Biddle, Beauty and the LaborMarket, The American Economic Review, Vol. 84 (1994),pp. 11741194.
6 Peter H. Reingen and Jerome B. Kernen, Social Percep-tion and Interpersonal Influence: Some Consequences ofthe Physical Attractiveness Stereotype in a Personal Sell-ing Setting, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 2, No.1 (1993), pp. 2538.
7 Kelly R. Aune and Michael D. Basil, A Relational Obli-gations Approach to the Foot-in-the-mouth Effect,Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 6 (1994),pp. 546556.
8 Tim Emswiller, Kay Deaux, and Jerry E. Willits, Similar-ity, Sex, and Requests for Small Favors, Journal of AppliedSocial Psychology, Vol. 1 (1971), pp. 284291.
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42 Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly APRIL 2002
of persuasion may be rare. As a notable excep-tion, however, many waiters and waitresses at onepopular restaurant chain wear a myriad of but-tons pertaining to their interests on their uni-forms, at least some of which are likely to matchthe backgrounds and interests of their guests.
Allies. Cooperation has also been shown toengender feelings of liking, even between partiesthat previously exhibited mutual animosity.Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues found that pre-existing disdain between two groups of childrenat a camp was transformed into affection afterthey worked together to accomplish a necessary,mutual goal.9 One would hope that food serverswould start off on a better footing with theirguests than the children in Sherif s study had withone another, so an air of cooperation should al-ready exist. However, just as car salespeople goto war with their managers on behalf of theirclients, some food servers benefit by makingthemselves seem particularly cooperative withtheir guests: You want more chips and salsa, sir?Well, the manager normally asks us to chargeextra for that, but Ill see whether I can get yousome at no charge.
Our fondness for another person also dependson the extent to which we believe the other per-son likes us. Just ask Joe Girard, the worlds great-est car salesman for 12 years in a row (accordingto the Guinness Book of World Records). One se-cret to his success may lie in a simple greetingcard that he sent to all 13,000 of his former cus-tomers every single month. Although the holi-day theme of each months card differed, the textnever varied. Other than his name, the only wordswritten on the card were, I like you.10
As a general rule we tend to like and to bemore willing to comply with the requests of thosewho show they are partial to us.11 Interestingly,one study revealed that a flatterers laudatory com-ments engendered just as much liking for the
sweet-talker when the remarks were false as whenthey were correct.12 Thus, praise is one way forfood servers to show their fondness for their cli-enteleand thereby to increase their tips. Hav-ing pointed that out, however, servers would bewise to proceed with cautionor better yet, withhonestybecause the praise tactic runs the riskof backfiring if guests perceive servers commentsto be a duplicitous attempt to manipulate them.
Researchers have established that there are anumber of fairly basic strategies servers can useto increase the average gratuity they receive by atleast 20 percent. Many of those strategies use thesimplicity of the liking principle. Squatting, smil-ing, and occasional touching, for example, helpto build a friendly rapport, while writing thankyou and drawing a happy face on the bill arepresumably signals to patrons that they are likedand that their waiter or waitress was especiallyhappy to serve them.13
It is important to note that these techniquesare not necessarily additive and that the appro-priateness of each strategy varies depending on anumber of factors, including the type of eatingestablishment, the disposition of each guest, andeven the gender of the food server.14 For example,waitresses who drew smiling faces on their cus-tomers checks significantly increased average tipsize by 18 percent.15 No significant difference wasfound for their male counterparts, however. Ifanything, the smiley-face strategy actually back-fired when used by waiters. Due to perceived vio-lations of gender-based expectations, it appearsthat for males, drawing a smiling face on thecheck may very well draw out a frowning facefrom the guests.
9 Muzafer Sherif, O.J. Harvey, B.J. White, W.R. Hood,and C.W. Sherif, Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: TheRobbers Cave Experiment (Norman, OK: University of Okla-homa Institute of Intergroup Relations, 1961).
