The Psychology Behind The Worlds Greatest Offer


Have you ever been asked to make a donation at the end of a purchase in a retail store?

Yes, you know, this perfectly scripted short pitch that sounds something like:  "Would you like to donate 1$ to the Children's Hospital in support of kids in need ?" or "Would you like to round that $4.55 up to $5.00 and make a donation to National' Diabetes Research?"

So did you give?

Was it a positive or negative experience?

A recent study by CBS reported that nearly 90% of the population has a negative opinion about those checkout charities.

So if nobody like them, how come are they working so well for retails and charities?

Checkout charities go even further than the theory of constraint (mafia offer) which is the ‘fact to construct an offer that is simply too good for the market to refuse. In fact, they construct an offer that is simply impossible for the market to refuse.

Let's reverse engineer the process and understand why they actually work so well?

Let’s have a closer look at the 8 psychological triggers in this offer and why they work so well.

"Would you like to donate $1 to the Children's Hospital in support of kids in need ?"

Let’s review them all:

1) The Helpers’ high:

Did you notice that the offer is about giving a donation to charity? They leverage the Helper’s high because they know that you want to feel good about giving rather than feeling guilty.

2) Anchoring effect 1:

Notice how they always ask you for your $1 AFTER sharing with you the total billing amount. When you compare the $1.00 to your large bill you are so much more likely to give! You think about it, compare and you say yes.

3) Anchoring effect 2:

They skilfully asked you for a small donation of $1.00. Even if you rationalise and don’t compare it to the groceries bill, it is a still small amount. So what they actually do is trick you by purposefully choosing a very small amount. So you think, « Ok it is only $1! »

4) Authority: 

Do you notice the assertive way they ask you for a donation? They don’t ask if you would like to donate to charity. They decide FOR YOU how much you should give. They took control over you by choosing the amount. This feeling of authority has a big influence on your decision to accept the donation.

5) Peer pressure 1:

She(he) looks at you and you know they are likely judging you. You feel so uncomfortable, you don’t want to disappoint her and look bad. So you say yes!

6) Peer pressure 2:

You are not talking over the phone or in the comfort of your own home. You are in a public place, with plenty of people in front, behind, left and right. «What will they think about me if I say no?»

7) The surprise effect:

You are taken by complete surprise. Everything happened so fast. No time to say: "Can I call my wife and discuss it with her ?" or "Let me think about it and I will get back to you next week”. You  have to make a decision right now.

8) Time pressure:

You are in a very fast paced environment. You hear the rapid ‘beep’, ‘beep’ of all the items being scanned. You rush to make sure the person behind you can checkout faster. The cashier rushes because that is what they have been taught to do at all time. You have to make a decision. Quickly!

Eight psychological triggers combined into one little offer!

I call this genius.

I have absolutely no idea of who invented this technique but I would put them in the same category as Claude C. Hopkins.

Claude is the grandfather of modern marketing and advertising.

If you are into marketing, you should definitely read his book: Scientific Advertising.

He perfectly understood human psychology and had a genius talent to figure out how consumers think and what would motivate them to buy.  He is also the legend that made toothpaste famous by creating a habit of checking the grainy film on your teeth’ (cue) and using toothpaste and brushing your teeth to get a feeling of a clean mouth (reward).

The methods and medium of advertising have changed since then but the principles and foundations are still the same.

You might wonder why I am talking about toothpaste or a 1$ donation charity in a blog about boat sales. Well, simply because it represents one of the most important elements of your business: the offer. 

There is always something to learn about marketing in every day situations.

So next time you think you have been commercially screwed or pressured, don’t complaint. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn and educate yourself about marketing.

So what can you do to improve your offer today ?

I hope that you enjoyed this blog post. Please share your thoughts or comments with me and please subscribe to receive free updates regularly.

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Vincent Finetti