Invisible Manipulation

Jonah Berger in his brilliant book, Invisible Influence discusses how consumers get influenced. Some have to do with influence which is exerted without meaning to influence. A person wearing a particular necklace may influence you to think about that type of necklace. Some are meant to influence subtly, like the aroma in a store to induce you to buy baked goods. Others are really invisible manipulations, meant to manipulate your thinking and accepting lower standards of service.

Let me give you some examples

Nike and shoe colours: Recently, I have been seeing a few of my fellow walkers wear coloured walking shoes. I told myself I would stick to my white or off-white or light grey non-descript shoes. At the Nike store most shoes were red, orange, blues in all shades, and yellow. A few old design shoes were in my preferred colours (but my size was not available). The shoe that fitted and was comfortable was a vivid blue. I liked everything about the shoe but the colour. I thought, what the hell, others are wearing red too…so blue is ok.

Was this invisible manipulation, by giving me no choice? Yes, you can well say I had a choice of going elsewhere. I had been to Puma, and the same colour problems existed, and I did not like the shoes either (even though lower in price than Nike)…Value would have been further destroyed if I had to go elsewhere. So I decided to buy from Nike.

Now, these coloured shoes will become fashion statements for the fashionistas. Just like the colours for dresses from the fashion houses described by Jonah.

The next day I realised people were noticing my new blue shoes, and an invisible influence was being exerted on them!

Next I come to a more subtle but more frightening invisible manipulation that Amazon, Microsoft, Google have on our habits. They have a one-way policy of being contacted. They can contact us and we cannot contact them. Many of the younger generation are happy with this, but the older generation finds this irksome. In India let’s say I am told a delivery will be on the 20th, I am not told the time. I cannot find out. And if I am not at home, I get a call from the delivery person saying you were not home and we will re-deliver. I am not allowed to give an input. The part, I am told, on the 21stby a text message will be delivered on the 22nd. What if I am not home that day too? And on and on. Totally unacceptable to me but acceptable to the providers of service. In due course of time we will accept this as a norm and a way of doing business. The definition of normal business would have been re-written.

I just got a call from Airtel that their technician will be at my house in 15 minutes. This is one hour later. So I called the caller. I got a message saying “incoming calls to this number are barred”. So much for customer service and customer value!

Not so subtle are companies, where you cannot find a way to contact anyone except for investor relations.

Value is being destroyed.

Jonah, we poor consumers need your influence in exerting invisible and visible influence on these companies. HELP!!!

Would love your comments and help. We are happy to help others in education and executive education on courses in Value Creation.


Gautam Mahajan,
President, Customer Value Foundation and Inter-Link India

Founder editor, Journal of Creating Value
K-185 Sarai Jullena, New Delhi 110025
+91 98100 60368, 011-26831226

Twitter @ValueCreationJ

Customer Value Foundation (CVF) helps companies to Create Value and profit by Creating Value for the Customers, employee and for each person working with the companies.

Total Customer Value Management (Total CVM) transforms the entire company to focus on Creating Value for the Customer by aligning each person’s role in Creating Customer Value and getting shareholder wealth and Value.

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