60% of marketers will read this blog

Dalibor Šumiga Behavioral marketing/Neuromarketing, Marketing

Yes, the title is pure click bait, but for a reason…
In the age of social networks, influencer marketing and digital PR, social status is often defined by the number of followers you have, the number of likes your posts get, etc…. It’s the same with brands, and the phenomenon of consumers liking a specific product If they see that others like that brand is called social proof.

If you’re interested in consumer psychology and behavioral marketing you’ve surely heard of the term. But did you know that there is also negative social proof?


The most famous example of negative social proof comes from the person who invented the term – Roberto Cialdini.
In an experiment Cialdini conducted for the “Arizona Petrified Forest” organization, he tested the influence different warning signs had on visitors of the park with the goal of decreasing the theft of petrified wood.

The sign which stated: “Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, destroying the natural state of the Petrified Forest.”, which is an example of negative social proof, multiplied theft by three times.

The experiment showed that the emphasis of negative social proof leads people to the following state of mind: “If others can, so can I…”


Let’s take a look at the negative social proof story  from the standpoint of everyday topics we deal with:

  • A large number of companies still has a small percentage of women in leadership positions
  • Only an x% of people donate blood
  • A very small percentage of people vote at the elections
  • A large percentage of 14 year olds enter into sexual relations
  • Only an X% of citizens recycle

I could keep on going…
As you can see, despite a large number of PR experts and marketers, the majority of communication is set up in a wrong way.

Examples of negative social proof give an alibi to the rest of the target group to behave in the same way. If a majority of companies don’t put women in leadership positions, why should I? If others don’t recycle, donate blood,vote at elections, why should I? I can’t make a difference by myself after all.

These examples aren’t just proof of how irrational we as a human species are, but also how marketing today doesn’t understand the importance of psychology.

Yes, a majority of marketers won’t read this blog, but with a positive headline (positive social proof), there’s a bigger chance a large number will.