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Creating A Product Craze

Follow these three rules to start your own commercial craze.

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You have a product or service 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 commercial crazes start. Here are the three main reasons he's come up with:

  • 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, the newest Star Wars movie. "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."