The Pratfall Effect
Make more blunders, make more sales
Hey there 👋 - Abhi here!
Happy Thursday to the 24,475 marketers reading today :)
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Today we're going to cover:
the Pratfall Effect
how Volkswagen first used it
and your 3-step checklist to do it right
Reading Time = 3 minutes 44 seconds
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The Pratfall Effect
Classes started again last week. And as I sat there in my first lecture, my professor almost tripped mid-sentence. Now, while I held back my laugh, I thought to myself - it's going to be hard recovering from that.
But man, was I wrong.
I don't think I've ever paid this much attention in a lecture. It might be partly because I'm a psychology nerd. But the other half - I think it all comes down to the Pratfall Effect.
The Pratfall Effect states that interpersonal appeal increases when a person makes a mistaek (see what I did there?) My favorite application of this in marketing comes from Volkswagen:
Look at the three ads, and you'll notice that Volkswagen starts by admitting its flaws. Now you might think this is counterintuitive, but it's science.
Admitting your flaws with a sense of humor makes brands like this more relatable and likable. That being said, it doesn't apply everywhere.
The Pratfall Effect works best under particular conditions. So let's cover that before you go around insulting your brand...
3 Tactics For You
1/ The Right Kind Of Target
The Pratfall Effect should be used to increase the likability of a competent-seeming and superior person (or brand). Not just anyone or anything.
The research shows that the mean attraction scores:
for a competent-seeming person with a pratfall (mistake) increase by 9.4 points
for an "average" person with a pratfall decrease by 20.3 points
The average person's mean attraction scores went from a positive 17.8 to a negative 2.5 after the pratfall. Observers were now unattracted to the average person!
So study your personal/product perception and determine whether people see it as "competent" and "superior" before you try to leverage this effect.
2/ The Right Kind Of Humor
Self-deprecating humor is crucial.
Done right, it'll increase the perception of wittiness without harming your credibility. Turning that mistake you made into your best-performing marketing creative.
By far, the best example - The Duolingo Push. This video was released a few months after customers started joking about Duolingo's incessant notifications.
3/ Your Customer's Self-Esteem
People of average self-esteem found a superior who committed a pratfall significantly more attractive than their "perfect counterpart."
But people with high or low self-esteem were significantly more attracted to the superior when they did not blunder.
Once again, it all comes down to understanding your customer. Try to learn more about their self-esteem and their brand perception. If they think your brand is competent, they have average self-esteem, and you can roast yourself - that's the holy trinity.
And that's all from me :)
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ICYMI, last week we analyzed The Underdog Effect
A Review From A Fellow Marketing Psychologist...
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See you next Thursday,
Abhishek "1X Founder 1X Exit" Shah