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Chance The Rapper and 5 Core Functions On Influence & Persuasion

1In this piece Zach Fuller pf MIDiA explores how the five core functions of influence and persuasion, as explored in Robert Cialdini's new book can be seen to manifest in the world of content commerce in the music industry.

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Guest post by Zach Fuller of Midia

Regular readers of MIDiA’s blog may have noticed by now that articles are often influenced by what the analyst is reading at that given moment. In the past year alone, this has seen us draw analogies of the Roman Slave Trade for Spotify to Apple’s Medici-style patronage of the arts.

The book behind this week’s blog piece belongs in the somewhat maligned micro-genre of Airport book store pop-psychology, a close relative of the train station billboard literature that seemingly keeps the same cover designer in work. However, without anything to read on a recent flight, I happened upon Robert Cialdini’s Influence nestled within the same ranks as Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography and the usual suspects of titles such as Think and Grow Rich and What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. Purchased on a whim due to its recommendation by Charlie Munger (thus validating one of the core tenants of the book – more on that later), I began reading and, as well as immediately recognising their impact on my own behaviour, began to view some of its patterns in the amorphous world of content commerce.

The book articulates what Cialdini believes are the five core functions of influence and persuasion. These are:

  • Social proof
  • Authority
  • Scarcity
  • Reciprocity
  • Likability

When building an audience in an oversaturated market where attention is increasingly in short supply,  how do artists and publishers use these to build audiences? And, given that Cialdini published this book in the 80s, how are they applied in a digital context?

2Social proof: Success by association. Just a few years into his career, Chance has featured with nearly every major name in music: Justin Bieber, Skrillex, Kanye West, DJ Khaled, Childish Gambino, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Future, Young Thug and Lil Yachty.

Authority: An extension of the social proof effect of group consensus. When Chance is co-signed by someone we deem to be an authority, more people sit up and take notice, than if the man on the street says so. Are you more likely to buy a stock if Warren Buffet recommends it versus Kanye West? And are you more likely to listen to a new Hip Hop artist recommended by Kanye West or Warren Buffett? For all of the Internet’s democratisation of distribution, very few Hip Hop artists have broken through since the 90s without the mandate of heaven from one of the genre’s leading figureheads (Dr Dre to Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar; Jay-Z to Kanye West; Birdman to Lil Wayne and Drake).

Scarcity: Limited runs on merchandise has taken Supreme from a cult New York skate brand to high-fashion streetwear behemoth. The brand’s founder James Jebbia has stated, ‘We’ve never really been supply-demand anyway…if we can sell 600, I make 400. We’ve always been like that’. That despite Supreme’s global influence it only has 10 physical stores worldwide (2 in the US, 2 in Europe and 6 in Asia) is a testament to this approach. Chance revealed in an interview last year that much of his revenue has come from merchandise, his ‘3’ hat becoming as ubiquitous in London as the Palace Tri-Ferg logo in the past year.

Reciprocity: Freemium can easily attract an audience – what can you lose by trying after all. With Chance it also goes back to the rapper’s early roots in Chicago. Chance on weekends would allegedly go to x neighbourhood of Chicago and upon seeing someone he felt would be into his music, offer to rap for them: not for money or for any CD. If they liked his work, he would give them a link to his Soundcloud and invite them to his next club performance. People often feel a psychological need to reciprocate favours – if we have been invited to someone’s birthday, we feel obliged to invite them to ours.

Liking: Even if you’re not a fan of his music, watch his Kit-Kat commercial and try not to feel endeared.


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