Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

What

The seminal book on persuasion that everyone and their mom recommends (with good reason).

Why

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to influence someone’s behavior, opinion, or beliefs, this is the book.

Most of today’s popular books on persuasion and sales are rip offs of this guy. The reason this is the “seminal” text everyone goes back to is because this stuff works. It’s not enough to know the “hacks” you read on Joe Shmo’s blog, you need to understand why those hacks work. This book explains that in frightening and fascinating (but still palatable) depth.

TL;DR: Don’t just watch the RSA animate – read the book.

Disclaimer

It doesn’t read as nicely as the memoir style storytelling (after all, Cialdini isn’t a copywriter), but don’t be deterred. Worth pushing through for the “ah ha” moments it will inspire for your sales.

Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

What

A fascinating look at the psychology of why we buy, how we eat, and why we eat (that we aren’t aware of).

Why

I’ve gifted this book the most because it is jam-packed with useful insights into psychology, human behavior, and persuasion.

Even if you’re not interested in food, the studies Wansink outlines will blow your mind. He shows you how emotional food really is and how susceptible we are to things like social forces or our environment when it comes to what and how we eat.

You’ll learn details like how music influences how you eat, the effect of menu labeling on order options, how pricing effects value perception, how your senses deceive you, and more troubling truths about human nature when it comes to food.

Disclaimer

It will change how you eat.

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom

What

Exposé on how companies manipulate us into loving them and buying more. But with science. Neuroscience. #nerdalert

Why

If you’re on the fence about whether “branding” actually works, this will tip the scale.

Lindstrom’s done a ton of research in the field with some pretty big brand names. He takes you behind-the-scenes as he exposes their manipulative tricks and explains why they work. Some will surprise you; others will trouble you (like how the addition of sweat bubbles on a photo of a can of soda can dramatically increase sales or how music influences your purchase behavior in stores).

He sensationalizes the “manipulation and deception” angle a bit for the sake of controversy. Most of what’s in here isn’t bad, it’s smart and generally good business practices (like giving samples of your clothes to celebrities with social influence, for example).

(PS: This is the second book to a companion, Buy-ology, but this one is better. And includes as much as the first + some.)

Disclaimer

It’s not a book on “branding.” It’s about how the brands we create influence everything from our purchase behavior to our beliefs about the world.

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz

What

The bible for copywriting.

Why

If you want to be a persuasive writer, you need this book. Forget ads, I was convincing my husband to agree with me within days of reading this book. And that’s because “the copywriter’s primary job is to know his market. He has to know more about that market than the market knows about itself.” 

In other words: This book is about understanding people.

You can think of it as a manual for understanding human desire. Specifically, for capturing human desire and channeling it into the appeal in your ad.

The author, Eugene Schwartz, was a mail direct response copywriter in the Mad Men days. This book is his guide to writing effective ad copy that sells. It has tons of examples form the 1950s (many of which are shockingly offensive because…it was the 50s).

If you’ve ever heard people refer to market sophistication and awareness levels (hi MindValley) this is where they got it from.

I re-read it almost every year.

Disclaimer

For serious nerds only. This is a tough read. Not a beginner book. It’s dense and will be hard to get through if you’re not inherently interested in this topic.

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