Kevin Hogan

International Speaker

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Impulse to Instant Decisions: The Good and The Bad

Most often covert influence happens naturally. And that’s a shame because “natural” in influence is close to random and typically leads to unpredictable outcomes that we later wonder what went wrong.

Let’s start with the naturally occurring hidden influences and then we’ll learn how to take these influences and intentionally use them for better, well intended, outcomes.

You have a big moral dilemma.

You have to decide whether you are going to divorce the girl or not.

You walk into the restaurant and see the guys over there and one of them asks you, “So hey, are you going to get a divorce?”

You’ve been staring a new book you brought over called, “Getting to Yes.” Imagine it’s a book about gaining agreement in tough situations.

“I think so John. Yeah, probably.”

“What made you decide to go ahead with it?”

Relationship Body Language

The fact is that it was what John was looking at when he was asked the question.


It happens every day with the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life.

Here’s a slice of the research just released in May. It details the significance of what people are looking at while they make a big decision.

It’s scary and it is turning a lot of heads…

Our opinions are affected by what our eyes are focusing on in the same instant we make moral decisions. Researchers at Lund University and other institutions have managed to influence people’s responses to questions such as “is murder defensible?” by tracking their eye movements.

When the participants had looked at a randomly pre-selected response long enough, they were asked for an immediate answer.


Fifty-eight per cent chose that answer as their moral position.

The study shows that our moral decisions can be influenced by what we are looking at when we make the decision. Using a new experimental method, the researchers tracked participants’ eye movements and demanded an answer when their eye rested on a randomly pre-selected answer.

The researchers, from the Division of Cognitive Science at Lund University, University College London (UCL) and the University of California, Merced, studied in real time how people deliberate with themselves in difficult moral dilemmas. The participants had no idea that the researchers were carefully monitoring how their gaze moved in order to demand an answer at the right moment.
The results showed that the responses were systematically influenced by what the eye saw at the moment an answer was demanded.

“In this study we have seen that timing has a strong influence on the moral choices we make. The processes that lead to a moral decision are reflected in our gaze. However, what our eyes rest on when a decision is taken also affects our choice,” explained Philip Pärnamets, cognitive scientist at Lund University and one of the authors of the study.


(Philip Pärnamets, Petter Johansson, Lars Hall, Christian Balkenius, Michael J. Spivey, Daniel C. Richardson. Biasing moral decisions by exploiting the dynamics of eye gaze. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

…the hidden influences that cause us all to change our minds… on a dime…to say “no” when one would normally say “yes,” to behave rationally or irrationally…the influences that sometimes have to do with language, a cue from the environment, but far more often are about the most subtle fragments of consciousness.

Covert Influence encompasses the powerful hidden persuasion points that shape behavior and attitudes….Covert Influence is the most important “collection” of persuasive communication “tools” known to humankind.

Let me give you an example.


The Reward Card Phenomenon

Kevin Hogan on Subliminal & Covert Influence & Persuasion

These are the kinds of cards that restaurants and other retail businesses use to keep you as a customer by rewarding you for your loyalty.

A lot of other places use them as well and they are powerful marketing tools when they are used correctly. They are completely worthless when one little thing is missing.

What’s sad is people think, “That didn’t work for us,” when what really happened was they didn’t understand the only way the card can be profitable.

They had a power tool but didn’t know how to turn it on…

The Reward Card Phenomenon is a startling example of Covert Influence at work….but it’s not why you think….

It turns out there is a big difference in whether or not a rewards card using “stamps” gives you a head start by crediting the buyer of a car wash with three stamps (purchases) when they are first given the card, filling 3 of 12 slots, vs. a card that simply had 9 purchases before a free car wash could be obtained.

Both, of course, required nine additional purchases, the only difference was the total amount of spaces, 9 vs. 12 and the spaces already stamped, 0 vs. 3. That’s it. The latter generated multiple amounts of sales and revenues.

This has nothing to do with language or answering objections. Covert Influence transcends beating people over the head, arguing, fighting, and almost all influence is experienced at a nonconscious level… For you…it’s about understanding exactly what response another person will have to various stimuli in the environment or with you.

Please understand this…

If you meet a client for lunch and the restaurant has a blue interior vs. brown that changes whether the person is more likely to say “yes” or “no” to you.

