Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Disturbing Uses of Persuasion

As a marketer and copywriter, I'm very interested in the science of persuasion. I read writers like Dave Lakhani, Mark Joyner, Janet Switzer, Ben Mack, Robert Cialdini, Kevin Hogan, Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Sean D'Souza, among many others. (Why is this list so male dominated? I don't know).

But as someone who stresses ethical marketing, I have lines I do not cross.

Dave Lakhani sent a link to an extremely disturbing video by Derren Brown, who's apparently quite well known as a persuasion guy in the UK (I wasn't familiar with him before). Under the guise of running a corporate motivational seminar, he cues four of his trainees into a subliminal process in which they're supposed to figure out all by themselves to stage an armed robbery against an armored van. He uses all manner of subliminal and blatant cues to produce this reaction--but to me, this is over the line. it shows what these techniques can do if they "fall into the wrong hands."

It has been rumored that a lot of the tactics used by the Bush administration to hypnotize the US into going to war against Iraq, into letting our liberties slip by at home, etc. are directly correlated with their study of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). In this video, we can not only see the techniques in use, but hear Derren explain exactly what he's doing and why. I won't spoil the surprise by telling the results.

The video is fascinating watching (and the time goes by very quickly). The lesson to me is: know when you're being manipulated, even controlled, and take steps to protect yourself.


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