Bacon petition

Last night I was cruising through Costco, enjoying a new marketing podcast, when the hosts dropped one of my “trigger phrases”:

Consistency and commitment.

If you’re not familiar, this idea comes from the Robert Cialdini book Influence.

In the book, Cialdini cites studies that show that when people take a small step, such as signing their name to a petition opposing the consumption of bacon, they’re psychologically compelled to act in ways that are consistent with that behavior in the future—perhaps by turning their nose up the next time they’re presented with a pile of crisp, savory bacon still sizzling from the pan…

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yeah. Cialdini.

Marketers have glommed onto this idea big time. So you’ll hear them geeking out about how you can double your optin rate by hiding your signup form behind a faux survey question, or improve your sales by getting people to reply to an email, because “consistency and commitment, man!”

The only problem with these “psychological hacks, rooted in deep neuroscience” is—they mostly don’t work.

Intuitively you know this.

How often have you been in a room full of people who were fed up about something and openly voiced their support for doing SOMETHING—yet when you call for volunteers, suddenly everyone starts studying their cuticles?

People are a walking bundle of contradictions, and any discomfort we feel at being “inconsistent” can be rationalized away in a heartbeat.

When this “consistency and commitment” thing seems to work, usually what’s happening is, you’ve just lowered the bar a bit.

Instead of saying, “let’s get on the phone for a 10 minute conversation,” you say, “would you like me to send you this free report?”

Or instead of asking them to type something into a form, you ask them to click a button.

You’re lowering the friction, and any time you lower the friction, more people will take that particular step.

I have a client who creates survey-style lead capture forms for mortgage companies.

His forms evicerate the standard “name, rank and Social Security number” application forms that are standard on most mortgage quote sites.

Do they work because home buyers fall into some kind of Cialdini-induced trance after clicking a radio button with their expected home value?

“Entered! ZIP! Code! Must! Get! Mortgage!”

No—they work because it’s less intimidating to fill out a form when you’re not staring at 47 fields demanding all kinds of intensely personal data like “Annual Income” and “Bank Account Number.”

In my book, ideas are only useful if they lead you to make good decisions in the majority of cases.

“Reduce friction” meets that test. Rarely will you go wrong by making the next step easier for people to take.

“Consistency and commitment” does not.

In fact, usually what it leads to is ADDING friction to your funnel in the form of unnecessary extra steps.

Time to kick “consistency and commitment” to the curb.

Oh, and pass the bacon.