“The majority of people who stayed in this room are reusing towels at least once during their stay”

I don’t like Facebook ads. In fact I have played the game of clicking them away and giving Facebook my reasoning (Misleading! Insulting!) just to see if their targeting gets any better. (It doesn’t.) But I see why Facebook advertising can do so well.

The phrase in the title is famous as producing a 54% compliance rate in a hotel room. All other facets of the experiment were controlled and identical. Only the tagline differed. It had started with the common “Recycle and do it for environment” which was the control message, producing just 38% compliance from the hotel guests in those rooms. Other variants actually did worse, especially those with an emphasis on the hotel’s interest in the economy. Unless you have a cause which people care enough about, they don’t want to know about your running costs or administrative issues! “Cooperate and join us” got only 36% because of this.

What was missing was the sense of collective behaviour. “The majority of guests are reusing towels at least once during their stay” produced 46% guest compliance. Which is pretty impressive. But double check this article’s title. Spot the difference? “…who stayed in this room…”! Four words, 8% performance difference!

At first look, the sentence is too long and clumsy. It wouldn’t get past most ad execs. Not catchy enough. It would get stuck at the graphic design level. Too long. But it works. Because we don’t only want to know that many people do something. We want to feel we are similar. Though a pretty long shot, “the majority of people who stayed in this room” is the best connection you will get under the circumstances. And perhaps the intimacy of a hotel room adds some zest to the thought. You are after all about to take your clothes off and have a shower in the same shower with all the guest before you.

So if they reused their towel, what the hell, I will too!

Now look at the signs around you, all of them trying to get you to do or not do something. “No Parking”? What you really wonder as you stop to do some quick shopping is how likely you are to get a ticket. So how about a sign saying “95% cars parked here without a valid coupon, got fined after just 4 minutes”? And take a careful look at that next Facebook ad. “Your friends Bob, Sue and Peter liked this product” …shucks maybe I should stop clicking those ad boxes away!

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