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RESEARCH INSIGHT | Even Phony Flattery Helps Close Deals

The Research

Researchers at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology found that even people received insincere compliments, they still felt better about themselves as well as felt more positive associations with the products, stores, and conversations immediately after receiving the compliments. The positive association with compliments is based on extensive previous research, but this research suggests that even when the recipient of the compliment is aware of its insincerity or ulterior motive, the positive effect remains.

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What You Need to Know

Marketers and salespeople should make sure to use compliments during in-person discussions and in promotional materials. While attempts should be made to personalize all communications, managers should incorporate flattery even for those customers or prospects with whom they are less familiar or have weaker relationships.

 

Abstract

This research uses a dual attitudes perspective to offer new insights into flattery and its consequences. The authors show that even when flattery by marketing agents is accompanied by an obvious ulterior motive that leads targets to discount the proffered compliments, the initial favorable reaction (the implicit attitude) continues to coexist with the discounted evaluation (the explicit attitude). Furthermore, the implicit attitude has more influential consequences than the explicit attitude, highlighting the possible subtle impact of flattery even when a person has consciously corrected for it. The authors also clarify the underlying process by showing how and why the discrepancy between the implicit and explicit attitudes induced by flattery may be reduced. Collectively, the findings from this investigation provide implications for both flattery research and the dual attitudes literature.

Chan, Elaine, and Jaideep Sengupta. “Insincere Flattery Actually Works: A Dual Attitudes Perspective.” Journal of Marketing Research 47, no. 1 (February 2010): 122–33. doi:10.1509/jmkr.47.1.122.