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.
Forms of social proof
There are many forms of social proof including:
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
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