You can build rapport, pace and lead, present beautifully, look hot, answer objections, close with hypnotic language and hear “no,” and it makes no difference because you have wasted your time… or you were in the restaurant with the right interior color.

That’s Covert Influence.

It’s not whether the card will be effective, it’s the one SPECIFIC use of the card that causes an Irresistible Impulse to COMPLETE the card.

If you have 3 out of 10 of something and need 7 more before you can “cash it in,” it’s pretty compelling. No one likes to leave money on the table.

If you have 0 out of 10 spaces stamped…there is no compulsion and nothing that hurts if you leave it on the table.

You’d get upset if someone threw away the card that had 7 spaces stamped.

Think about it.


But if you had another card, or even 10 cards with one stamp each and they couldn’t be removed…and someone threw them away, you’d pay no attention…you wouldn’t care….

….oh and you wouldn’t be a customer…certainly not as often…

By placing the right “things” in people’s hands, you cause very different results. But it’s not just the right things. It’s making sure that they are placed there correctly. Only one combination turns the tumblers to open the safe.

One specific way creates a thriving business, try the others and the doors close. The cost is zero, the implementation cost is zero but the differences in results are dramatic.

And by the way, the phenomenon itself isn’t about reward cards. It’s about a lot more than the ONE manifestation of a principle right?

It’s about the Irresistible Impulse…the nagging compulsion to complete….

and one other key factor in the case of our card…I’ll come to that in a minute.


Now, I want you to see how to optimize your use of Covert Influence so you don’t find yourself wondering why you lost sale after sale or found out that your seemingly perfect marketing plan went wrong when it “should have worked,” or that people in general, simply say “no” to you and “yes” to the few who have the keys to the human mind and brain.

Just Do It

Key Point: It’s important that you have a catalog, collection, a structure, whatever you want to call it… a couple hundred of these completely unknown triggers, stimuli, tendencies at your finger tips.

What truly influences people off the written page (and often on!) is not so much words, or language patterns which are generally impotent.

What causes the tumblers to turn in people’s brains are a multitude of responses to various stimuli that all intersect here and now.

I catalog this information.

Marketers don’t learn about it at University because the information isn’t in marketing textbooks. Therapists don’t learn about it in their books because it isn’t in their textbooks, either. Instead what you are learning here comes from a different world….from cognitive neuropsychology, behavioral psychology, behavioral economics, decision making, social psychology and a number of other places that no one stops and looks at.

In 1999, I coined the phrase “Covert Hypnosis” to begin the dissemination of this information to the public. That phrase best describes the information. However because the association of “words” and “talking” with hypnosis is so great (when it is really not 1% as important as is assumed) people thought they were going to see a bunch of neato language patterns that would cause change in people’s behavior.

There ARE a FEW that actually are important and have some “potency.”

Unfortunately, because the few that are useful don’t translate into other non-English speaking languages a few of us finally figured out that it wasn’t the words but all the different internal causes that trigger people to say “yes” or “no” behind what was being said and heard… that might or might not be useful.

The fact is that “language patterns” were speculative and mostly (though not entirely) unimportant. The vast majority simply aren’t useful…they are inefficient.

After you begin learning about Covert Influence the “reasons” people say “no” or “yes” or “I’ll think about it,” become crystal clear….


…The Most Subtle of Subtle….

Imagine that loyalty card we were talking about…you’re holding it in your hand…

A few years ago, I took a trip that I didn’t have to take, because I needed one more trip for my annual Platinum elite status with my airline that I fly. That status is valuable in the course of the year and is worth taking a few days and shifting around my schedule for the purpose of getting those “qualification miles.”

My alternative was to NOT have Platinum elite status and that COSTS me a lot of privileges I enjoy having.

Key Point: I had traveled thousands of air miles and if I stopped short of reaching the next qualification level, I would lose out on a lot of cool stuff.

Write that down. Bury it in your mind. When people have invested a great deal into something, they want to get what they feel is theirs.


Within the Grasp…

a) When we have a prize, a victory, anything within grasp and we’ve done something to get that close, we don’t want it pulled away, no matter how small. We are possessive creatures. We possess things, ideas, feelings, thoughts and even people.

b) When we have invested into a relationship or a product or service, or an idea, or a plan, or a strategy, or stock, and “it” “goes down,” we really would like to be even.

