effective communication skills

An example of how advertisers communicate

Using social proof

This cigarette ad from 1955 demonstrates the technique of "social proof" which is a commonly used persuasion technique that lends credibility to a subject or idea by associating or validating it using something that the listener already views as being authoritative and valid.

This ad from 1955 uses a supposed doctor's survey to convince prospective customers that Camel is the brand most preferred by doctors. Notice that there is no real data given about the survey, yet it still has a powerful impact on the credibility of the commercial.

Camel Cigarettes

Forms of social proof

There are many forms of social proof including:

  • Testimonials
  • Surveys
  • Experts

This Camel ad is particularly effective because it combines surveys and experts with powerful visual images of someone who is obviously a doctor (because he has a white coat and a nurse!) smoking a Camel cigarette.

How you can use social proof

Research shows that only about 14% of people are willing to make decisions with what they consider to be incomplete information. In marketing, these people are typically referred to as "early adopters" and the first ones to buy new products and technologies.

This means that the remaining 86% of people require some level of proof before they will buy into your product or idea. Even though most of us aren't selling products to the public but rather are persuading our business colleagues, friends and families to adopt our ideas, "social proof" will prove to be a valuable addition to your communication toolbox.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started using social proof.

  • Who can I get to endorse this idea?
  • Even if I can't get an endorsement, can I drop their name without it being obvious?
  • Who else is using this product or idea?
  • What research do I have to back me up?
  • How many other people are using this product or idea?
  • Do I have any pictures of someone doing or using this?
  • How will using this product or idea increase the perceived social standing of the person using it?  

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