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Book review: Hidden Persuasion

Book review: Hidden Persuasion


33 psychological influence techniques in advertising

Designing for behavior change is our thing here on Osocio.  We discuss the wide area of social campaigns from all over the world. ‘Is it a good or bad campaign’ is our first question. And we often judge a campaign based on professional principles but also on personal taste.

Why are we influenced to buy one product over another? How are we stimulated to act and live more sustainably? How are we persuaded to adopt healthier lifestyles? Important questions for both advertising professionals and advertisers.
Persuasion plays the major role. And often enough persuasion is hidden. That’s what this new book is about. The book describes 33 techniques that we didn’t know it existed, but we do recognize when reading.


One of the most watched campaigns here on Osocio is this fundraising campaign from the Dutch Cordaid.

The technique of anchoring is used. A product’s value is strongly influenced by what it is compared.
As the book explains:
Cordaid’s request is to donate €1.50 to help African communities improve their basic living environment. They compare prices of luxurious products we normally buy for ourselves with what a home costs in some African communities. By setting these standards, the required donation seems very small.

See our post about the campaign here.

The book is written and designed by designer / psychologist Marc Andrews and two social psychologists, Matthijs van Leeuwen and Rick Baaren.
Marc is no stranger for us. He has shown his three favourite campaigns here.
And this book of his hand is an important work for us.

This new book is pleasant to read even though it seems rather academical. The influence techniques described are illustrated with visual examples. Including a explanation of scientific knowledge behind it. An expert assessment, with stars by the authors, shows how effective the technique is and how easy it is to implement.

Some of the technique titles: Foot in the door, Promised land (known from the Axe’s campaigns), Self persuasion, Social proof, Humour, Astroturfing, Trustworthiness.

Disrupt & Reframe
This is a technique that we often encounter at Osocio. The advertiser tries to get the viewer out of their stable mindset in order to make them open to new information. When targets are disrupted or surprised, their attention is captured and they are more likely to comply with a subsequent proposal.
Nice example from the book: a panhandler could ask for 39 cents. This unusual request is the disruption, it attracts attention, disables initial resistance, and leads to more ‘Yes’ responses.

The message that ‘hipsters’, ‘cat lovers’ or ‘the tattooed’ deserve to die makes you stop and try to make sense of what’s going on.
The reframe in the text on the campaign website explains that it concerns lung cancer, and that often people think that patients with lung cancer did something to deserve it or that they have ‘bad genes’. The ad attempts to persuade the viewer that it can happen to anyone.

See our post about this campaign here.



When a brand or product is seen as human-like, people will like it more and feel closer to it.
Or the opposite way:

See our post about this campaign here.

I really enjoyed this book. I see new campaigns every day and I have been working in the advertising industry for many years. Nevertheless, I have learned many new techniques that I have subconsciously knew but now can give a name. And knowing more now about the effectiveness.

The book isn’t just for advertising people. It is readable and informative for advertisers too. For charities thus.
It is not a book that you read from beginning to end. It is a book to browse. Highly recommended.

See a preview from the book here.

ISBN: 978-90-6369-314-5
Author: Marc Andrews, Dr. van Leeuwen and Prof Dr. van Baaren
Design: andrews:degen
Format: hardcover
Dimensions: 24.5 x 18 cm
Pages: 192
Available here.

Click to enlarge:


Founder of Osocio. It all started with collecting election posters in 1973. And that's never stopped. Read more.