Six Persuasion Techniques Explained with Propaganda Posters
Every aspiring leader hopes to wield influence over their followers. The ability to sway others to your opinion is a useful skill in many areas, particularly in business. But persuading employees and staff to work according to your standards, goals, and values is no simple task. Today, large groups of people are influenced every day through the media, where celebrities, politicians, and social leaders can communicate directly with their followers, showcasing their ideas, products, and opinions.
But before the era of the Twitter feed, influence over others was a slightly more elusive concept. The distribution of advertisements, ideas, and calls-to-action was achieved largely through propaganda posters. Posters with striking visuals and messages have been used for centuries to inform, inspire, and galvanize public opinion. Often, they were used to drum up support for war, political ideology, and the promotion of controversial ideas of the time.
Dr. Robert Cialdini, renowned psychologist and marketing expert, developed “The 6 Principles of Persuasion;” his theory on the six main techniques used in persuasive communication to achieve maximum results. The following post from Invaluable takes Cialdini’s six principles and compares them to famous propaganda posters throughout history, comparing techniques used in the posters to the principles. (Be sure to check out the full infographic below!) What’s interesting, though, is how perfectly the posters mirror their respective persuasion principle, even though they existed years before Cialdini’s principles were developed.
Can you spot how these persuasion techniques are used in advertising, media, and politics to sway your opinions and motivate you to act a certain way? Be sure to check out the full infographic below!
Reciprocity suggests that individuals often feel obliged to repay or match some gift, favor, or kindness done to them by another. This principle is simple to apply in a business setting, or in any situation where you’d like to have a favor in your back pocket. Look for opportunities to be the first to give and make your contributions personal and genuine. These tactics help to strengthen relationships on the basis of appreciation and can be beneficial if you need help in the future. The poster used to visualize this principle comes from the World War I era, when the United States government began looking to immigrants to help invest in the war effort. The artist’s illustrations and bold messaging reminded immigrants of the time of their “debt” to America and asked for their help in raising money for their country.
The second principle, Scarcity, states that when something is limited or difficult to get, demand for that something grows exponentially. Communicating the need for urgency to consumers, clients, and employees can give business leaders a leg up when attempting to increase demand. If a certain product or service could soon become unavailable to consumers, they are more likely to pursue that product. During World War II, many American doctors were shipped overseas to aid in the war. The second propaganda poster instilled a sense of fear and urgency in the American public, who no longer had easy access to medical care. This poster implied that learning basic at-home-care skills was imperative to managing minor health concerns and encouraged the public to learn the basics of medicine.
Authority, the third Cialdini principle, says that sources with credibility and expertise are more likely to be listened to. Consumers trust brands they know, even if they have never personally used the product. Whether you are promoting an idea, selling a product, or communicating with employees, showcasing your credibility can help to make you more believable to your audience. The poster associated with this principle shows the “Christ Guerilla,” the image of Jesus as a guerilla fighter during the Cuban fight against imperialism in the 1960’s and 70’s. This image called on the country’s religious roots and the authority of the Christian religion, suggesting that guerilla fighting was a noble cause.
The fourth poster displays the principle of Consistency and the familiar image of Rosie the Riveter, a famous World War II icon for American women working in factories during the war. Rosie, a fictional character created by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Electric, was a major influence in getting factory workers to increase their efforts during wartime. The poster resonated at the time of its creation in the 1940’s and continues to be a symbol for feminism and equality today.
Liking and Agreeing
Liking is the idea that people are more likely to agree with people or ideas they already like and agree with. Spending time to build rapport and strengthen relationships goes a long way towards developing meaningful, productive interactions. In this World War I poster, the artist draws on the British man’s emotion, calling him to serve in the war with the support of his wife. It also served to remind women to accept their husbands’ duties to serve and encourage them to do so. Using the opinions of their families, British men were pushed to action by these posters, which proved to be effective in the enlistment effort.
The final principle, consensus, implies that individuals are more likely to follow along with an idea if they believe the group at large subscribes to the idea. By highlighting what the larger social group thinks, individuals can be pushed to action through advertising that uses this principle. The poster representing this principle was used throughout the era of the Soviet Union and was meant to show that the Russian people were working together to achieve common goals. It was used heavily during the push towards Communism and during Stalin’s reign and was effective in creating mass support for those causes.
Be sure to check out the infographic below!
This guest post was authored by Emma Welsh
Emma received degrees in both English and Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin. Although born and raised in Texas, Emma never picked up on saying “y’all,” but she does own a pair of cowboy boots. In her spare time, Emma enjoys working on her blog or a creative writing piece. She believes telling a great story should always be the priority.