Join Chris Nodder for an in-depth discussion in this video Self-esteem, aspiration, and status differences, part of Persuasive UX: The Power of Self-Image.
It can't be that every person who uses an iPhone is incapable of changing the signature file. So why do we see this text so often? I hope that the person who created that default, sent from my iPhone signature file, got well rewarded for their work. Taken at face value, it's little more than an advertisement for a product, yet users seem strangely reluctant to change it. This reluctance is due, at least, in part to what that small phrase says about them as an individual. It remains there because it's boastful in a socially acceptable way.
The interaction designer found a way to let users advertise their status as owners of a shiny desirable gadget. This let's people feel more important It affects customers at an emotional level but also serves a very financial goal for the developer. Issues with how we perceive ourselves, our self image, are easy targets for persuasive design. We desire to be richer, more beautiful, or more popular and lots of companies promise to help us get there. But emphasizing status differences, they create desire, and then show how that desire can be met using their products.
With my iPhone, for example above, the signature file is saying, I'm an important person, because I have an iPhone. The beauty of this from a marketing perspective is that even if the email recipient has an iPhone themselves, They'll just feel a sense of smugness, for being apart of the same club. The boastful signature file works either as aspirational marketing,or as status confirmation. You can also hook into people's desires by showing your product in settings that would be aspirational for your target audience. This may include showing it being used by aspirational individuals all to achieve end results that your audience aspire to.
It also helps to provide a comparison point. What does your product provide more of for customers? Will users be richer, more popular, smarter, or all three? Aspiration is a very powerful persuasive technique because it hooks into our natural competitiveness. Typically, we want to do better than the people around us. Either to get a bigger bonus at work, to drive a nicer car then a neighbor, or just to get a bigger helping of dessert than the person sitting next to us. Aspiration is a form of envy.
Now, what happens when you approach envy from the other side? Susan Fisk, a professor of psychology at Princeton argues that while we look up to the haves with envy we look down on the have nots with scorn. Especially around economic issues. Rich people are viewed as competent le yet cold. Poor people as incompetent yet warm. We're always comparing ourselves against others. And when we look down with scorn, we're saying, you aren't worthy of my attention.
Envy and scorn work because they're two groups. Those that have. And those that have not. Members of the group who do not have thing are envious of the group who does have it. Who in turn scorn those who do not. Employing envy is a motivating factor therefore means highlighting the differences in status. You can do this effectively by showing successful users' achievements and importance in a very public manner. You wouldn't pay $20 at the departure gate in order to board an airplane earlier, but you might pay $20 more when you purchase your ticket In order to fly with an airline that gives you that privilege as part of a mileage rewards plan.
Why? Because you too can be elite and get that extra five inches of leg room. If you just slug it out in cattle class for another 15 trips. The airline is counting on the envy that all the other passengers feel as they watch the early boarders fill up the overhead bins. And as they traipse past the frequent flyers who got first class upgrades on their way to the seats at the back of the plane. By encouraging the desired behavior in passengers time after time, passengers start to develop habits around that company. After a while, the habit becomes sufficiently ingrained and the reward becomes sufficiently achievable.
The passengers stop comparing prices so diligently and just go with the familiar airline. The strength of this perceived reward is all in how you show it, though. The member only perks must be seen as sufficiently valuable. For something like grocery store reward cards, showing two prices for each item on the shelf is a sufficient reward. Even if it's working more as a punishment for non-members than as an incentive for members. The lure of airline rewards is that by being loyal to the airline, rather than using price checking sites, you'll gain more creature comforts and even free flights in the future.
What's important here is that you offer a service that's exclusive to the group. And that you ensure that people can relate to the longer term and goal they get with the re, award system. It's important to constantly remind them of the benefits that accrue with awards. So, to sum up, you can leverage people's sense of self-esteem in your persuasive designs by being aspirational, showing how your product can make people feel more like they're heroes, be those: sporting personalities, movie stars or even just their popular friends.
Show how it makes them appear more popular, smarter or richer. Remember, in aspiration, appearance is everything. You can also emphasize achievement. People tend to have status envy. So showing them the way to achieve a higher status is very motivational. Member only perks, and loyalty programs, use this type of approach. With these types of reward, it is important to con, constantly remind people, of the benefits they get for reaching the next status level. Once people have achieved the level of status, let them advertise it in a public way.
Scorn. The flip side of envy is also a powerful motivator. Online forums do this by giving frequent contributors different membership levels, which displayed next to their names. Just one word of caution here. Be careful if your persuasive design leverage is scorn. Being envious gives people feelings of guilt, but being scornful often leads to dehumanizing of the scorned group which can have dangerous repercussions.
Companies create desire by implying their products will make us happier and more popular, like the celebrities that promote them. And while you might not be able to hire an athlete or movie star for your next campaign, you too can tap into self-image with the right persuasive design techniques. Chris Nodder leads you through this fascinating aspect of user experience in this installment of Persuasive UX.