The Red Cross and The Reciprocity Principle

A door drop thumped emphatically on to the doormat this week, from The Red Cross.

Stuffed to the gills with goodies to try and persuade me to give to this most worthy of charities. This was a direct response pack put together by somebody who really knows what they’re doing. Lovely jubbly!

As well as the letter—nice and long, two sides of smallish type, long PS. Weak headline, weakish opening—takes a while to get to the point but its heart’s in the right place.

Demands that I give a fiver upfront though; an ‘early close’ we DM folk call that. This one’s in the first headline so you can’t get much earlier than that.

But what the pack really majors on is reciprocity. This is a tried and tested sales technique that relies on me giving you something in order for you to (unconsciously probably) feel obliged to give me something in return. In this case, your hard-earned fiver.

(There are loads of interesting studies on how the principle works. Cialdini is the name to Google here.)

So how do they leverage the reciprocity principle? By including in the pack a bookmark, two greetings cards for me to use, two floral drinks coasters and a biro!

All in an envelope with a huge window so I can see the goodies before I even open it.

Now this pack will have cost A LOT. But the people who put it together know precisely what they’re doing. Because they know that the more gifts they include for me, the more likely I will be to donate to them in return. The ROI will work.

How do they know? Because they’ll have tested in small increments.

Put one gift in, response goes up. Put another one, response goes up again. Put some coasters in? Up again. And so on.

Until they get a killer ‘control’ pack that does the business for them time after time. It becomes harder and harder to beat.

And that’s when they call me in. Please.


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