Many marketers are probably familiar with the “principle of return.
It refers to the feeling that when a person receives a favor from another, he or she feels compelled to return the favor. This “principle of reciprocity” is widely used in commerce to get a large return for a small loan. (omitted).
A close example is tastings. Tastings are essentially a promotional strategy in which food is offered free of charge, and customers are asked to taste the food and buy it if they deem it worth purchasing. In addition, if a customer is offered a low-priced product after being turned down for a higher-priced product, he or she will be less likely to refuse. This is due to the principle of retribution, in which the customer feels compelled to make a concession in response to the other party’s decision to give up selling the higher-priced product and switch to the lower-priced product. Negotiation techniques that apply this psychology are sometimes called “door-in-the-face techniques” (concessionary request method).
I received a DM at my home that utilized this “principle of retaliation. It was a request for a donation to “Doctors Without Borders.
The DM enclosed a cheap ballpoint pen and two postcards. I have never particularly supported them before, but a donation application form was also enclosed along with a message stating my gratitude.
This ballpoint pen is a lame substitute that I don’t think is flattering or cool (laughs). I would never use postcards, and if I had received these items normally, I would have been absolutely disgusted even. However, I was sure that I would still find myself positively considering donating to Doctors Without Borders. Even with such a cheap item, people “feel” indebtedness for having received it. I couldn’t believe it myself.
I knew about the principle of retribution, but I had never actually felt it to this extent. I had never thought about donating to “Doctors Without Borders” until a few minutes ago, but as soon as I received this DM, my feelings changed.
I knew that this technique is sometimes used for marketing research. When you mail out a survey, you enclose a gift certificate or something similar to encourage people to fill out the survey. This method has been twice as effective as the pay after you answer format. I was sure that might be true – I had not actually experienced the “principle of return” and had taken it lightly.
The DM also reminded me that there are various businesses that utilize the “principle of return. For example, in recent years, businesses such as Rocondo have been utilizing the principle of return. This is Rocondo, an online-only shoe retailer that advertises that customers can return their shoes. In this business, customers initially buy with a light heart, thinking, “If I don’t like it, I can just return it,” but once they receive it, they are forced into a state of “refusal to part with it” and “ungrateful behavior in returning it,” which is difficult to convince themselves of. By appealing to the return policy, Rocondo lowers the hurdle to purchase and at the same time makes it difficult to return the item. I have never actually used Rocondo, so I can’t say for sure, but if the shoes are nicely packaged, it may be even more difficult to return them. Rocondo’s return rate is said to be around 30%.
In any case, human beings are very social creatures. We have a tendency to feel indebted when someone does something kind for us. This is why marketers should pay attention to this nature. In fact, not only in marketing, but also in sales, we offer many gifts to customers who may or may not give us something in return, and the principle of retribution can be applied to this as well. Furthermore, if we look closely at smooth communication between people, we will notice the existence of this “principle of return. And if smooth communication is one of the important success factors of business, marketers should not be able to ignore the “principle of return.
I believe that by viewing customer communication as a “gift to the customer,” the results will be very different. Once again, why don’t you take a hint from the “principle of return” and think about what you can do at your company? Why don’t you think about it?