Framework to Changing Minds

Taken from The Catalyst by Jonah Berger

“The more you push, the harder they’ll push back.”

There’s a better way to guide behaviour and change minds, Jonah Berger presented the REDUCE framework to changing minds in his latest book, The Catalyst.

I thought it was a good reminder for myself, as a copywriter and a business owner.

The REDUCE Framework

1 – reduce Reactance

The more you tell people not to do something, the more they’ll be curious and want to try it.

You can guide decisions while giving people the ability to make their own decision:

  • Ask instead of telling or instructing

You can guide people in the right direction by asking the right questions.

Make sure your questions are not loaded or too obvious because people can detect when you are trying to ‘manipulate’ them.

You can provide bounded options via your questions. Instead of asking “what would you like”, frame your question with bounded options to help people make better (and faster decisions) – “would you like A or B”?

  • Highlight a gap

We are uncomfortable when our attitudes and behaviors don’t match. If the mismatch is highlighted, we’ll update our behaviors accordingly.

  • Seek to understand

Persuasion is a multi-step process, start by seeking understanding and seeing things from the person’s point of view.

Recognise that you’re building a relationship here, and you’ll need to build trust before you can change anyone’s mind.

2 – ease Endowment

The Endowment Effect is the bias of overvaluing something we own, regardless of its objective market value.

Hence, when people own a stance, there will be a strong refusal to change. According to Berger, in order to get people to change, the upside has to be at least 2.6X more than the downside (of not changing)!

People only seem to change when the downside gets too painful;

“Terrible things get replaced, mediocre things stick around. Horrible performance generates action but average performance generates complacency.”

FOMO comes to mind in such cases – i.e. use loss aversion to highlight the potential losses they are seating on by not changing.

Berger also shares the example of compulsory iPhone OS updates – by removing support and compatibility with old versions, users are ‘forced’ to update their OS and even upgrade their phones in order to keep using their favorite apps.

3 – shrink Distance

When the ‘distance’ of change to too far, or the commitment required is too large, we would choose the status quo.

It’s easier to shift perspective through a series of small wins rather than a single big jump. Giving people facts of the opposite stance usually backfires and make them more steadfast in their original stance.

Moveable middle – there’ll always be a group of people who are more likely to be convinced. Identify them and start convincing them before trying to change the mind of an entire group.

How or where to start?

Identify similarities and shared experiences across fields to help you connect with the person you’re working with.

4 – alleviate Uncertainty

Uncertainty Tax: a subconscious value that people equate to uncertainty. Most of us are less willing to pay for an uncertain outcome, even if the rewards are better and the risk is minimal.

This will hurt businesses or marketers and need to be addressed in sales letters or product offerings! – reduce the level of uncertainty in order to encourage others to try.

This can be done by:

  • freemium
  • free trial
  • small quantity trial
  • reversible trial (you can easily revert of the original state)
  • increase brand equity: lesser known brands generate higher levels of uncertainty

Berger also shared that: “Longer, more lenient trial periods or refunds generate more sales and word of mouth which out outweigh the potential risks.”

5 – find Corrobating Evidence

Aka social proof…with a twist.

  • Not all social proof are equal, we tend to judge if the recommendation or testimonial is from someone similar to us.

But, having too many testimonials from similar people is not enough – two testimonials from people in our industry is not as strong as two testimonials from someone in our industry and someone from a sister industry.

Whether building word of mouth or collecting testimonials, it’s ideal to have a variety of folks from different walks of life backing you.

  • frequency is important

Hearing about a company repeatedly, in a short period of time is generally more persuasive than hearing about the same company occasionally.

It’s similar to how chart-topping music is marketed on social media these days. The more mentions or covers made on a song, the more sticky it becomes.

My takeaway

Although the ideas are not entirely new, I think the REDUCE framework is a good checklist of sorts, to help me structure my copy and marketing campaigns.

I tend to have blind spots when designing campaigns, this checklist could help reduce those “why didn’t I think of this earlier” situations.

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