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Required Reading for the Intelligent Consumer
on 28 May 2004
The human mind is a wonderful thing, capable of the most wonderful thought processes and ideas. Yet the brain is on automatic pilot for most situations. That allows the conscious mind to really focus. The drawback is that some people will use our conscious inattention to sneak one by us, like a fastball pitch to a hitter looking for a change-up.
Influence, the book, is very useful in this regard, because it uses interesting examples to help us be aware of our own tendency to let automatic pilot thinking take over.
Since I first read this book many years ago, I have been watching to see if the circumstances I see support or invalidate Professor Cialdini's points. By a margin of about 9 to 1, Cialdini wins.
Given that we are easily manipulated by our desire to be and to appear to be consistent with our past actions and statements, swayed by what the crowd is doing, and various other mechanisms, the only way we can be armed against unscrupulous marketing is to be as aware of these factors are the marketers are.
At the same time, I appreciated how the book explores the ethics of when and how much to apply these principles. Without this discussion, the book would come off like Machiavelli's, The Prince, for marketing organizations. That would have been a shame. By dealing with the ethics, Professor Cialdini creates the opportunity to educate us intellectually and morally. Well done!
I have read literally dozens of books about marketing and selling, and I find this one to be the most helpful in thinking about how influence actually works. Even if you will never work in marketing, you will benefit from reading this book in order to better focus your purchases and actions where they fit your needs rather than someone else's.