Cialdini Persuasion Series – Principle 2: Commitment & Consistency

March 24, 2015 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Our Cialdini series heats up this week as we take a closer look at commitment and consistency, the second persuasion principle that’s made up of two, closely related parts. As with reciprocity, marketers can harness the might of these two concepts to gain market share without having to resort to expensive ad spending.

Commitment and consistency center on the outward self-image of your leads and would-be customers. In essence, people are hardwired to honor commitments they’ve made, whether it’s just verbally or more formally in writing, when they come to view it as being consistent with their self-image.

This powerful duo plays on the psychological idea of cognitive dissonance, which is a very distressing feeling that all of us want to keep at bay by any means necessary.

Suppose a would-be customer signed up to attend a sales presentation from your company, but then reneged at the last moment and backed out of making a purchase. He would develop an uncomfortable, contradictory feeling from his refusal to be consistent with his earlier action of attending the presentation, which symbolized commitment to your company.

To reconcile this discomfort, he’d eventually either go through with the purchase anyway or rationalize a reason to explain why he decided not to buy. Either way, the lack of being consistent with a prior commitment is problematic for the human mind. That’s exactly why getting your leads to first commit to something innately pressures them to be consistent with that commitment and honor it.

Holding Contests on Social Media

Many companies hold contests for their fan base on social media sites like Facebook. Contests are an effective way to raise a brand’s profile and also engage with followers and customers, but they’re also an ideal way to instill commitment in potential buyers. When people willingly participate in a contest, they’re already publicly acknowledging that they like a brand, which is a form of commitment. This makes it harder for them to refuse follow-up offers from a company due to the consistency aspect of this principle.

Sephora on Facebook

Sephora’s a challenger brand to Macy’s in the U.S. retail cosmetics market. While Sephora has grown impressively since starting out a few decades back, it’s still waybehind Macy’s in sales: approximately $2 billion to Macy’s’ $3.25 billion in annual sales. To try and bridge this huge gap, Sephora has had to be innovative by launching Facebook contests. One in particular stands out.

It ran a Facebook contest that invited people to enter for an opportunity to win a five-day trip to Costa Rica, plus a whole year’s worth of Sephora surf products.

Sephora sweepstakes facebook

The beauty of this contest is twofold:

  1. First, people who enter are making a public commitment in self-identifying as Sephora patrons
  2. Second, Sephora gets to use that commitment when it later on markets to those same contest entrants to persuade them to buy its products

Dunkin’ Donuts on Instagram

Dunkin’ Donuts is a challenger brand to Starbucks when you consider each company’s market share in the coffee market. The two companies both have a long and storied history, so it only makes sense that the former attempts something unique in its attempt to wrestle some market share from Starbucks.

Instagram is an ever-growing, really popular social media site that’s owned by Facebook. More and more brands are using Instagram’s photo-centric approach to social sharing to showcase their products via vivid images.

A short while ago, Dunkin’ Donuts had an idea: Why not hold a Halloween contest where our customers can decorate our coffee cups in crazy, over-the-top Halloween décor? Entrants would post take pictures of their wacky decorations, and Dunkin’ Donuts would showcase the stunning results on Instagram. Winners would get $100 gift cards.

LOOMIS Imagibrand Process

By holding this themed contest, Dunkin’ Donuts was able to persuade a number of Instagram users to publicly commit to being Dunkin’ Donuts followers and fans. Later on, when the company launches another marketing push for its coffee, it’s going to succeed at persuading some of these same people to be consistent and enter another contest or purchase Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

Approaching People with Small Requests

Starting off by asking people small requests will be a powerful approach to setting them on the path of commitment and consistency. When requests are small, people are likelier to fulfill them, and as soon as a company has its foot in the door with leads in this way, it gets easier to make them commit to larger requests down the line.

Conversion Voodoo and Its Commitment Checkbox

Conversion Voodoo is a startup conversion rate optimization company. It knows that the only way to get more sales and clients is by doing a stellar job for existing clients. That’s exactly what it did for a mortgage company when it included a commitment checkbox on the client’s homepage. The checkbox centered on an affirmative, but small commitment that persuaded the mortgage company’s clients to convert at a rate of 11% better than in the past.


By persuading more of its client’s leads to check that box, Conversion Voodoo made some of them more likely to go on to submit mortgage applications. Those leads wanted to be seen as consistent with their initial commitment when they checked that small box.

KISSmetrics and Its Free Case Study Commitment

KISSmetrics is a web and customer analytics software that competes against Google Analytics, far and away the leader in the industry. Like all the other brands featured here, KISSmetrics doesn’t have the infinite resources of Google to spend on costly ad campaigns to convince people to choose it over Google Analytics.

Instead, the company uses a sign-up commitment form on its blog that gives site visitors the chance to commit to getting a free case study about getting effective outcomes from their marketing channels.

KISS Metrics

When a site visitor makes this commitment and accepts the free case study, he’s also making a commitment to the service that KISSmetrics sells. In this case, it’s web analytics. Down the line, site visitors who get the case study will feel a psychological need to be consistent with this behavior, which ups KISSmetrics’ chances of selling its service to those site visitors.

A Powerful Tag Team

This is the only Cialdini principle of persuasion that comes in a duo. When used properly on social media and websites, commitment and consistency are very potent factors of persuasion that can substantially increase  conversions and sales.

Your prospects’ minds are hardwired to feel a certain sense of obligation to a previously made commitment. It doesn’t matter if that commitment was just small or if it was only on a sign-up form on your website. What matters is that your leads will remember making a commitment like this, which will significantly increase the chances that they’ll choose your product or service down the line.

Next up for next week is an equally powerful Cialdini principle of persuasion: social proof. It’s particularly relevant these days in marketing with the emphasis on social media and testimonials. Stay tuned!

challenger brandconfirmation biasconsistency biassocial media

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.