Asking for Help and Reinforcements for Your Brand with Heidi Grant

“We all need help. We all need to move people. But we’re reluctant to ask.” While it may not seem related to branding and marketing, the social sciences of motivation and influence underly everything we do. That’s why I couldn’t wait to have Heidi Grant back on the podcast. She’s the Global Director of Research and Development at the Neuroleadership Institute and the author of several books including her latest Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You. We discussed how to move people to get involved and take action on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

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About Heidi Grant

Heidi Grant is a social psychologist who researches, writes, and speaks about the science of motivation. She is the author of Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You. Her previous books include Succeed, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Focus, and The Eight Motivational Challenges. She is Global Director of Research and Development at the Neuroleadership Institute. She continues to serve as Associate Director of Columbia’s Motivation Science Center and in that capacity now teaches Executive Education courses on topics related to her books. She received her PhD in social psychology from Columbia University.

Episode Highlights

Wait a minute. What does social science have to do with branding? “It’s all about influence,” reminds Heidi. As marketers we have to know how to “get people to act not just in their own self interest. We’re all trying to get people to help us and to do that we have to look at how brains work.”

How to ask for help. “We all need to move people. As my editor at HBR said, getting people to do things is really what management is all about. People are more likely to help than you think.”

So, what are we doing wrong? If people are more likely to help than we think, what are we doing wrong? “First, we’re reluctant to ask. A lot of times we make it weird. And there are a lot of ways to make it weird.” Heidi outlined why incentives and excessive apologies (“I hate that I have to ask you this … I’m sooooo sorry …”) often backfire. Marketers take note: She also explains why tote bag giveaways don’t have the intended impact.

What’s one thing we can if we want to get better at motivating people to help us? “People don’t know you need help. No one’s a mind reader. Your requests must be elicit and specific. People want to be good help givers.” For example, Heidi cites a study on why a specific appeal to “Spread the Net” (raising money for malaria nets) is stronger than a generic appeal to “Save the Children.”

What brand has made Heidi smile recently? Heidi loves to laugh. She’s a fan of the GEICO George Washington ad, the Tide ads from the Super Bowl (featuring David Harbour), and, of course, The Onion’s Joe Biden articles.

To learn more, go to and check out her new book on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
As we’re mentioning The Onion, let’s give a shout out to our episode featuring Eric Munn of Onion Labs. Thanks for being a guest Eric!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

On Brand is sponsored by my new book Brand NowDiscover the seven dynamics to help your brand stand out in our crowded, distracted world. Order now and get special digital extras. Learn more.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!