Getting Consumers To Say Yes: Authority

In this fourth post of post of six about Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion I’ll write about authority. I’ve written about reciprocity, commitment & consistency and liking in previous posts.

Cialdini, professor of psychology and marketing, was in many ways before his time when his book “Influence” was published 1984. He lays out six ways you can get people to say yes, without really asking..

It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of all these persuasion principles weakens significantly if the person being persuaded is aware of the technique being used. In other words, the principles operate primarily at the non-conscious level of formin impressions and determining meaning and value. When they’re exposed to the light of conscious deliberation, their impact on choice declines.

Read, contemplate and learn following six triggers:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment & Consistency
  3. Liking
  4. Authority
  5. Social Proof
  6. Scarcity

I’ll write about each principle and show examples in six different posts.


People respect authority. They want to follow the lead of real experts. Business titles, impressive clothing, and even driving an expensive, high-performing automobile are proven factors in lending credibility to any individual. Giving the appearance of authority actually increases the likelihood that others will comply with requests – even if their authority is illegitimate.

Many people have heard about the famous Milgram experiments. Volunteers were convinced to continue delivering what they thought were incredibly painful electric shocks to unseen subjects, even when they could hear screams of pain. The presence of a man in a lab coat telling them to continue was enough to earn the compliance of nearly all the volunteers. If at any time the subject indicated his desire to halt the experiment, he was given a succession of verbal prods by the experimenter, in this order:

  1. Please continue.
  2. The experiment requires that you continue.
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
  4. You have no other choice, you must go on.

If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum 450-volt shock three times in succession

People appear hard-wired to respond to authority (or the appearance of authority).

How can you use this to sell your products?

Expert Creation

Does your product have a scientific secret? Display content from professionals with credentials Herbalife:



Are you using a well-established technique with long heritage? Preserving a traditional technique? Tell the market!

Expert Curation

These days the range of products available to a shopper are so vast it’s hard to wade through them all. Therefore it’s a good idea to have someone to endorse you. Anyone who can vouch for you. Maybe a

Do you have a Chief Stylist (or someone who could reasonably pass for that)? Have a page with her top picks for the season. Selling fitness products? Have a personal trainer give his favorite picks. Even a little authority is enough, like a dentist recommending a toothpaste.


Or maybe “Staffs picks” in bookstores..

Do you have any other examples when authority is used in a good way?