Mental Trigger #8: Social Proof | TravelResearchOnline


Mental Trigger #8: Social Proof

This “trigger” is more obvious than it sounds. Perhaps the best way to explain the effectiveness of social proof is again, by example. I will use a restaurant and a gas pump to clarify the meaning behind this trigger.

While traveling in Greece with my wife, I attended a business meeting in Athens. I found myself chaperoning Barbara and a few of her associates on a last-minute shopping spree. Much to my dismay, we ended up in a jewelry shop sampling the trinkets. The women were like kids in a candy store.

Before exiting the shop, I asked the proprietor if he knew of a restaurant in the area where we could grab a light bite to eat before taking a cab back to the meeting site. As he was about to close the shop for the day, he smiled and said “As a matter of fact I do. Follow me.”

A “red flag” shot up as I was not familiar with Athens nor did I know this shopkeeper. We followed him cautiously not knowing where he was leading us. “Could it be that we were being set up as vulnerable trusting tourists? Was this guy taking us to a dive?” I tried to remember a couple of Tae Kwon Do moves…just in case. (I once earned my green belt before a 10-year old took me out and ended my quest to a black belt.)

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When he rounded the corner and pointed toward the restaurant, I felt my muscles relax as I instantly became at ease. I was looking into a well-lit dining facility filled with people absorbed in lively conversation. This is an example of “social proof” at its finest.

The fact that “others” were enjoying the occasion allowed me to feel comfortable knowing that I was in good company. When you determine a place, product, or service to be acceptable after witnessing others enjoying the experience; an example of social proof is unfolding before your very eyes.

Just as “misery loves company,” so do good experiences enjoy company. “If it was good enough for others, it must be good enough for us.”

More Proof

A second example of social proof brings me back to my high school gas-pumping days.

That is when I coined the phrase, (GPS) “The Gas Pump Syndrome.” I had no idea of what a Mental Trigger was back in those days but unbeknownst to me, that is exactly what I was experiencing at the pumps.

When the pumps were empty it seemed to me that they stayed empty. When a single car entered the station, six more followed them as if they were in a funeral procession. There appeared to be safety in numbers. Nobody wanted to be the first, but many cars felt comfortable being number two, three, and four. So, I did what every clear-thinking, high-school gas jockey would do. I parked my car at one of the pumps and stuck a non-operating gas nozzle into my tank. Let the procession begin.

Go ahead. Test my GPS Theory for yourself, and get ready to giggle. It works.

Mike Marchev

Mike Marchev freely shares his experiences, strategies and observations with travel professionals in an effort to keep them on top of their game. For a complimentary copy of his 12-Word Marketing Plan send him an email at

Mike’s daily column is made possible by AmaWaterways.

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