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The Power of the Persuasion Law of Association

The Power of the Persuasion Law of Association

-Why do I put peas in all of my dishes? Peas remind me of my Grandmother. (Brad)

-Yes, I grow marigold flowers yearly. When I smell marigolds, I think of my Mother.

-I do keep my desk organized. I want to convey my professionalism. (Sharon)

-I advise all of my clients to paint their front door red because it symbolizes, Welcome! (Real Estate Agent Mark)

How a product or issue is associated may be the key to whether it will be a success. Author Kurt Mortensen in his book Maximum Influence lists Association as one of the psychological Laws of Persuasion. He catalogs this Association Law under “shaping perceptions.” This law as well as the other eleven other Persuasion Laws are neutral. They are neither good nor bad. They work psychologically both consciously and subconsciously.

The Association Law (AL) is common sense; that is, words and terms matter. How one presents an idea or product is vital. One needs to tell the story that associates success with their idea of ROL (return on investment)

(The Persuasion Law of Association is closely affiliated with such concepts as the Law of Verbal Packaging, Assumptions, Perspectives and Framing-all of which are covered in other Blog Entries.)

How Does This Law of Association Work?

It is both conscious and subconscious. It is based on people’s life experiences and on research.

-Maybe people associate red cars with adventure.

-Maybe when people see fast driving cars in commercials, they think of excitement.

If one wants to persuade another, one needs to place one’s head on their shoulders. One needs to walk in their shoes. What is their goal? What do they want? What are their needs?

Secondly, what do they associate with those needs, goals and wants.

So, maybe they want their job to be fulfilling. What does fulfilling mean? Maybe they associate a fulfilling job with having time for the family, with having flexibility, with having freedom and with contributing to the community or society. So, maybe when they hear working from home, they associate this with flexibility and more family time. Maybe having a relaxed dress code is associated with flexibility and freedom.

So, maybe they want their project to be successful. What is the ingredients of that success? Does it mean money, members, high quality products and/or more jobs/employees? What are the associations? Maybe they associate a corner office with success. Maybe a home office? Maybe car service? Maybe matching retirement investments?

Associations May Also Be Negative

Maybe some associate the lack of a dress code with the lack of professionalism.

Maybe some associate flex-time with lack of productivity.

Maybe some associate red cars with illegal driving; that is, speeding and not obeying traffic laws.

To Successfully Persuade, Tailor/Craft the Pitch to the Persuadee

Through questioning, listening and summarizing one will discover the needs of the Peruadee and maybe the associations. Then one can craft their proposal, their pitch to this approach.

General Associations Examples:

Business Suit: Washington Post Columnist Christopher Elliott of The Navigator tells the story of a traveler who always wears a suit for hotel check in. Hotel clerks associate a business suit with business and busyness. He claims the clerk often calls him over to Elite check in and often is awarded with room upgrades

Sir/Madam: Some associate these salutations with being old. Others view these as terms of respect, especially those who have served in the military.

My Pleasure rather than No Worries/No Problem: When a service person says “My Pleasure” that is usually associated with enjoyable service.

Awards: Car Equinox sports 30 awards as proof of their quality.

Sports Teams: Organized sports associate patriotism, religion, and the military. At games, they display flags, often have the military present, cite prayers and sing the national anthem. Sport team supporters also associate a win to them: We won!

Saving Old Trees in Texas: Some Texan environmentalists are naming old trees thinking that association may save the tree.

Orange Dust: Cheetos and Doritos retain the orange dust which adds nothing to the taste but research shows consumers want it and associate it with taste.

Doctor White Coats associated with expertise: Honda Dream Garage Commercial announcer is wearing a white doctor’s coat. Often pharma commercials like Varillus will have their spokesperson to wear white doctor’s coats. Even FIOS xFinity commercial spokespeople are wearing White Coats, associated with expertise.

Running not for exercise. Some see people running not for exercise and associate this with being late and irresponsible.

