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Aristotles 7 Causes of Human Actions

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 30 October 2007 19:24

What ancient Greece taught me about marketing; I ran into a quote by Aristotle recently that I thought would be fun to look at from the internet marketer’s perspective. So I did;

 All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.
Aristotle - Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC)


Chance;  loosely defined as ‘a possibility due to a favourable combination of circumstances’, chance plays a role in your website offering by ensuring you have set the table with a ‘favourable set of circumstances’ in that you have done everything possible as far as developing an optimized website in concert with quality content and core offerings that can attract organic as well as viral love. Leave nothing to chance, or as little as possible. Chance favors the prepared mind. :0)

Nature; when the world shudders we all run for cover. In our terms, we can utilize these forces of nature to garner a given action. From Global warming to Saving the whales, there are many natural elements that you can use to influence actions in your online world. A simple example would be to donate a % of sales to a particular earthly cause that motivates the end user. Even the forces of nature can be harnessed by the savvy marketer.

Compulsion; we are all victims of irrational behaviour that causes us to embark on trivialities nearly against our will. Compulsion is the core of any great viral link building or social media marketing campaign. How many times have you social bookmarked a site because it was too easy and the little buttons were ‘calling you’? Make it easy for people to take the actions you wish them to take on your site (or in a SERP). Play on the emotions to drive the user to the front door of conversion Manor.

Habit; we humans are creatures of habit. People like to feel a sense of security and one should try to establish simple mechanisms to accomplish the desired actions in your efforts. Keep things consistent and universal. This is especially helpful with return visitors. By establishing simple routes along the journey to your ‘call-to-action’, you increase the likelihood of visitors engaging in activities from a habitual response to familiar territory.

Reason; creating a rational motive for someone to take action usually involves a value proposition. You can use fear, benefit or even social pressure to achieve this. Giving people a reason to take a given action is one of the most powerful tools there is. Many times the end user really wants to take a given action, they simply need you to give them a ‘reason to’. Tell them why they need to take action and what the benefit of that action will be.

Passion; another great tool in the tool box, passion can be a facilitator towards action. Nearly everyone has a ‘button’ that can be triggered to get them to take action. It could be an emotional response or a faithful belief, an unfulfilled desire or the need to get involved, passion is a master motivator. Try and consider angles that will create a passionate response from your visitors, get their blood flowing and make them feel alive. It works every time. Don’t believe me? Then screw you… and leave a comment at the end of this post and we'll duke it out (wink).

Desire; one of the sweet frailties of man. When reason escapes us, we are prone to actions that we later review. Appealing to desire takes many forms and most of them seek to pamper our egos. Try and make it so the end user wants what you are offering instead of merely handing it to them to look at. Create a sense of ‘desire’ so that they ‘simply have to have it’. Conversely, look at what the typical visitor in you market actually ‘wants’ from the experience and give it to them. You can create the desire, or play on existing one, find what people wish, want and hope for and give it to them.


And there you have it. By understanding human nature (or the behavioural sciences) you can outpace the competition with inspirational offerings that your visitor can’t help but take an interest in. If it’s luring them from the search results, (your Title and Meta-descriptions) or the content on your site and over-all value proposition, utilizing the understandings of human nature will allow you to create less friction in acquiring the ultimate action you wish them to take.. There are numerous ways to use this to your advantage. Always seek to understand the subtle nature of your target market.

I would like to thank my co-author (ahem) Aristotle for getting me started :0)

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