10 Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: Science and Practice, fourthedition (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2001).
11 Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Hatfield Walster, InterpersonalAttraction (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1978).
12 See: David Drachman, Andre deCarufel, and Chester A.Insko, The Extra-credit Effect in Interpersonal Attraction,Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 14 (1978),pp. 458467; and Donn Byrne, Lois Rasche, and KathrynKelley, When I Like You Indicates Disagreement, Jour-nal of Research in Personality, Vol. 8 (1974), pp. 207217.
13 For a review, see Michael Lynn, Seven Ways to IncreaseServers Tips, Cornell Hotel and Restaurant AdministrationQuarterly, Vol. 37, No 3 (1996), pp. 2429.
15 Bruce Rind and Prashant Bordia, Effect of RestaurantTipping of Male and Female Servers Drawing a Happy,Smiling Face on the Backs of Customers Checks, Jour-nal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 3 (1996),pp. 218225.
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The positive results from using a
variety of persuasion techniques
are not necessarily additive.
ReciprocationA Chinese proverb states, Favors from othersshould be remembered for a thousand years. Themaxim succinctly emphasizes the importance ofthe norm of reciprocitythat we are obligatedto repay others for what we have received fromthemin all human societies. The norm pushesus toward fairness and equity in our everydaysocial interactions, our business dealings, and ourclose relationships, while it helps us build trustwith others. At the same time, however, it alsoleaves us susceptible to the manipulations of thosewho wish to exploit our tendencies to achieveinequitable personal gains.
An informative study of the reciprocity prin-ciple and its potential to be exploited was con-ducted by Dennis Regan in 1971.16 In the ex-periment, individuals who received a small,unsolicited favor from a stranger (Joe) in theform of a can of Coca-Cola purchased twice asmany raffle tickets from Joe as those who receivedno favor at all. This occurred even though thefavor and the request took place one-half hourapart, and that Joe made neither implicit nor ex-plicit reference to the original favor when he madehis pitch about the raffle tickets. Interestingly,despite all that we have stated about the strongassociation between liking and compliance,Regan found that individuals who received aCoke from Joe made their purchase decisionscompletely irrespective of the extent to whichthey liked him. That is, those who didnt like Joepurchased just as many raffle tickets as those whodid like him if they were the recipients of the giftearlier on. Thus, we see that the feelings of in-debtedness caused by the power of the reciproc-ity manipulation are capable of trumping the ef-fects of the liking principle.
While we have so far established that the normof reciprocity is powerful, the principles truepower comes from its ability to create situationsin which unequal exchanges take place. Reganfound that on average, the Coke-bearing strangerhad a 500-percent return on his investment,hardly an equal exchange at all!
16 Dennis T. Regan, Effects of a Favor and Liking on Com-pliance, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 7(1971), pp. 627639.
Corporations and fundraisers alike have beenaware of the power of reciprocity for many years,and have attempted to use those principles withthe public. The Disabled American Veterans or-ganization, a charitable group that seeks dona-tions via fundraising letters, for example, in-creased its average response rate from 18 percentto 35 percent simply by enclosing a small gift inthe envelope.17 The new additiona set of per-sonalized address labelscaused the recipientsto feel an immediate sense of obligation to repay
17 Jill Smolowe, Read This!!!!!!!!, Time, Vol. 136, No. 23(November 26, 1990), pp. 6270.
18 See: Michael Lynn, Restaurant Tipping and Service Qual-ity: A Tenuous Relationship, Cornell Hotel and RestaurantAdministration Quarterly, Vol. 42, No 1 (February 2001),pp. 1420.
the organization, despite the fact that the gift wasinexpensive to produce and the recipients neverasked for it in the first place.
Individuals in the hospitality, travel, and tour-ism industries are also in an appropriate positionto harness the power of the reciprocity principle.After all, tipping in the U.S. service industryis supposed to be based on a reciprocity-relatedquid pro quo system, in which it...