The Art of Persuasion: An Interview with Marketing Expert and TEDx Coach, Cathey Armillas

Cathey Armillas is the author of The Unbreakable Rules of Marketing: 9½ Ways To Get People To Love You. She coaches and consults with large companies like Nike, smaller organizations, and individuals to refine their messages and presentations.

Jathan Janove: You’re considered an expert on persuasion. What’s your definition of that word, and why and how is it important?

Cathey Armillas: Persuasion is the ability to influence others. It’s a bit of a lost art. It can be used in all sorts of ways from marketing a product to speaking on a stage to thousands of people, even down to convincing your significant other on what restaurant to eat at or which cologne to buy.

Jathan Janove: How does one become persuasive?

Cathey Armillas: The fine art of persuasion is figuring out which emotions to use in a given situation and then how to use those emotions to connect with others. You figure out how people will react to the emotional state you’re trying to get them in.

That can sound cold and calculated, but it’s not when you persuade for good, not evil. Persuasion is at it’s best when delivered in an authentic and genuine way. You can persuade someone by being aware and by understanding what’s truly important to them, and then connecting with them through that.

Jathan Janove: Please share an example or two.

Cathey Armillas: I’ll first share a story in which persuasion went upside down. I was in my early 20s and had just taken a position as the sales and marketing director for a Korean glass beveling machinery company.

It had created a marketing campaign with ads and marketing materials stating that their machines were “so easy, even a woman could run them.” At trade shows, the company had women in pink overalls running the machines.

In a male-dominated industry that involves a lot of dirty work and heavy lifting, the idea was to get plant managers to realize the ease of operation.

The campaign backfired. Typically, the CEOs from the companies we hoped to sell to attended the trade shows with their wives.

Let me tell you, the women were not impressed.

I was hired to do damage control. That’s where I got my start in the art of persuasion.

A similar story with a positive turn happened years later when I was working as marketing director at a company that manufactured mega shredders that shredded all kinds of materials, from mattresses to boats to torpedoes.

It was riveting to watch big, strong items being ripped apart and torn into small pieces.

I had an idea, unheard of at the time, to put videos of shredders online. This was the early 2000’s and YouTube had not come onto the scene yet. We were already creating videos of our shredders for our clients to show them how the shredders worked. So we put up around a dozen videos on a website we named

Within a few weeks, a blogger found our site and wrote about it. Next, I received a phone call from the David Letterman Show wanting to do a segment on us. They flew their stage manager from New York to Oregon. We shredded a car, a piano, a boat, a few jet skis and an arcade game.

Our site went viral. And our revenue went up. And up.

Next we got a reality TV series called “Mega Shredders.” The persuasion level was so high at that point that we were always top of mind when a company looked to buy a shredder.

That’s when persuasion is most effective. It’s not really trying to persuade. It’s being genuine, authentic and incorporating a whole lot of emotional connection.

Jathan Janove: For readers who want to be more persuasive, what are the key “do’s” and “don’ts”?

Cathey Armillas:

Do think about the person you’re trying to persuade. Don’t think about yourself first or what you’re trying to get from them.

Do remember that persuasion is a form of connection. You connect with people through emotions. Don’t use too much logic or you won’t be able to connect.

Do remember that persuasion is not manipulation. Don’t try to con or trick people into doing what you want them to do.

Jathan Janove: Any other observations?

Cathey Armillas: Understand who and why you’re trying persuade. A simple thought process is this: What do you want them to do and what’s the best possible approach to get them to want to do it? Key word being “them.” They have to want to do what you want them to do. You just have to figure out the best way to get them there. Find their emotional epicenter.

And always remember to persuade responsibly.