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The remarkable influence of Post-it notes

Campbell Such | July 13, 2016
…and how to use them to double response rates to your requests, in this age of digital tools

Surprising, isn't it?

The second experiment was with another group of different professors.

 In this case, the objective was to see if the influence was due to the message or the note or both. Garner sent each recipient a survey with:

  • Group 1 - A personalised sticky note message.

 

  • Group 2 - A blank sticky note attached.

 

  • Group 3 - No sticky note.

 

The result was similar to the first experiment.

The conclusion that Hogan drew from the second experiment, is that it's not just the sticky note itself, but the fact that it's personalised, and that this conveys a feeling of connection. A feeling that the person sending the survey is "personally asking me in a special way (not just writing it on the survey) to help him or her out".

Two further experiments found that the sticky note also:

  • Sped up the time to return the survey (four days with the note vs five-and-a-half days days without)

 

  • Resulted in noticeably more comments and more fully answered open-ended questions.

 

And the fifth experiment found that if you need someone to complete a more complex task, then a request personalising the note with the person's first name at the top and Garner's initials at the bottom made for a significantly better response.

So why does it work?

Hogan's views are that it works because there are a number of powerful behavioural triggers all present in the sticky note:

  • It stands out from the background so it gets attention and is difficult to ignore;

 

  • It's individualised to that person (their name and your signature);

 

  • It makes them feel like you're not asking just anyone for a favour, instead, you're specifically asking them - and that makes them feel important.

 

What about email - doesn't most of our communication happen via email these days?

True, it is pretty hard to send an email with a Post-It note. You need to reserve these for the times you're dealing with a request on paper. So perhaps not as much use as 10 years ago when the research was done. Although maybe it's a great reason to use paper when you really want someone to do something for you. Handwrite a Post-it note, pop it on the doc, and post it in the mail. Given the few times people get mail (not email) these days perhaps it could get an even better response.

 Given their power to influence, is there any time you shouldn't use them? It's hard to see where you wouldn't, except, as with all tools of influence, they should only be used ethically. So never use them for unethical purposes.

 

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