Skip to main content

Digital Inoculation: Resisting Right Wing's Persuasion

"Fake news” is not going away anytime soon. It will probably just get worse. Trump’s latest tweets are an example of this. And as our society becomes more polarized, we are likely to have more fake news and radical messages spread like forest fire because of social media. And while some people might think that fake news doesn't work, psychology, research, and current events would tell us otherwise. So why is fake news so persuasive and impactful? As humans, we are easily swayed by memorable events rather than facts. And those radical events are easier to remember, real or not. In turn, the more we remember them, the more realistic they become. 
 Adults, for the most part, are capable of forming their opinions and determining fact from fiction. But what about children? If you are a parent worried about your kid getting influenced by these messages online, what do you do? What is the best way to build resistance to false messages?
 Below are a couple of techniques for attitude inoculation with examples from the advertising and political world. 
 Establish beliefs and stimulate commitment
Make a public commitment to what you believe. A solidified belief will make you less susceptible to other people’s beliefs.
A simple 'like' on Facebook can stimulate commitment. A study done by Adam Ferrier in 2013 revealed that people who 'like' a brand on Facebook or write a comment are more likely to make a purchase and recommend the brand to friends. We reaffirm loyalties and beliefs when we cultivate and build a relationship with a brand, person or association. 
One of the best examples of this is from Obama's campaign team in 2012. As you probably remember, it was a close election; Obama won by 51.1% against Romney (47.2%). Obama's success can be attributed to many things, but to focus on one specifically: Obama and his campaign team built a relationship with voters. They asked Americans to vote, whether Democrat or Republican, they just wanted people to get out and vote. Registered voters were just asked to sign a "pledge to vote" card, which featured a subtle photo of Barack Obama. This moment, although small, increased the likelihood that the person would vote, and would vote for the Democratic Party. 
Develop counterarguments
Like an inoculation against disease, even weak arguments will prompt counterargument, which is then available for stronger attack. Having stood up for your convictions, you will become less susceptible to what other have to say. William McGuire documented this inoculation theory in a series of experiments.
In advertising, we bring counterargument to mind in response to an opponent’s ads. This technique developed by Robert Cialdini is called "The poison parasite defense" because it combines a poison (strong counterarguments) with a parasite (a retrieval cue that brings those arguments to mind when seeing an opponents ads). 
Anti-smoking ads have effectively done this. Re-creating a “Marlboro Man” commercial set in the rugged outdoors but now showing a coughing, decrepit cowboy is an example of this. 
Similarly, Sprint applied this technique by hiring the Verizon's "Can You Hear Me Now" guy as their own pitchman. Sprint's new ads combine a poison (a strong reliability counterargument) with a parasite (the pitchman that creates the retrieval cue). The wireless company now claims that its reliability is within 1 percent of that of Verizon and AT&T and leaves T-Mobile in the dust.
At the end of the day, we are humans -- slightly imperfect and fairly irrational. We are swayed more by memorable events than facts. If we want to protect people against a contaminated social environment, we need to give them the ability to do so by stimulating their mental defenses.


Popular posts from this blog

The Irrational Power of Nudge Brands

Nudge brands are brands built on interactions, not attitudes. They are mostly defined by experiences, not TV campaigns. They are designed around people's inconsistencies and errors, not for machines. They are simple, not complex. They like to break things into small chunks that are less daunting than big tasks. They focus on changing behavior, not generating awareness and interest. The Paris metro system card is a nudge brand. It is designed against human errors. You can use the card in any direction. IKEA is a nudge brand. It uses the power of personal investment. The more involved people are in creating something, the better they feel about the end product. Ryanair is a nudge brand. It chunks the whole purchase process. They lock you in with a low 'seat price' first to get a mental commitment. Then, they start to add the extra charges in bite-sized 'chunks.' Hare Krishna is a nudge brand. It is built on the reciprocity rule by giving away daisies. People should …

The Curse of Advertising Resources

With more platforms, more products and more content who are trying to reach a disengaged audience, it is becoming harder and harder for brands to stand out. Conventional practices are no longer working. People don't watch TV as much as they used to, so they don't see commercials.  They don't click on banner ads. They don't pay attention to billboards ads. And they don't trust brands' messages. Part of the problem is that we are too dependent on traditional ad resources, which limits the realm of our creativity. To thrive in this new environment, we, ironically, need the freedom of a tight brief: what can you do with no budget for mass media?  Or limited marketing communications dollars?  To make a comparison, traditional advertising is a lot like countries and economies that rely on oil. This reliance handicaps innovation. Countries with a vast amount of natural resources tend to have (1) less economic growth and (2) worse development rates than other countrie…

The Engineering of Digital Consent

Today, we build brands through social interactions. People opinions online shape our decisions on what brands should we buy or endorse. 90% of customers said that online reviews influence their buying decisions. Our challenge is that consumers don't pay attention and trust the message coming from brands. So, how do we affect the opinion of others in this environment? In marketing, we spend a lot of time and money creating advertising with the hope that it goes viral. However, most of the campaigns have little influence in today's consumers. Many campaigns have even the oppositive effect, with consumers sharing negative opinions or blocking advertising altogether. Changing behavior is hard. I don't think we have a silver bullet to influence people online, but we can learn best practices from behavioral science to increase our chances. Getting a little better in predicting behavior can make a big difference. Here are four behavioral principles that we should consider when c…