Post-it notes: Surprisingly Persuasive

Hamish Mexted Odds & Ends, Time Saving & Processes

Convincing someone to do a simple task can be tricky at times. Research shows the best way to get them to do what you’ve asked them to do is to use the humble Post-it note.

Experiments carried out by the Sam Houston State University discovered impressive results when it came to getting things done. The first experiment looked at long and boring surveys. The surveys were sent to three groups of people.

Group 1 received a survey with a post-it note attached asking for the return of completed survey.
Group 2 received a survey with a handwritten note on the cover letter instead of a post-it note.
Group 3 received a survey with a cover letter without any handwritten note.

The results were:

Group 3 had a response rate to the survey of 36%
Group 2 had a response rate of 48%
Group 1 had a response rate of 76%

They then ran a second version of the experiment where they sent the surveys with simply a blank post it note. Surprisingly, the response rate was 43% – even putting a blank Post-it on the survey was better than sending no Post-it at all!

The final version of the experiment showed that surveys with a Post-it were returned on average after 4 days. Those without the Post-it were returned on average after 5.5 days. You’re winning all round with a Post-it note.

So why is the Post-it note so effective? Here’s what they theorised:

  1. It doesn’t match the environment – it looks untidy. The brain wants it gone.
  2. It gets attention first and it’s difficult to ignore.
  3. It’s personalised.
  4. The Post-it represents one person talking to another – almost like they’re asking you for a favour.

The real magic is not the Post-it note itself but it’s the sense of connection it represents. So the next time you need a task done, try the small personal touch with a Post-it.