On “Flattery Will Get You Far”

Article:  Valdesolo, P. (2010). “Flattery Will Get You So Far.” Scientific American Online, Scientificamerican.com. Retrieved on 30 June 2010: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=flattery-will-get-you-far


Its not uncommon for people to kiss up and flatter others in their everyday lives, with the hopes that such remarks will get them what they want.  Many times these motives are easily recognized and written off as insincere.  However it’s quite possible that the effects of such flattery are more powerful than we think.

Researchers are taking a deeper look into how blatant flattering influences consumer loyalty and sales.  A study conducted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology found that consumers exposed to a department store’s advertising campaign, commending shoppers on their sense of style, were likely to continue making purchases at the store.  Furthermore, these consumers, who explicitly expressed their awareness of the stores attempt to manipulate behavior through flattery, were likely to join the store club.

Researchers believe this type of flattery works by reinforcing the above average ideas that individuals reserve for themselves, as well as increasing esteem in areas where some feel low.   The article suggests that positive images in advertising, when linked to products, might also subconsciously influence consumer desire in that consumers will channel similar positive feelings during the act of purchase.  The author hypothesizes that since we are so quick to dismiss these tactics, we might be more influenced by them then we think.

Conceptual Design:  Its interesting how researchers were able to identify why blatant attempts of flattery worked, asking shoppers to highlight traits they admired and did not admire about themselves.   When doing market research for new products and stores in certain populations, conducting surveys posing questions on self identify could be beneficial.  Creating advertising that plays off what consumers view as their character strengths and weakness could go a long way in incorporating flattery into advertising.

Interaction: Further studies should be conducted on exposing consumers to flattery in different ways.  In the case of a store for example, perhaps consumers will be more likely to spend if they interact with a sales clerk that compliments their style, as opposed to just seeing a general compliment to all shoppers in a pamphlet.  Understanding how consumers interact with different types of media (audio, visual) and humans, when flattering techniques are used, might help them produce better communication/ad strategies.

Interface: Testing how consumers respond to different levels of flattery would help in shaping the tone.  This would ensure that consumers do not become turned off.