Sometimes (and too often) marketers work to manipulate people. I define manipulation as working to spread an idea or generate an action that is not in a person's long-term best interest.
The easiest people to manipulate are those that don't demand a lot of information, are open to messages from authority figures and are willing to make decisions on a hunch, particularly if there's a promise of short-term gains.
If you want to focus on the short run and sell something, get a vote or gather a mob, the easiest place to start is with populations that leave themselves open to manipulation.
There are habits and activities that leave people open to manipulation. I'm not saying they are wrong or right, just pointing out that these behaviors make you open to being manipulated… Here are a few general categories of behaviors that manipulators seek out:
- Believing something because you heard someone say it on a news show on cable TV.
- Being a child (or acting like one).
- Buying penny stocks.
- Repeating a mantra heard from a figurehead or leader of a tribe without considering whether it's true.
- Trying to find a short cut to lose weight, make money or achieve some other long-term goal.
- Ignoring the scientific method and embracing unexamined traditional methods instead.
- Focusing on (and believing) easily gamed bestseller lists or crowds.
- Inability to tolerate fear and uncertainty.
- Focus on now at the expense of the long term.
- Allowing the clothes of the messenger (a uniform, a suit and tie, a hat) to influence your perception of the information he delivers (add gender, fame, age and race to this too).
- Reliance on repetition and frequency to decide what's true.
- Desire to stick with previously made decisions because cognitive dissonance is strong.
- Inability to ignore sunk costs.
- Problem saying 'no' in social situations.
Interesting to note that AM radio used to be filled with ads for second mortgages. And now? Gold.
Manipulating people using modern techniques is astonishingly easy (if the marketer has few morals). You only make it easier when you permit people and organizations that want to take advantage of you to do so by allowing them to use your good nature and your natural instincts against you. It happens every day in Washington DC, online, on TV and in your local community institutions.