Sometimes your customers feel in control, powerful, and sometimes they don’t.
What if I told you that sense of power shapes what they want and buy?
Power and marketing are intertwined.
Use these findings to your advantage to craft campaigns & products.
1/ What is power?
Power is asymmetric control over valued resources in social relations, with a low-power party dependent on a high-power party.
Power is relative and fluctuates.
For example, you can be the boss at work but feel powerless dealing with a teenager at home.
2/ Power states can be activated by advertising
Power is not just social, it’s cognitive.
You can prime people into a state of power.
And you can do that just by asking them to recall a moment they had or lacked power.
3/ Power & action
A high-powered state is proven to increase the likelihood of taking action and taking risks.
There is an illusory sense of control that comes with high-powered states.
Think about this when you're crafting a CTA!
4/ Thinking of others
A high-power state leads individuals to be more self-oriented and less likely to take the perspective of others.
In a famous experiment, participants are asked to draw an E on their forehead.
High-powered participants were more likely to draw it as below.
5/ Power & abstraction
High-powered individuals tend to represent ideas and events in a more abstract way.
Low-powered individuals tend to focus on concrete details in their environment.
In the aftermath of 9/11, a study found that government officials tended to describe the events in more abstract terms than volunteers and victims.
6/ Power & physiology
High-power states have an impact on physiology as well.
It has been proven to induce a higher level of testosterone and a lower level of cortisol.
7/ Spending on self vs. others
A high-powered state is correlated with buying more for yourself than for others.
In this experiment, high and low-powered individuals are asked to purchase chocolates.
In one case they purchase for themselves and in another for others.
8/ The value of what you own
Higher-power individuals tend to put more value on what they own.
Here are the results of a famous experiment gifting a pen to participants and asking them how much they think it’s worth.
9/ Acquiring and displaying status
There are objects that indicate one’s place in the social hierarchy to others.
Low-powered individuals are willing to pay more for such objects, especially if those objects can be consumed publicly.
10/ Power and size distortion
Power states influence how large we see objects.
In an experiment, participants were asked to draw a set of poker chips of $1, $10, and $100.
All poker chips were of identical size, but low-powered individuals drew larger chips for higher value chips.
11/ Preference for performance vs. status
Ìn a high-powered state you tend to focus on object quality and performance rather than status.
In an experiment, participants are asked to generate slogans for a BMW ad.
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Many thanks to Derek Rucker, Adam Galinsky, and David Dubois for their paper: “Power and consumer behavior: How power shapes who and what consumers value”. This article was heavily inspired by their work.
Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363–1368
Dubois, D., Rucker, D. D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2010). The accentuation bias: Money literally looms larger (and sometimes smaller) to the powerless. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(7), 199–205.
Dubois, D., Denton, E., Rucker, D. D. (2011). Dynamic effects of power on possessions, preferences, and desires. Unpublished Manuscript, Northwestern University.
Galinsky, A. D., Gruenfeld, D. H., & Magee, J. C. (2003). From power to action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(3), 453–466.
Galinksy, A. D., Magee, J. C., Inesi, M. E., & Gruenfeld, D. H. (2006). Power and perspectives not taken. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1068–1074
Magee, J. C., Milliken, F. J., & Lurie, A. R. (2010). Power differences in the construal of a crisis: The immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(3), 354–370
Rucker, D. D., Dubois, D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2011a). Generous paupers and stingy princes: Power drives consumer spending on self and others. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(6), 1015–1029.
Rucker, D. D., Dubois D., & Galinsky A. D. (2011b). Status as a salve for a loss of power. Unpublished manuscript. Northwestern University