Secrecy persuades as, in terms of persuasion, simply stating that the source of something is secret or non-public immediately makes it more persuasive.

Underlying Psychology/Biases

Secrecy creates intrigue and interest as the person does not share the information that the influencing person (ostensibly) does. It also serves as a type of displayed authority (the source of information is not the influencing person, but an unknown third-party).


There are two main ways to achieve secrecy:

  • Have secret elements in your offering (building blocks that are not revealed);
  • Have a secret formula or combination (the building blocks are public, but it’s the specific combination that is privileged);

There are also two other related techniques:

  • Mystique, which can be considered secrecy in terms of the person. Nothing you do is secret, but there is an aura or feeling that you have something secretive yourself;
  • Vanguard knowledge. It’s not having something secret, but being the first to share it. For example, inventors. You are considered to always be on the vanguard of innovation;


  • Something being “proprietary”
    • Used a lot in companies, especially startups. Used in a bad way to hide mediocre systems;
  • Hedge fund investment processes
    • In terms of asset management, all information is public and equal. It’s the process that is secret and unique;
    • Unique hedge funds (or other funds) are those that have unique processes;
  • Big pharma formulas
    • Examples of vanguard knowledge;
    • Companies publish a new medication, patent it, it goes public, and they can’t make it secret anymore;
    • But instead, they change something in the formula and release a new version;
    • They are constantly on the forefront of medical innovation;
  • TV networks or platforms with exclusive TV shows and movies
    • Another example of vanguard knowledge;
    • Specific TV channels or chains saying, “We’re the first to have this movie debut on TV!”;

Commercial/Known Uses

Key Takeaways

  • Secrecy works. Regardless of the quality of something, just stating it’s secret or proprietary makes it more persuasive;
  • It can be applied to people or things. It can be something that is secret, or someone with mystique;
  • Vanguard knowledge is a variation. You’re not the one knowing something secret, but the first to make it public;