Sex Offenders: A Fox commentator Ben Domenech stated: There are fewer transgender folks than registered sex offenders. This was in reference to the North Carolina “bathroom bill.” Of course, he was negatively associating transgender with sex offenders.

Car donations: In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, a commercial urged people to donate an old car to assist ex-offenders and veterans. An odd association?

Dancing in Commercials: There are scores of commercials where people are dancing. Dancing seems to be associated with happiness. Examples include Honda-dream-garage; Slimfast commercial; Koons Car commercial; Honey Nut Cheerios, ; Big Lots dancing after purchasing furniture; Old Navy-everyone dancing; and TicTac breath mints=dancing.

Fast Driving in Car Commercials: Almost every commercial involves fast driving associated with excitement.

Campaigns including Children: Campaigns often use children who are associated with freshness and innocence. Years ago, Anita Bryant launched her “Save the Children” campaign vs Gays. Former President Barak Obama used children in his gun control, immigration and Gay Marriage campaigns.

What About Smell Associations?

-Author Harold McGee asserts that 90% of our taste comes from smells. The tip of the tongue can identify about 12 different tastes such as salt. But the human nose can distinguish among approximately 2,000+ tastes For example,

-Medicinal smells associated with daffodils and sea urchins.

-Citrusy smells associated with coriander and beer.

-Sometimes pineapples can smell like Parmesan

-Sometimes oysters smell like cucumbers.

-Smell of cut white Lillie, associated with death?

-Perfume: Some associate heavy perfumes with someone who has not taken a shower.

-BBQ: Smell of BBQ often associate with fun, family and holidays.

-Baking biscuits or cookies: Often used in BnB’s associated with home.

-Flavors: 80-90% of flavor actually comes from smells (olfactory)

-Bleach: Somebody has made a mess. Vomit?

-Moth balls: Some use to get rid of rats. Some, associate moth with old clothing.

Family Associations (per Larry Ray): Marigold Flowers=Mother; Burnt pancakes=Dad cooking on Sundays; Pinot Talcum Power associated with David’s Grandfather’s barber shop; Mennen’s aftershave associated with th Dad; Boxwood bushes associated with smothering and something bad.

Burning leaves instantly reminds people of the Season-Fall.

-Spice Nutmeg: Nutmeg has become the smell of Christmas. It has a history of making people feel good-even slightly hallucinogenic. Nutmeg once only grew on the Bango Island of Indonesia. Manhattan may have been traded by the Dutch for nutmeg and sugar.

-Ocean smells: People think of vacation, family, boardwalks, local radio = “Carnival of Life?”

-Lemon smell associated with cleanliness. Lemon often included in cleaning materials such as Lemon Pledge.

-Snaps/Hums/music/fizz: Household products’ clicks and hums are no accident; Light piano music when the Dishwasher is done. Rice Krispies: Snap, crackle, pop. Alka Seltzer: Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Volume Mascara’s new soft, crisp click when the cap is securely on.

-Cash register rings: Entrepreneur/Business Person (1898-1971) James Cash Penney aka J.C. Penney may have created the cash register with the ring symbolizing each sale so managers could hear. He may also have coined the $ .99 so sales persons could not steal the dollar?

-Potato Chips: The louder they crunch, the more we want them. Lays Potato Chips TV ad focuses on chip sounds. Also, Kit Kat bars TV commercials as well as Special K crackers. (This would be most irritating for those who suffer from misophonia-sensitive to sounds.)

Eating With Our Ears.

-Sound of Trains: Associated with travel and adventure.

Symbol Association

-Butterflies: Free Libre blood glucose, no stick with needle commercial uses a butterfly as their symbol of freedom.

The most famous company with a butterfly logo is MSN (Microsoft Network). Other companies with a butterfly logo include Benchmade and Sigfox.

“Butterflies are deep and powerful representations of life. ... The Christian religion sees the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection. Around the world, people view the butterfly as representing endurance, change, hope, and life. There is no doubt the butterfly has significant meanings to us.”

