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Marketing, Strategy and Awesomeness

24 Psychology and Marketing lessons to takeaway from ‘Age of Propaganda’

The following is a collection of notes I took while reading “Age of Propoganda.”  If you enjoyed  Influence you’ll love this book.


– Bundle pricing: 2 items for $1 instead of 50 cents each often increases perceived value

– Panhandling: found 69% more people willing to give money when asked for 17 or 37 cents vs a quarter or just some change

– Charity fundraising: saying even a penny will help increased donations and didn’t reduce the size of the donation

– wait that’s not all.  cupcake sale – tested 75 cent cupcake PLUS 2 cookie bonus vs. bundling cupcake and cookies together at the start. sales double with the bonus cookie method.  This is why you see infomercials keep adding on items and bonuses.


– No matter how irrationally we act we try to appear reasonable to ourselves and others

– We spend our whole lives trying to convince ourselves that our lives are not absurd.  Marketers create messages and products that help us achieve this aim. – Camus

– Rationalization trap: intentionally arouse feelings of dissonance by threatening self esteem, shame, inadequacy. Next the propagandist offers their solution, one way of reducing the dissonance

– The tendency to justify our past behavior can lead us into an escalation of rationalizations that can be disastrous. In order to avoid thinking ourselves stupid or immoral we set the stage for increasing out acts of stupidity or immortality

– There is nothing that makes us feel so good as the idea that someone else is an evildoer – Robert lynd

– P77. 2 groups of 5th graders. 1 group given lectures on recycling and being neat and tidy and not littering. Aka given more information. 2nd group was not given this info but simply repeatedly told that they were a neat and tidy class. 2nd group did much better than the first.  Self fulfilling prophecy. Expectations create reality


– Question asking can be a powerful persuasion device because questions structure our decision making process.

– How you structure the question can implicitly specify the range of possible answers


Researchers described the same event to 2 different groups

group a: story was told with details that gave it subtle similarities to nazi germany

groub b: had the same story told but with the same details changed to have subtle similarities to vietnam.

Group A was more likely to be in favor of intervention than group b.

TAKEAWAY: frame a situation around something where you know your targets pre-disposed belief so that you can transfer that option through association


Real estate agents shows you a dumpy house first so that the next looks great in comparison

a decoy is an alternative that is inferior to other possible selections

When something is contrasted with something similar but not as good, it is judged to be better than it normally would have.

CONTEXT makes a huge difference.

Economist example:









Self interest

You can be more persuasive by appearing to not act in your self interest.

example: Ramit Sethi doesn’t allow people with credit card debt to join his flagship courses.  He makes it clear that he loses millions a year doing this.

example: Dane Maxwell talks about actively trying to talk people out of buying his software.  It usually has the opposite effect.

– people treat information that is not intended for them as more valuable


a fear appeal is most effective when

1. it scares the hell out of people

2. it offers a specific recommendation for overcoming the threat

3. the recommended action is perceived as effective for reducing the threat

4. the recipient believes that they can perform the recommended action

Self sell

Get your prospect involved in the selling process and selling themselves on your product.


All other things being equal most people are more deeply influenced by one clear, vivid, personal example than by an abundance of statistical data


in group/out group.  people like others who belong to similar group, even if the similarity is absurdly trivial.

ex: students who were told they had the same birthday as Rasputin rated him as more favorable.

Takeaway: make customer feel more closely to a desirable group.


guilt, leads to compliance

3 kinds of guilt:

  1. sympathy – feeling sorry
  2. restitution – feeling need to compensate
  3. generalized guilt.

last 2 are most powerful in influencing behavior


transgressing a norm makes us feel anxious

we obey norms w/out any thought as to why

Foot in the door

car dealer – tells you can get car for price, you right check and fill out papers, then they say they made a mistake and its a higher price.  since you already have commited to the car and spent the time you are not likely to walk away.  we commit to our actions.

– door in the face:  high price, then go lower.


If you didn’t pay your bill a certain cable company would turn every channel to CSPAN instead of just turning off cable completely.  They got more people to start paying their bills this way.



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