Robert B. Cialdini
Robert B. Cialdini

Warren Buffet has quite some psychology books on his reading list. At least, that’s what Dr. Robert B. Cialdini said in a presentation on the last day of the Gartner CRM Summit. Discover the six universal truths of influence, the essence of influencer marketing.

During his presentation, in which he talked about his ‘universal truths’, Cialdini added that Buffet “grasps the reality of the marketplace: that, in order to build trust…you must first understand human behavior .” An obvious, yet often forgotten, truism.

It’s virtually impossible to read or talk about influence and influencer marketing without mentioning Robert B. Cialdini and his six universal truths of influence. In case you’re not familiar with his work, Cialdini wrote books such as “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” and “Influence: Science and Practice,” titles that need no further explanation.

I suppose it’s pretty obvious there is a strong link between persuasion, influence and of course even conversion on one hand and psychology on the other. Psychology is key in everything human and relational, including marketing and communication.

Understanding human behavior is a must for every customer-centric marketer

Emotions play a crucial role in everything we do, including what we call rationality. Make no mistake: rationality is often an ‘a posteriori’ explanation and sometimes even ‘a defense’ to explain our actions. We are wired, and it’s more about the way we were brought up, the little voices from the past we call morality, behavioral patterns and emotions, than about biology and genes.

Every self-respecting marketer should understand human behavior. Every customer-centric marketer should know what makes people tick.

In his presentation, Cialdini explained what he now calls “The Six Universal Truths of Influence.”

Let me give you those famous six universal truths of influence straight away: they are

  • reciprocity
  • scarcity
  • consistency
  • liking/rapport
  • authority
  • consensus.

Influencer marketing: persuasion, consistency and social proof

In these six universal truths of influence, or more precise, the truths of Cialdini, psychology is of course never far away (for obvious reasons if you know the man’s background).

It already starts in the first rule: reciprocity, in the words of Cialdini “a rule in all human cultures that obligates me to give back to you the form of behavior you first provide to me.”

The quid pro quo. It does exist in most relationships, including personal ones where the balance of the ‘quid pro quo’ is often made over a longer period. In business, it’s more direct.

Cialdini’s six truths obviously are not universal since there is no such thing as a universal truth, especially when it boils down to psychology. If not, there wouldn’t be so many psychological schools. However, Cialdini’s ‘truths’ are often used by marketers, and they do offer a good basis to work with in these times of rapid change.

You can read more about what was earlier known as the “six weapons of influence” in this article on DestinationCRM, covering the Gartner CRM Summit, in Cialdini’s books or in the article “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion,” which he wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2001 (you can buy it here).

By the way, in that paper, the six elements of persuasion – the obsession of everyone who writes “persuasive” content and wants to improve conversions, and since some time now by people who dream about social influence and becoming an influencer, which seems more about Twitter scores nowadays – are called consistency, liking, authority, scarcity, reciprocity and social proof. Social proof, consistency,…: all terms we know very well in digital marketing and in influencer marketing.

You see right away why conversion marketers, influencer marketing adepts, CRM experts, content marketing practitioners and social media marketers so often mention Cialdini.


Harnessing the Science of Persuasion – The Six Universal Truths of Influence – Robert B. Cialdini
Harnessing the Science of Persuasion – The Six Universal Truths of Influence – Robert B. Cialdini