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  • Writer's picturePaul Walker

My most powerful marketing learning: The Werther effect

Updated: Aug 14, 2022

I always wondered why winning customers, and most importantly showing we're winning more customers, leads to more sales.

Because when I first started, I really struggled to get the first few sales but after those sales came in, everything became easier. And I was puzzled. Why does making more sales generate more sales?

Why? And how can I use this effect in my marketing to continue increasing sales?

Well, I was reading a marketing book and came across the Werther effect. And this is a pretty good explanation. And more importantly how we can use this effect to generate more sales.

The Werther effect was initially noted in a completely different scientific context, but its effects are well noted and applied to marketing. In fact, one of the most influential marketing books of the 21st Century 'Influence' has a whole chapter dedicated to purely the Werther Effect in marketing. In essence, it's all about mimicry. This means when us humans see other people doing something, we mimic it. And this is especially true when it comes to buying behaviours.

This behaviour starts in children and continues into adulthood for very good reasons. For example, I bought a German automobile with a good brand because lots of other people I know bought it and say it's great. Some people might call me a sheep because of this but following others mean I don't have to spend time thinking about reliability or whether it's good.

In fact, I began to realise a lot of marketing tools are grounded in the Werther effect. For example, marketers talk about tactics like showing there are shortages of something which demonstrates lots of people have been buying it. Or high end fashion where where they deliberately hold back certain items.

And this even helps with increasing our prices. In fact, the simple act of increasing prices generated more sales for me. Because if it costs more, we must be in more demand and our service must be good!

And the most powerful way we do it with video. Because video creates trust as we can see context and authenticity. And showing lots of customers on video saying your product is fantastic is the ultimate proof. The kind of proof that creates tremendous demand.

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