Creating A Sucker Society

... or at least your own little piece of it. You have a product or service that you love, and you want everybody else to love it. Well, you'd do well to read Robert B. Cialdini's book, Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion (Quill Trade Paperbacks). Cialdini is a professor of psychology at Arizona State University in Tempe, and he's done a considerable amount of research on how commerce crazes start. If you want to start your own fad, his three top rules are:

  • Expensive equals good. "There's a classic story about Chivas Regal, the Scotch, which when it began was really a moderately priced Scotch that didn't differentiate itself from its competitors," says Cialdini. "They decided to raise the price substantially above any of their competitors, without changing the product a bit. Sales took off. If people don't know much about the product, then they just revert to the stereotype, expensive equals good. This must be worth the money."

  • The scarcity effect. If people like your business, less may be more. Cabbage Patch, Beanie Babies and Furbys are crazes in point, says Cialdini, as was the hype surrounding "The Phantom Menace" release last spring. "They made it a scarce resource because people want more of what they can get less of," says Cialdini.

  • There's safety in numbers. If you can give the impression your product is popular, it will become more popular, Cialdini contends. He elaborates: "In one study, they had a group of five people stare at an empty spot in the sky and see what would happen. Almost everybody who walked by cast a glance at that empty spot, and many joined them to stare up at the empty spot. When they had one person stare at that spot, they didn't get near as many followers. So there's safety in choosing what a lot of people have chosen: You're probably going to be right."

Contact Sources

Girard Productions, (810) 774-9020

Magnetic Poetry,,

Total Rebound, (800) 4-REBOUND,

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the August 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Suckers!.

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