Eminem’s psychological tricks you can use to advertise your brand

In my last article I explained how Behavioural Economics helped the Rebel Alliance defeat the Empire in Star Wars. Here I use another of my favourite films to show how Behavioural Economics can be used to win over a crowd. Specifically the crowd in…

…8 Mile

A movie which is all about confidence, and lack thereof.

8 Mile’s climax is a rap battle between Eminem and Papa Doc. A foe who massively embarrassed him just a week earlier.

Eminem destroys his opponent using clever lyrics to influence the crowd around him.

Some of you may have read a great piece about this scene, written by
James Altucher, that i highly recommend. James talks about cognitive biases too, although i’ve added a couple not mentioned in his article.

I also suggest you check out the rap battle first #NSFW.

Cognitive Dissonance.

You’ve probably heard of mob mentality, when people all follow the actions of a group. It happens in a riot, football matches and Tony Robbins events. Everyone gets caught up in the intensity of the moment. Eminem is capitalising on herd behaviour to get the room to put their hands up. Trendsetters and those who naturally set the tone in a group start and everyone else follows.

However, a rap battle is all about winning over the room, by putting their hands up he’s actually triggering a more important bias, cognitive dissonance.

He’s gotten the room to perform an action for him. This is important, as doing an action cannot be undone. You can’t change history. The brain doesn’t like a mismatch between actions and thoughts. For the crowd, the equation in their head is that they can’t be waving their hands in the air for someone they don’t like. They can’t change their actions, so to create balance it must be their thoughts that change.

So subconsciously the room starts to like Eminem. Herd behaviour gets them started and cognitive dissonance makes them think it’s a good idea.

It’s called the Benjamin Franklin effect and consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier sums up the effect perfectly in his book “The Advertising Effect” when he says:

“Action changes attitude faster than attitude changes action”.

An example of this I noticed personally, and have read about since, is for those who enjoy a cigarette. Smoker’s may notice that when they ask someone for a light that person then acts nicer towards them and a conversation usually ensues. The person with the lighter has done a favour, so the cognitive dissonance says they probably like the person asking. Incidentally, as someone who travelled a lot for work in their 20’s, this was the hardest part of quitting as I knew I had an easy way to start conversations with the locals.

Interestingly there are many real-world examples of cognitive dissonance that also hide feelings and potentially hinder reflection. Such as the UK since the Brexit vote.

Both sides of the debate are locked into their views. It’s believed that for some the leave vote was a protest and a sign of frustration. But the referendum is now history and people can’t change their vote. Therefore cognitive dissonance means some are telling themselves a story. They need to justify why they voted the way they did. Even if rational argument later has countered their reasons. Their attitude has been rewritten to explain their actions. Examples of this can be heard daily on James O’Brien’s LBC phone-in show. If you listen to the show, you frequently hear leave voters reason’s unravel under the softest examination. Although it’s fair to be said, remainers are equally loyal to their views.

To a similar extent, cognitive dissonance is in play for meat-eaters. Many know or suspect the condition animals are kept in but they create a reason such as “we’re designed to eat meat” that settles the dissonance.

Both are controversial subjects and therefore the argument becomes stronger otherwise there is a greater dissonance to live with.

When it comes to influencing others though, if you can get your audience to do an action you have a chance of winning them over. Although the action should have a cost, whether it’s social, financial or moral. If not the impact and dissonance fades.

Pratfall effect.

Another huge cognitive bias that Eminem uses brilliantly is the Pratfall effect. He uses this to essentially devalue every negative slight his opponent can use against him and at the same time increase his social currency.

When we see someone show their failings we actually feel more attached to them, if we like them already. Perfection is less attractive than someone with flaws and we often don’t trust things that are too good to be true.

Jennifer Lawrence’s trip at the Oscars only made fans love her more.

There’s strength in embracing our vulnerabilities. And if we like someone already then this authenticity makes them more relatable and appealing to us.

Eminem uses the Pratfall effect beautifully when he says;

“I know everything he’s got to say against me.”

“I am white”

“I am a fuckin bum”

“I do live in a trailer with my mom”

“I do have a dumb friend named Cheddar Bob who shot himself with his own gun”.

“I did get jumped by all six of you chumps”

And so on.

When I was growing up advertising used to use this to great effect. Many brands didn’t just sell their good points, they showed authenticity by admitting their flaws.

Guinness, a drink that takes a long time to pour and settle, suggests;
“Good things come to those who wait”

Avis car rental, who were second in popularity to Hertz, admitted;
“We’re number 2, so we try harder”

Stella Artois, the premium beer, openly told us they were;
“Reassuringly expensive”

More recently KFC owned their own pratfall, when ran out of their most important ingredient, chicken. By owning their flaws they went from being a faceless corporate to a more human fallible business. Among their customers at least.

Admitting flaws is a great way to bond with people although there needs to be some level of credibility to start with. For brands and personalties it can be used to break an aloofness. Many movie stars seem distant and unapproachable but Jenifer Lawrence’s flaws, such as her Oscars trip and her awkward interviews, actually make her more like us.

Back to our movie, Eminem has made his faults worthless by owning and acknowledging them. He’s flawed and his authenticity has made him more relatable.

For Eminem this has helped him win over the crowd. He’s built up the inertia of goodwill in the room so much they’re about to burst. His final take down shows his opponent to be totally unlike the rest of the room. Eminem makes fun of how his opponent went to an elitist private school, has a dorky real name and unlike most people in the crowd, his parents are still married. The trick Eminem is using is called an in-group bias. You feel a bond with those in your group, and the movie in my next article illustrates this perfectly.

Hope you enjoyed the read.
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Professional thinker. I’ve been a director of art, writer of copy, designer of experience, juggler of statistics & researcher of insights.

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