Chapter 7

Persuasion by the Numbers

How Telenor, U.S. Bank, and the Obama Campaign Engineered Influence

What is the scientific key to persuasion? Why does some marketing fiercely backfire? Why is human behavior the wrong thing to predict? What should all businesses learn about persuasion from presidential campaigns? What voter predictions helped Obama win in 2012 more than the detection of swing voters? How could doctors kill fewer patients inadvertently? How is a person like a quantum particle? Riddle: What often happens to you that cannot be perceived, and that you can’t even be sure has happened afterward—but that can be predicted in advance?

In her job in Norway, Eva Helle stood guard to protect one of the world’s largest cell phone carriers from its most dire threat. Her company, Telenor, had charged her with a tough assignment because, as it happens, the mobile business was about to suddenly turn perilous.

A new consumer right exerted new corporate strain: mobile phone numbers became portable. Between 2001 and 2004, most European countries passed legislation to mandate that, if you switch to another wireless service provider, you may happily bring your phone number along with you—you need not change it (the United States did this as well; Canada, a few years later).

As customers leaped at the chance to leave, Eva faced an old truth. You just never know how fickle people are until they’re untied. The consumer gains power, and the corporation pays a price.

But, as Eva and her ...

Get Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.