Similarity and likability of fleeting attraction

They are similar to me, therefore I will like them.

The technique

Friends influence your behaviour more than a stranger. If a friend recommends a product or a brand you are considerably more likely to buy that over any other item. This is why referrals in business are so important.

How do brands use this effect without first being referred by a friend? Simple, by making their product or service relatable to you. By increasing relatability by a small amount can increase compliance to what they are asking. Whether it is to purchase something, engage in a campaign or support a cause. The best example of fleeting attraction is coke’s 2014 campaign ‘Share a coke’, where you could get your own personalised bottle printed with your name. To see your name, a friend's name or a relative's name on the bottle vastly increases the likelihood you will interact with (by sharing on instagram), purchase the product and positively reinforce your relationship with the brand.

By increasing relatability by a small amount can increase compliance to what you are asking.

The Psychology

Mere similarity

Jerry Burger and his research team carried out key experiments in 2001 which highlighted this influence effect – through what they termed mere similarity1. They found that by manipulating the liking and familiarity between the participant and the other people in the experiment they were able to affect the compliance to a requested behaviour later in the day. Those with more familiarity doubled the amount of compliance when asked to do something. In the case of the experiment to write an 8-page essay on their thoughts about the experiment.

An observed mere agreement effect [is] due to increased feelings of connectedness or affiliation.
Pandelaere 2010 2

A similarity that can be something as trivial as both people’s names starting with the same letter, to sitting together silently for a couple of minutes prior to the experiment to having a good friend in common.

Examples of fleeting attraction

Coke’s name campaign was one of the first to produce individually branded products on a global scale. A campaign that saw sales jump by 19 percent in 2014 - its largest year-over-year growth in 20-ounce packaging in it history3.

“At the end of the day, our name is the most personal thing we have. It's our fingerprint…our identity…in one word.”
Lucie Austin, Coke Brand Executive.

Following their success a whole host of other brands quickly followed suit with by creating personalised branded products.

Mere similarity in cokes share a bottle campaign, psychology of advertising Photo credit: Mike Mozart Flickr CC licence

Another example of fleeting attraction is when a company uses your name in correspondence, addressing an email subject line and email to you personally increases opening and engagement dramatically.

Have you seen any examples of the technique used recently? Comment below.

This article is a part of the Advertiser's psychology toolkit - the psychology of selling and marketing in design.

Read the others in the series:

1 Burger, J. Soroka, S. Gonzago, M. Murphy, E. Somervell, E. The Effect of Fleeting Attraction on Compliance to Requests. 2001
2 Pandelaere, M. Briers, B. Dewitte, S. Warlop, L. Better think before agreeing twice Mere agreement: A similarity-based persuasion mechanism 2010

Form for thought - A blog about design psychology and design thinking for graphic designers, web designers, ui designers, ux and illustrators. Looking into the psychology of colour, user behaviour and advertising psychology.