Why you should let Ben Franklin help design your next package - Part 1 of 2 

Ben Franklin advised that allowing someone to do you a favor makes them more favorably disposed toward you. Find out how CPGs are using this tactic with consumers.

By Dr. R. Andrew Hurley
Contributing Editor, Packaging World

Ben Franklin is better known as the guy on the $100 bill. It’s our highest denomination, our most valuable piece of paper, and this guy, born one of 17 children to poor parents, made his way to the pinnacle of our attention today, 200 years after his death. How? Simply put, Franklin was keen to social cues and practiced the social analytics of trial and error. Ultimately, he developed a secret weapon that many of us have either forgotten or are simply unaware of: unreciprocated favors.

In his autobiography, Franklin tells a story about how he dealt with a political opponent who was outspoken against him. In an attempt to realign this politician’s views, Franklin sent him a letter concerning a rare and interesting book that he overheard the politician say he owned, and asked to borrow it for a few days. The opponent sent it immediately, and Franklin returned the book a week later with a thank you note. The next time they met, the opponent spoke to Franklin directly for the first time with camaraderie and expressed a “readiness to serve [Franklin] on all occasions.” The two continued a friendship until his death.

Said Franklin, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

So, what does this mean? A person who has performed a favor for someone is more likely to do another than if they received a favor from that person. Basically, we subconsciously connect our help for the person with the fact that we must like them. The opposite also holds true: We start to hate a person to whom we have committed some wrong. We often humanize things, or dehumanize them, based on our own actions.

The Ben Franklin effect has been proven through many scientific research studies over the past 100 years. Social behavioral experiments to MRI scans all show that this is an incredibly powerful effect. So, why write about it here? And how can you leverage it?

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