[People have $50,000 in their 401k, they lose 10,000 and refuse to pull the rest out of the market. They become roulette wheel players instead of investors. They lose another 10,000 and now they are dying to “get even.” I see this behavior when I play cards. I see it a lot…and I see the exact same behavior in 20 different parts of life, everyday in every setting.]



Kevin HoganYou get coffee at Starbucks, stop off for an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s, buy Morton Salt, buy an iPod….because of one reason.

It’s the brand you do business with.

And a brand is about trust, which breeds loyalty.

The concept of loyalty is very important to you and me….and loyalty is “THE REASON” that people keeping buying from you over and over again….or not.

When it comes to the airlines, I don’t get a rewards card with stamps on it.

There are no free flight miles that come with the first flight every year. You have to get your 25,000, 50,000 or 100,000 air miles to qualify at the various levels of loyalty.

Quite the seeming contrast to the reward cards with stamps.

Of course PART of what engenders loyalty here are very different concepts, one from the other.

With the stamped reward card I get a free Sub after 10 purchases or with car wash I get a free car wash after 9 purchases.

With the airlines, yes, if you accumulate 25,000 “in the air” miles you earn a STATUS that has some significant privileges. And it carries a “title,” a “status point.” Your are ELITE.

You can also earn non-air miles from using a credit card, for example.

Therefore you can earn a free flight on your airline by simply using your credit card to the tune of $25,000 in purchases, and getting one mile for each dollar spent, which you can then redeem for a roundtrip coach seat.

…or for 30,000 miles/points you can upgrade to roundtrip First Class on your next paid coach flight.

By flying 25,000+ annual in air miles we actually rarely if ever want to fly free.

When you fly free you don’t accumulate air miles and you would MUCH rather have air miles than fly free.

(That’s quite a concept isn’t it? Did you write THAT down?!?!?)

So if I fly round trip to Las Vegas from Minneapolis, I get 2600 literal flight miles that go toward qualification. 10 round trips and I’ve got status for the year at the lowest level. 20 trips and I have Gold Status which means you almost always get upgraded from coach without using miles….

But even the lowest qualification level allows you to…


  • Board the airplane first, assuring you overhead space for your carry on luggage, and when you ONLY use carry on luggage, that means no trips to baggage…ever.
  • It means that if a flight is canceled, you get to call the Elite line and re-book with priority over everyone else flying. You get to your destination faster when things go wrong and with less hassle and delay than everyone else.
  • You might get upgraded from coach free depending on your status level and availability. This is a perk that is worth up to 50,000 miles and about 1/2 the time it happens for no additional cost.

Before we go forward, these loyalty programs subtly use several principles of Covert Influence I will share with you below and over the next few weeks.

Obviously YOU will use the same elements, albeit in a different way.

The important thing to know…is…

People Want to be Influenced

Yes! istockphoto/PashaIgnatovKnow… that I am well aware of this…
fact that I am being influenced, and it’s JUST FINE BY ME.


It feels good to say “yes” to someone and rarely feels good to say no!

THINK about that….because when you buy, you don’t have objections, you might need clarification, but not much more….

The airline’s loyalty program is not designed to save me money but to make my life easier and more comfortable. (The program is in fact to virtually guarantee I pay for a ticket on every flight I take even though I could easily fly for free that day. They make it worth far more to me to pay for a ticket than to fly free.)

Now, I have a LOYALTY question for you.

How easy would it be to get me to NOT fly Delta?

What would it take to get me to fly United, or some other option?

I’m a loyal customer with a high degree of loyalty at that. This is in part because Minneapolis is a “hub,” which means I can fly nonstop to a lot of places instead of having to switch planes at other airports. Right there that is worth a lot….

So, how do you persuade me to switch? How do you capture the mind, the brain of someone elses LOYAL customer?

Because I am loyal, it will take a LOT to cause me to switch, but there is a threshold where I will switch. There is a threshold where EVERYONE will change.

And it all is about the presentation of information first. Then and ONLY THEN does it become about the content of the information.

Recent research uncovers that the truly loyal person will look for flaws in competitors products…to show it is not a good brand.

This is easiest to understand in the context of religion or politics.

If you are a Baptist, you don’t think, you know that most of the other people who go to specific other churches are cooked because of the things they do differently than you do.

If you are a loyal Democrat and someone asks you to switch to be a Republican you quickly point out the defects in the philosophy of the Republicans showing them to be inferior.