-Bumblebees, dragon flies and pineapple at or around the front door symbolizes Welcome/Good Luck/Friendship according to Wayfair.

-Catholic funeral-Casket covered with a white linen pall is a symbol. It is blessed with holy water by a priest and positioned in a sanctuary before the Paschal candle. Decorated with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha and Omega, the candle denotes the fundamental belief in the resurrection of the body.

-Kangaroo: Mid Atlantic Heating uses a kangaroo in their commercials. Kangaroos may symbolize balance and strength. Some believe it symbolizes “moving forward’ with the belief that Kangaroos cannot move backwards.

-Blue Apron: The name Blue Apron is an homage to chefs around the world who wear blue apronswhile learning to cook. Today, the blue apron is a symbol of lifelong learning within the culinary field, so our hope is that our name inspires others to discover new elements of preparing and cooking food.

-Statue of Liberty: Liberty Mutual Insurance has the statue of liberty in the background for many of their commercials.

-Confederate flag (war flag): This controversy certainly says that symbols matter. Symbols say at a glimpse what words cannot, encapsulating beliefs and aspirations, prejudices and fears. Having no intrinsic value, they take meaning from the way they are used them, changing over time along with their actions.

-Swastika: The most obvious example is the ancient “gammadion” which in early Eastern cultures meant “god” “good luck” “eternity” and other benign conjurations. We know it today as the swastika, and a quarter century of usage by the Nazis forever poisoned it in Western culture.

-Tour hat: Tour Guide Tim wears a hat (dark color) to add to his legitimacy.

-Red Hats: There are over 40,000 chapters of Red Hats. “When I grow old, I will wear purple.” This poem was written in 1998.

-Shopping Bag: On Black Friday, Marshall’s gave shopping bags to all the shoppers. Shopping bags are a symbol of buying. This also evoked reciprocity.

-Elephant: Elephant Insurance uses the elephant symbol which some associate with commitment, royalty, strength and connection to ancient wisdom. Buddhists associate it with mental strength.

-Owl: Trip Advisor uses owl. WGU (Western Governors University) uses owl to describe their competency based education process.

Colors Associations:

-Red and Black in re finances: As the story goes, after an entire year of operating at a loss (“in the red”) stores would supposedly earn a profit (“went into the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving, because holiday shoppers blew so much money on discounted merchandise. Thus, “Black Friday.”

-Red and blue men ties-Maybe to symbolize power and control.

-Green Graduation Gowns worn by Graduates of George Washington University symbolizing new beginnings.

-Traditionally, Pink for girls; blue for boys

- Black Hockey Jerseys: Hockey teams wearing darker-colored jerseys are more likely to be penalized for aggressive fouls than teams wearing white jerseys, according to new research. Black jerseys get penalized the most of any color.

-White medical coats symbolize expertise and cleanness and also draw attention.

-Blue Color is often found in cleaning liquids and materials such as Febreze,. Homepro brooms, brushes.

“Blue is the only color with enough strength of character to remain blue in all of its tones.” French Fauvist Painter Raoul Dufy.

Scientists fascinated with blue captivated by its optical purity, complexity and metaphorical fluency.

-Green Color also used for cleaning items such as Libman brooms, brushes, mops.

-Whites for hotel towels and paper towels symbolizes cleanness.

- Liturgical colors are those specific colors used for vestments and hangings within the context of Christian liturgy. The symbolism of violet, white, green, red, gold, black, rose and other colors may serve to underline moods appropriate to a season of the liturgical year or may highlight a special occasion.

Rose vestments symbolize joy and love; Red, passion and blood; White/Gold=birth and resurrection; Black=mourning. Black is standard dress symbolizing humility and sacrifice.

-Judges wearing black robes and sitting behind a high bench symbolizing power and control.. People stand when the Judge arrives showing respect.

- People eat less when served on a Red plate: For the study, researchers gave 240 participants snacks of popcorn and chocolate chips served on either red, white, or blue plates. And it turns out that those who munched popcorn or chocolate chips off of red plates ate less overall than those who ate the snacks off of white or blue.

