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We feel an innate pressure to return a favor


In his marketing book Influence, Robert Cialdini recounted the story of the financial struggles of the Hare Krishna religion in the 1960s. The group was having money problems, so in an effort to raise donations, they began going to airports to ask for contributions from travelers. Cialdini says that he visited multiple airports to see this happen, and every time, the same thing happened.

Members of Hare Krishna would give small gifts to passersby, from flowers to books. These bystanders often didn’t know what Hare Krishna was, much less whether it was a cause they agreed with. Yet, when they received this gift, the “rule of reciprocation” (as Cialdini calls it) took over and they reached into their pocket to give the Hare Krishna member some money. 

One of the most deeply-rooted human behaviors is the return of kindness received. This is known as Reciprocity. When we receive kindness from others, we are wired to return it in some form in the future.

Your initial exchanges with prospects and customers will set the tone for their level of reciprocity. Something as simple as a free giveaway can trigger the desire to return a favor in the future. Try to think about creative ways you can give to your audience in a way that will cause them to return the favor in the form of more attention or even a purchase.

Primary Source:

Jacob, C., Gueguen, N. & Boulbry, G. (2015). Effect of an unexpected small favor on compliance with a survey request. Journal of Business Research, 68-56-59.

Dream Category:


The DREAM framework, created by Vivid Labs, represents a research-backed framework for effective marketing messages. It stands for Desire, Routing, Emotion, Attention, and Memorability.

AIDA Category:

Desire, Action
AIDA is a well-known framework for assembling a marketing message. It stands for the four steps of human decision-making: Attention, Interest, Decision, and Action.

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