You seek out and find evidence to show that non-Baptist, non-Democrats are bad and your brand of religion or politics is good.

That is how the human brain thinks when it comes to loyalty.

So, when you hear friends, family, loves, customers denigrate the competition, you can be sure you have a loyal person in the group.

Meanwhile, the LESS LOYAL, say Democrats, perhaps those that voted differently in the past, these LESS LOYAL people are more likely to listen to messages from Republicans and match up the messages against their current brand and find similarities.

Key Point: Ultimately the less loyal customer, friend, spouse sees the competitor’s brand as roughly the same as the currently used brand.

By shifting the focus from differences to similarities and vice versa you can begin to shift the thinking of these very different life experience lenses.

Key Point: Getting people to buy you when they are loyal to X is not about overcoming objections, it IS in part about drawing parallels and similarities in your PRESENTATION of information.

In people who are less loyal you want to shift their tendency from similarities to differences.

They are NOT loyal essentially because they see no significant differences. Present information so that it is instantly obvious that there are glaring differences between A and B. THEN the person can switch.

Make sense?


The Importance of Presentation

Now, just how important is the PRESENTATION of the information?

The packaging?

That is ALWAYS the kind of question you ask when you are cataloging Covert Influence.


If a Doctor looks at an x-ray, she sees or doesn’t see something, right? Either IT is there or IT is not, whatever IT is.



You can influence the doctor to NOT see what the X-Ray reveals in a very scary and simple way…

Kevin Hogan on Subliminal & Covert Persuasion and InfluenceResearch just published shows that doctors are more meticulous in reading X-Rays when they feel empathy toward their patient.


That’s like saying you can look at 1+1 and come up with a different answer than 2 if you don’t have empathy.



This is Covert Influence.


How Can You Get People to Do a Better Job for You?

15 radiologists at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem read the scans of 318 patients. The CT scans were done in color.

The colored scans appeared instantly when the Doctor opened the patient’s computer file.

The study’s focus was not on the problem the scans were taken for.

The focus was on incidental stuff, like a kidney cyst in patients scanned for appendicitis.

When patient’s photos…of their faces…were included with the CT scans, the doctors found 81 of 318 had incidental issues.

90 days later, the doctors were shown all 81 of THOSE scans once more.

This time the doctors didn’t find anything else wrong with the patient in 80% of those scans.

Does that qualify for a “wow?”

Covert Influence is scary.

I encourage you to leave your photograph with each doctor you visit and in fact…with each customer you do business with in general. 8 x 10 glossy not necessary. A tiny image 1 or 2″ tall/wide is all that is necessary…

Pick up your copy of Covert Influence! Available ONLY on CD….


Covert Influence: Hidden Persuaders They
(Your Competition) Don’t Want You to Have

I want to show you one of the most surprising and perhaps one of the most uncomfortable….and powerful phenomenon in Covert Influence. In fact, I want to share with you all the latest research available (well, almost all…!)

Influence Without Resistance. What’s the Key Factor? You’ll have most amazing, truly stunning tactics in predicting what and how your client (spouse, child, customer, read: anyone) will choose. Thus, you are a step ahead of anyone else in implementing the most powerful phenomena in consumer research today. Find out with this program!

Creating Irresistible Impulse. The button is there (for everyone); it just needs to be pushed. What are some of the irresistible impulses marketers are using on you? How can you take advantage of these tactics yourself? It’s all here in this section. Kevin details the marketing phenomenon that pushes the buttons…all the way to irresistible.

Tapping into Human Desires & Emotions. With just ONE change in strategy, a non-profit organization can get 5 times the donations. What can this strategy do for you? You can’t afford NOT to implement this tactic now.

Desires and Emotions… That Influence. You’ve heard some rumors, I’m sure about negative emotions and positive emotions in the influence process. But do you know what actually works, and what to emphasize in the process, and when? Find out once and for all!

Tribes. You’ve heard the term. What does it describe? How does it come into play in the influence process? Most important, how do you utilize the concept of the Tribe in order to make more sales? It’s all here… Kevin explains about subgroups and how to make appeals based on whether a group is “in” or “out”. This is cutting edge research that benefits you.

Covert Influence…to Control Behavior. You’ve seen the signs. Above the candy jar, tacked to the break room wall. Even posted on a fence, or highway. How do signs really influence? What elements should be used in signs to covertly control behavior? Fascinating new research uncovered for you!


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