-Something in Red song by Lorrie Morgan: Song writer Angela Kaset chose red symbolizing color of attraction and calls attention to self. She realized that colors have emotional significance such as green for jealousy; White for wedding and marriage; blue for baby boy.

-Red Guitar: Country Singer Kris Allen’s famous song Red Guitar-maybe because the color of red never fades and can easily find the guitar.

-Lady in Red 1986 song by Chris de Burgh is a song about his wife and appreciating the people in one’s life. Wife was wearing red going to a nightclub.

Six Thinking Hats is a seminal book written by Edward de Bono. He asserts that there are six thinking styles and he symbolizes them by colors:

-White=neutral thinking; Blue-Controlling thinking; Red=Emotional Thinking; Black=negative thinking; Yellow=positive and Green thinking is creative.

Symbolization of Sights

-DANCING in commercials combines both sights and symbols. Dancing is associated with happiness and freedom. At any one time, there are usually more than 35 commercials involving dancing.

--Cheerios Honey Nut Commercial: Singer Usher is dancing with a bee.

-Beats Headphones commercial includes dancing bears

--Evian (dancing babies), Nike, Burger King, Heineken, Kia, Cadbury Caramilk, GAP, Samsung Galaxy, Always Depends (bladder control), Celebrex-brake dancing.

Dancing symbolizes or associates with youthfulness, energy, social interaction. It is a universal communication tool-no verbiage needed. Dancing may disguise/suppress societal inequalities and injustices.

-Toothpaste suds: Dentist says that toothpaste suds do not good. It is the brushing that does good. The sight of suds just makes the users feel that teeth are clean.

-ASPCA commercial with sad dogs was the most successful in re fundraising commercial for ASPCA. It combined the sight of sad and injured animals with the beautiful and sad song of Sarah McLaughlin, In the Arms of an Angel.

-UNICEF commercials use pictures and videos of poor, injured children while asking for 50 cents per day. They create a sense of urgency saying these children can’t wait another moment.

-Animal crackers served with coffee/tea: Animal cookies are associated with fun and innocence.

-Google or Apple Headquarters=sensory experiences, hoping the young employees will work around the clock. Apple employees, not wearing suits, creates the sights of informality


-.Casinos usually have no windows so there no sights of outdoors but only sights of the gambling machines.


The Law of Association is powerful. It works consciously and unconsciously. It is triggered by a certain event or things or experiences. Association is closely linked with the Law of Verbal Packaging as well as assumptions and framing. It is no wonder that

-Chocolate chip cookies are baked during Open Houses.

-Political ads often include children and dogs. A 2020 Lacome perfume features Julia Roberts giving perfume to a delighted young girl.

The Law of Association is expansive including smells, sights, symbols, colors, and sounds.

This means if one wants to persuade another, sell the proposal, market an idea, much research is necessary to tailor or craft the approach so that it is effective.

Professor Larry Ray consistent with this Law, when he schedules a mediation, negotiation or executive coaching session, he pays attention to the setting. He would select,

-a large, airy room so participants feel free and not cramped;

-a room with lots of windows, possibly promoting a positive environment;

-comfortable, rolling chairs so participants can easily move about;

-refreshments associated with happiness and friendship;

-a room with all of the audio visuals available to promote communication in those ways.

He even examines the art on the wall. If it is dark and brooding, he removes or covers it.

So using the Law of Association, he creates a positive setting.


Maximum Influence, The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion, Kurt W. Mortensen.

Say What You Mean. Get What You Want, A Businessperson’s Guide to Direct

Communication, Judith C. Tingley, Ph.D.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. “The first-and still the best book of its kind-to lead you to success.”

How to Negotiate Like a Child-Unleash the Little Monster Within to Get Everything You Want, Bill Adler, Jr., ISBN 0-8144-7294-X

Making Your Case-The Art of Persuading Judges, Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner,, ISBN 978-0-314-18471-9


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