Look Inside Your Refrigerator for This Marketing History Lesson

One of the greatest consumer psychology books you could ever read is Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. If you’ve never read the book (and you SHOULD read it), it’s about how “compliance practitioners” (Cialdini’s term for people whose job it is to persuade people) like salespeople, advertisers, negotiators, lawyers, politicians, tabloid journalists, etc. use certain rhetorical “weapons of influence” to “produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people…without thinking first.”

While Cialdini talks about several of these persuasive “weapons,” the one I want to talk about here with you is the one he calls “the friendly thief,” which simply means that we are much more likely to buy from somebody we already know and like.

It seems like a self-evident point to say now in the age of the internet, social media, algorithms, affiliate marketing, mass targeted content/advertising, that “liking” has become the universally-known currency of the modern 21st-century economy.

But the cracking of the “liking code” happened long before the internet, way back in the 1940s and 50s with the invention of the “party selling plan.”

The idea behind the party selling plan is simple: a company sales rep recruits somebody, typically a housewife, to invite a bunch of her friends and family over to her house for a sales presentation that is designed to look and feel like a small party. Once there, the guests play games and get free gifts (including for the hostess) from the rep just for showing up.

Afterward, the rep conducts the sales presentation for the guests and, if it goes well, takes orders from the guests, giving a share of the profits to the hostess.

While originally invented by the Stanley Home Products company, it was perfected by a woman named Brownie Wise who ran the sales division for the Tupperware corporation and revolutionized direct sales.

Here’s Cialdini on why the Tupperware party was so successful:

“…[T]he real power of the Tupperware party comes from a particular arrangement that trades on the liking rule. Despite the entertaining and persuasive salesmanship of the Tupperware demonstrator, the true request to purchase the product does not come from this stranger; it comes from a friend to every woman in the room. Oh, the Tupperware representative may physically ask for each partygoer’s order, all right, but the more psychologically compelling requester is a housewife sitting off to the side, smiling, chatting, and serving refreshments. She is the party hostess, who has called her friends together for the demonstration in her home and who, everyone knows, make a profit from each piece sold at her party.”

Lesson: It’s that simple. We buy much more often from people we like, which includes the people our trusted friends like as well. It’s all the power of liking by association.

You’re probably on a bunch of email newsletter mailing lists and follow a lot of niche blogs dedicated to professional and personal interests you care about. And there’s probably at least one or two of them which you read religiously and regularly buy from, donate to, or follow the advice of.

Hence, when the creators of these spaces send you material telling you about someone they think you should check out, you’re going to be much more likely to actually do it.

This goes for:

  • Email and print newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube channels
  • Blogs
  • Social media pages
  • Private online groups

Whatever it is you have to sell, being able to access the media your target prospect consumes will not only instantly make you more credible (because you’ve already been vetted by someone he trusts), but you will also have a much, much better chance of being “liked” by the prospect since you will be given a platform to display your similarity and like-mindedness with the prospect.

The power of liking can vastly multiply your sales and attract high-quality customers and repeat buyers.

© 2021 David Lowenthal Enterprises Ltd.

David Lowenthal is an independent direct response fundraising serving libertarian and other freedom-loving nonprofits.

This chapter is part of his book 32 Jackpot Marketing Secrets from History’s Greatest and Craziest Persuaders! If you would like to discover more marketing secrets from some of history’s most successful entrepreneurs, copywriters, politicians, negotiators, lawyers, talk show hosts, actor/directors, political activists, and much more, you can download a copy of his FREE ebook, 32 Jackpot Marketing Secrets from History’s Greatest and Craziest Persuaders!, by signing up here.

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