Weapons of Social Seduction

Phill Agnew

“You can’t just be an arrogant asshole and expect everyone to follow your dream. You have to be warm as well if you want to influence people and bring them along.”

Phill Agnew


Phill Agnew spent £50,000 and a huge amount of time studying marketing at a university in the UK. He started work thinking he should be in a pretty good place to be effective at his job. He began with typical marketing tasks like crafting an email subject line, writing a blog, doing a pitch and creating a sales deck. However, he found that the content he was producing was dull, not engaging and ultimately not getting results.


He then discovered the field of behavioural science which is basically the psychology of how people make decisions. He dove in, reading everything he could find and learnt a huge number of principles and laws which can be applied to marketing. If you understand how people make decisions, you can be a better marketer.


Have you read: Why You Should Have a Smarketing™ Team – Peter Strohkorb


Since then, Phill has applied the principles of behavioural science to his work with tech companies such as Hotjar and Buffer, as well as his consumer psychology podcast, Nudge. He has used nudges like the halo effect and the fresh start effect to build habits around people listening to his podcast and reciprocity to get over two hundred 5-star reviews on the show. These principles have become his weapons of social seduction.


Behavioural science and psychology captured Phill’s attention because it is not based on the thoughts of CEOs and leaders and the examples that they might have. It is based on studies that have been peer-reviewed, as well as studies which have been run in a lab and then replicated in the real world. These are studies leaders can use; learn what works and apply to improve their effectiveness.


Have you read: The New Rules of Marketing and PR – David Meerman Scott


Workplace leaders influence naturally and people make decisions based on this influence. A leader must wield this influence responsibly and educate themself in order to understand how it works.


Daniel Pink, a New York Times Bestseller, has done a ton of research on all sorts of things from regrets to sales to motivation. His work on motivation is something Phill has seen the best leaders incorporate into how they run their business.


His work has identified three core pillars of motivation:

  •   Autonomy – being able to dictate what you do in your job
  •   Purpose – having a job and a role that you think is valuable that is matching your values
  •   Mastery – the feeling that what you are working towards is building skill and you can see evidence that skill is improving


Another key point around the leadership subject is that weaknesses are worth sharing (backed by endless supporting evidence). If you are competent, showcasing that weakness will dramatically increase how much people like you, how much people engage with you and how much people motivate you. Phill’s advice to leaders is “Don’t feel like you have to always be highlighting strengths and positivity. Understand that weaknesses are ultimately your friend and if you flaunt them in the right way, you’ll massively increase your motivation and your influence.” 


If my calculations are correct, Phill has shared examples of around 14 principles of behavioural science and psychology in today’s The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) Podcast. These are supported by real life case studies and book recommendations. Leaders need to understand how people make decisions. Understanding this helps them influence, motivate and persuade. If leader’s don’t understand how the human brain works and ‘why’ and ‘how’ people perceive information, they will struggle to do a lot of those things. 


Psychology and human behaviour is a critical element of understanding how to do these ethically


The complete interview can be listened to here, on audio platforms, or watched here, on The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) YouTube channel.


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