“Believe me; I have no idea what I’m talking about…”


A less confidence expert are more persuasive and compelling then a certain one. This is the findings of Zakary Tormala, associate professor of marketing at Standfor’s Graduate School of Business. Published in Journal of Consumer Research, no. 36, 2010, and presented in the March 2011 edition of HBR.

He did a study when people were reading a review of a fictitious restaurant. All the reviews were favourable and were written by both experts (restaurant critics) and non experts (You or me just happening to blog about our experience).

What he found was that when an expert was less confidence about their opinion they were seen as more persuasive and compelling. The opinions were presented as: “I give this restaurant a 4 out of 5 starts” (certain expert) and “I have been here only once so I am uncertain if I would give them 4 out of 5 stars” (the uncertain expert).

When it came to the non experts it was the other way around: The certain amateur was perceived as more persuasive and compelling than the uncertain one.

Their conclusion to these surprising findings was when something unexpected was happening you paid more attention, and when a expert restaurant critic was showing doubt, this is surprising and therefore you pay more attention. It’s the same thing with the non experts. You do not expect them to be experts so when they show doubt you find that normal.

But there is really no surprise to the fact that surprising people makes them more alert and therefore more receptive of your message.

This is taught in every class where you learn to make a speech, and this is what your Creative Agency is trying to get you to understand… You can’t just say what you want to say, you have to surprise your audience so they will pay attention. If you are selling something and just plainly said so, you would lose peoples attention if there is a lot of interference (other ads) together with yours, because they would expect you to say just that. It’s what; “Capturing your audience” is about (to some extent).

Think about it: Do you ever get the feeling when you see a movie trailer that you in 2 minutes have seen the whole plot of the entire 2 hour movie? – That you actually have seen the whole movie… I get that a lot, especially in trailers for romantic comedy’s… It kind of spoils the fun, takes the element of surprise out of the experience of seeing the whole thing…

What defines a good movie or a commercial; it keeps your attention until the end and you are still surprised by the ending – but not too surprised – humans don’t handle that well. Then we start disliking it.

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