Even subtle environmental cues can have a significant influence on behaviors.
Often without conscious awareness.
Understanding this effect provides powerful yet ethical opportunities for marketing and design.
The Power of Priming
Decades of psychology research reveals countless ways minor tweaks make a major impact on consumer perceptions, motivations and actions:
- The presence of luxury related images and words on product packaging primes shoppers' positive perceptions of items and increases willingness to buy. Simple cues conveying prestige and exclusivity have been shown to increase purchase rates and spend across item types.
- Conversely, exposing consumers to very subtle words related to frugality and thrift (e.g. "economical", "clearance") encourages more price conscious evaluations and reduces average shopping bills.
- Even unnamed base colors in advertising and packaging prime certain emotions and actions from users - red evokes danger, passion and excitement while green signals receptivity and says “go”. Identical products generate better response depending on intuitive color cues.
Skillful design carefully considers and curates the entire consumer journey through environmental signaling - from first view to final click. Strategic signposting guides users’ next perceptions, decisions and moves just as masterful stories transport readers on a journey. Of course, the path should ultimately map to the positive destination you intend.
4 Methods of Priming
Here are just a couple approaches to effectively employ priming in marketing and design:
1. Visual Cues
- Use color strategically - blue for trust, green to move forward
- Show imagery that conveys your desired trait - innovation, sophistication
- Ensure visual flow moves attention where you aim it
2. Verbal Cues
- Descriptor words on packaging set product expectations
- Menu descriptions cue taste sensations and satisfaction
- Website copy establishes site experience before products seen
3. Behavioral Cues
- Thanking folks for a choice confirms their decision-making
- Default settings guide users while presenting choice
4. Identity Cues
- Branded merchandise boosts exposure
- Positioning influencers activates associations
Test, iterate and observe. Measure the impact on memory, emotion and action. Seek not just to prime but to delight those you serve.
With great power comes great responsibility. As masters of experience with knowledge of behavioral influence techniques, marketing and design professionals must follow strict ethical guidelines:
- Transparency over manipulation
- User empowerment over exploitation
- Delighting audiences through value over deceiving them through tricks
The most resonant brands also excite users' while easing their lives - good design and messaging should serve people even more than the product or company behind it.
Priming pervades our spaces everywhere, from blank walls crying for color and texture to empty tables waiting for purposeful installation.
Truly understanding behavioral science and the priming phenomenon transforms us from passive communicators to active architects engineering experiences.
Let’s get designing for good.