Signs That Influence People

The Story of the Indian Parliament Attacks

How signs and symbols like police cars sirens affect decisions

It’s 13 December 2001. Five terrorists infiltrated the Indian parliament and opened fire. The attack led to the death of a dozen people.

But do you know how the terrorists managed to pass through the stringent security and infiltrate the Indian parliament?  They fooled the security by decorating their car to look like a government car. It had all the appropriate security passes and stickers. And the emergency siren and lightening on top of the car.

So when the security saw what looked like a government car, they didn’t check it as severely as they should have.

The Story of the Discount Coupon Fiasco

Robert Cialdini the psychologist talks about a marketing case study with a similar lesson. A tire company mailed out discount coupons for their tires. But due to a printing misprint, the coupons offered no discount at all! The tire company found this out a bit too late and were in a panic as to what to do.

Here is the surprising ending: the percentage of people who redeemed these zero discount coupons was the same as the percentage of people who had redeemed coupons with hefty discounts in the past. The response rates didn’t change!

People saw what looked like a discount coupon, saved it, and used it – even when it didn’t give a discount!

The Lesson: Fake it till you make it

The lesson to learn from these case studies is that: decisions are formed irrationally. And it is highly affected by relevant signs and symbols.

If you make sure that your website “looks” successful, then people who visit it will act as if the website is truly successful. And their actions will be affected accordingly.

Yes “fake it till you make it” is a good mantra to follow.

Reddit.com – which today is a huge website and receives more than a billion page views a month – started off faking it too. Their founders created various different usernames. And submitted cool links using different usernames (instead of submitting all the links from 1 admin account only).

This made the website look a lot more busier and popular than it really was. Which made a lot of visitors stay back. Building a community became easier.

“People will trust you if you appear to be worthy of their trust, not because you feel that you are trustworthy.” – Dr. Paddi Lund

So appear trustworthy. Appear stable and popular. And people will react positively to your website.

Action Summary:

  • In the initial days, ask your friends to comment on your blog posts.
  • Add security and social proof signs and symbols to your website.
  • Add a 1-800 number to your contact details.
  • Focus and add just one social media button to your website at a time. So that your audience does not get divided. And your numbers look higher.
  • Act like an already popular website, and your readers will react accordingly.

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