The Ben Franklin Effect in Communications

If you want someone to do you a favor, you should do them a favor first - right? Not according to Benjamin Franklin, who once observed that," He who has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."

Translation - someone who has already done you a favor is more willing to do you more favors than someone who you've done favors for. For example, if you ask a reporter something as innocent and simple as giving you a quick run down of their editorial calendar for the upcoming months, they're more likely to write the story about your client that you're trying to secure.

Communications experts have been subtly putting this principle to work right under our noses for years. For instance, brands will often ask their audience to do small, minimal-effort tasks such as filling out a 2-question survey, subscribe to an email list, or sign a petition for a social cause. Then, they'll follow up by asking for a much more substantial task, such as purchasing a product or writing a review.

This concept has also become huge in sales - the entire concept of up-selling is predicated on the Ben Franklin Effect. For instance, when someone buys a small-price item from a brand, they're much more likely to immediately buy more items from that brand than somebody who hasn't purchased anything from the brand. In online marketplaces, we're being upsold all the time. Any good sales-person will tell you all about the power of up-selling. As a communicator, understanding the various ways to implement the Ben Franklin Effect is guaranteed to create a more active, engaged, and loyal audience. 

Try it around the house or with friends first and see if you can make it work for you, and then start thinking about communications strategies that can leverage the power of the Ben Franklin Effect. I'd like to emphasize - this shouldn't be used in a manipulative or controlling context. Rather, it can be used for social good, like aligning your brand with a social cause and asking your audience to do small things to bring awareness to that cause (and generate attention/sales for your brand in the process!). 

This crude but effective video breaks it down in further detail.