Mixed Signals: Influencing People for Good

Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

There are people in this country who missed Thanksgiving dinner, on purpose. They gave up the yummy casseroles and sleep-inducing turkey to camp in front of a retail store and await its opening for Black Friday’s consumerist goodness. Marketing specialists call this phenomenon “social proof.”

In an article written by Aileen Lee, social proof is defined as “the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something.” Social proof is the reason people wait in line for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It also explains why infomercial responses actually increase when operators are busy: it signals that the product is in demand and stirs FOMA (“Fear Of Missing Out”) in the buyer. People want to be part of what lots of other people are part of.

We observe what others are doing and often take our behavioral cues from what we see. This can be for good or for ill, of course, but the power we have for good should not be minimized.

Think of the “positive influence” that is possible when believers in Christ “do something” that creates a cue for proper behavior. Now, I realize our goal is not moralistic. Rather, it should be that people “see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16, ESV). Our social proof would be for God’s glory, not simply moral improvement.

I’ve been so encouraged to see Christians getting involved specifically. I am humbled to know people in my church family who are creating a positive social influence by adopting orphans, giving sacrificially, investing in communities, and visiting the imprisoned. They inspire me! In these arenas alone, Christians have ample room to create social proof that does much more than just influence consumer decisions and buyer behavior. Such social proof could cause everyone around us, Christian and non-Christian alike, to give glory to our Father.

Let’s love as the Father loves so that when others find out what we are doing, they are influenced for good and for good.

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