The Psychology Behind a Story That Makes People Buy

The Psychology Behind a Story That Makes People Buy

Every great story takes the person reading or hearing it on a journey.

How far along they follow you on this journey will depend on how deeply you connect with the emotions and psychological ‘triggers’ of this person. In other words, the real art of story telling is in the author or speakers’ ability to transfer emotion from one person to another.

In my last post I used the example of Luwak Coffee, which sells for over £70 a cup in some places, to show the power of a story.

So if you’ve not read this I would suggest you go back and check it out here so this makes sense!

Today I’m going to go through the story and pick out the psychology behind a story that makes people buy, and why it so much more compelling and persuasive.

A quick side-bar…

There is so much to this subject that in my desire to show you how powerful a story can be, I honestly didn’t anticipate before I started writing this that such a short example would contain so many learning points.

It got quite long, so I have broken ‘Part 2’ in to two separate posts. So part 3 will be next week!

Stick with me, as what you’ll learn will change the way you look at your marketing and communications for the better.

The Psychology Behind a Story That Makes People Buy

Let’s break it down from the beginning…

“You’re a coffee lover? Great, I am too! I love it when I have a guest that appreciates true high end coffee, and I can tell that about you.

There are a few things going on here.

First I tap into the universal desire to be liked. We humans tend to like those that are similar to us. By instantly highlighting a similarity between us, (that we’re both coffee lovers), I’m removing risk for you that may be in your mind when deciding whether to accept my offer or simply trust what I say.

Second, I’m using flattery by paying you a compliment. I set this up by insinuating that you’re a person of great taste where I mention ‘high end coffee’. Then I hit you with the compliment; ‘I can tell that about you’.

Blatant? Maybe. However, even if its not true, we all love to have someone notice something about ourselves that’s positive. It gives us that warm fuzzy feeling.

Why do we get this, and why is it so important? It’s pretty simple; it’s an outward show of acceptance from another person.

To be accepted means we have more people to call on if something bad happens. Years ago that meant we had more people to protect us from natural hazards and predators. Really it’s a pure survival instinct.

A third thing here is I’m awakening your desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what you have already done. Even if you’re not mad on coffee, you’ve not corrected me and said you’re not a coffee lover per se, you just don’t like tea!

So now you’re cornered. It’s very hard to go against something you’ve previously said, accepted or a type of behaviour that you’ve displayed. We don’t want to look false in front of others, so we’ll tend to respond in ways that justifies our previous position.

Why do you think it’s so difficult to win an argument? Two people, two opposite views. Neither is willing to ‘lose face’ in front of the other, so our strong desire to be consistent means we’ll dig our heals in, even when we know we’re totally wrong.

I’m really bad at this at times. Just ask my wife…

To be honest, the psychological strings pulled here would probably be enough to see most people to agree to try ‘sh*t’ coffee with little further explanation. But I don’t want to risk you thinking I’m weird, so I continue…

If you were to go and buy this in London, you’ll only find it in 5 star hotels. And then you’d have to pay over £70 for a single cup!

This part has a couple of triggers. First one is greed. I’m basically handing you £70 for nothing. Who wouldn’t want that?

The second is that we tend to place a higher value on something that has a higher price.

Think about it. Even the most expensive Starbucks or Costa is a fraction of this price, which already has a pretty high value perception (whether you like the coffee or not, the perception of value is associated with holding the ‘cup’ as much as anything).

So our brains automatically associate high price with high quality. Difficult to turn down.

I got this when I traveled through Bali and visited a native coffee plantation there. It’s amazing how they harvest it.

The coffee beans are collected from the droppings of a wild cat-like animal called the Luwak. It’s a cute little forest animal that lives near to coffee plantations. The best thing is that these guys are really fussy eaters meaning that they only dine on the best, tastiest and ripest coffee cherries that means the coffee itself tastes like nothing else!

This section is less an introduction of a new trigger, more a confirmation of the previous ones and is building credibility.

Technically you could argue that I’m employing the principle of Authority by displaying my ‘deeper knowledge and expertise’ about coffee production.

We’re conditioned to follow authority. Even those that rebel against it will still take into account the source from where information is coming from.

The more we believe the source to be credible the more likely we are to trust the information. So we tend accept the wisdom of someone with a higher level of authority than ourselves.

Partly due to our desire to be liked, partly due to the implied ‘power’ this status carries, and partly down to us being intuitively aware that we can’t know everything so will surrender to the greater knowledge of an authority figure. 

Just think boss, parent, teacher or Police. Whilst you won’t always agree with a request asked of you from one of these, 9 times out of 10 you’ll do what is asked. Unless of course you have a real issue with authority!

There is also the ‘like’ factor at play with authority. Do you think an ‘expert’ would like you challenging their every comment or suggestion if you have no knowledge of the subject? That’s a sure way to hack them off and ensure they don’t like you.

Even if you were right, there is a tendency for all ‘experts’ to become blinkered by their own knowledge by dismissing conflicting or complimentary evidence to their point of view.

That’s why so much innovation comes from ‘tinkerers, inventors and whizz kids’ over Professors (Google, Facebook, the first manned flight for example).

The latter has more to lose, not just in terms of professional standing, but from a deeper level that is rooted in the principle of consistency, as previously discussed.

Sorry, back to the Coffee story!

I’m also re-enforcing the quality factor. ‘Fussy eater’, ‘best, tastiest and ripest’ and ‘taste like nothing else’ provides further credibility to my point.

I know it sounds a bit weird, but don’t worry, I promise it’s amazing.

Here I make you a public promise. So I’m in effect removing your risk.

We know intuitively that most people don’t want to be seen to make the wrong decision or look silly. We believe it means that we loose credibility in the eyes of others. We’re back to the acceptance/protection point again.

By making this promise I’m handing some of the power back to you. Now you know if I’m talking rubbish, you have a way out.

You can still spit the coffee all over my living room and I’d have no real comeback. I promised you it would be amazing!


Ok, that’s where we break for this week. As you can see there is a lot that can be taken from a very simple story.

Part 3 is where everything comes together. We tie up all loose ends and like all good stories there’s a killer twist at the end.

So don’t miss it!


I’d love to hear what you think so far, so please do comment, like, share or send me a message. Tell me your stories!

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Adam King

Adam King is Captain of Think Like a Fish, host of The Client Catching Podcast. Today, Adam’s passion is helping service businesses, Advisors & Experts to build their own “Client Catching Ecosystem” that removes you from up to 90% of your marketing and sales process, instantly boosts your authority, while at the same time increases the quality of leads, appointments and clients that you attract and catch… All without spending a penny on advertising or adding more hours to your week!