Dear CMO:

The Nobel Peace Prize voting committee did something very clever last week. I say this from the standpoint of a marketer – not because of any personal political leanings. What the Norwegians and other assembled delegates did this past week is something anyone who deals with customers, business partners or competitors needs to study carefully.

In a nutshell, the Nobel committee just gave the President of the United States something more than a peace prize. They gave him an image to live up to. Whether he wants to or not.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, in his excellent book entitled, “Influence: Science and Practice,” describes a negotiating technique attributed to late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Apparently, Sadat was a master of what Dr. Cialdini calls, “the committing character of labels,” beginning negotiations with a long discussion of how they and the citizens of their country were known the world over for being fair-minded and cooperative. Not only flattery, but a means of ordering the listener’s mind to think in terms of being fair-minded and cooperative. It connected to the listener’s self-image – even though it likely would work against them in a zero-sum negotiation. They were half-beat by the time negotiations began and they never knew it.

Our Nobel friends have done the same thing by labeling an American President a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. What has taken place is that an international organization has given an American leader a self-image that he clearly enjoys living up to. They have also given the president a psychological albatross that will hang around his neck – being a “Nobel Peace Prize” recipient – which he will reflect on each and every time the application of American military power is called for.


Key Takeaways:

. Do you give your negotiating partner an image to live up to, as Sadat (and the Nobel committee) did? Think about this the next time you work out a business development deal, buy a house or settle on a price for your product with a channel partner. You don’t need to be overt about it – although being overt doesn’t kill the deal – you just need to connect to your listener’s self-image of fairness, openness, smarts, savvy, insider-orientation, leading edginess, or whatever makes the most sense.

. Do you give your customers an image to live up to? Branded entertainment, aspirational positioning and even well crafted copywriting that mirrors your listener’s self-image all help connect your brand to theirs. James Bond uses your watch (or your electric shaver, or your vodka): you live up to the image in your own mind, even if it’s just a little bit.

. Do you give your team members an image to live up to? It isn’t hard to remind your team that they’re smart, hard working and very talented – and that you value them. Tell them they’re smart and they’ll act smart. Tell them you’re not sure of them and they’ll be unsure of you.


To be clear, Sadat’s use of this technique is brilliant, as is the Nobel committee’s application of influence on an idealist president. Is your use of this technique manipulation? If you’re seeking to trick your negotiating opponent into agreeing to something that is not in their interests, then yes – it is. You’re being unethical. Are you looking for a win-win and want to ensure your point is being heard – and want to keep the zero-sum mentality away from the table? If so, then you’re using the technique honestly and with integrity. You know the difference – I don’t need to explain it further.

I don’t think the Nobel committee is overtly trying to be unethical. I believe they truly believe that by influencing an American president with this technique that they are acting in the best interests of the world. It’s up to you whether you agree with them or wonder whether the projection of American military capabilities is one of the best possible protectors of world peace. I’m hoping the president understands these subtleties, as well. We will see how the president manages this label and whether he sees it for what it is.



PS: No, this isn’t a political post. The very clever use of a clear influence strategy on an American president who already sees himself in a similar light is worth commenting on, as lessons can be extracted here for any number of applications. If you have a comment, I’d love to hear it – as long as it isn’t a political rant either supporting or refuting the Nobel’s award, and as long as it adds to the conversation.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.