How does priming prompt consumers to think about a particular product? How can it help affirm biases about a product? What are three examples of print or television ads that utilize the priming effect?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Whenever an individual is presented with a stimulus, his or her brain will immediately activate neurons encoding related stimuli, and will for a short time find those related stimuli more salient. Seeing the word "snow" will make you recognize the word "cold" faster. Hearing the word "sadness" will make you better at reading the word "despair." This effect is called "priming," and it is believed to be quite fundamental to how the brain processes information.Businesses often take advantage of priming in the design of advertising. By presenting and timing stimuli, they can draw consumers toward making positive associations with their product or negative associations with a competitor's product, often without the consumer even realizing they are being influenced. The effect is usually small, but it can be large enough to make a significant difference in a company's profit margin. Priming is often used to create a bias in the interpretation of ambiguous information—we're not sure whether something is true or not, so we tend to assume the prime is correct. In effect, we will think in terms of demanding proof that the prime is wrong, rather than a neutral assessment of whether the assertion is true.Here's an interesting negative example, a commercial for the Microsoft Surface 2-in-1 laptop:The commercial notably does not prime the name "Microsoft" or "Windows" because they know Microsoft has a somewhat negative reputation among some consumers. Instead, they show the product first, along with a diverse cast of users enjoying the product, and only use the name "Microsoft" at the end of the commercial. The diverse cast of users encourages consumers to identify themselves as one of the many types of people who would enjoy the product, and they are then primed to have positive associations with the product before they even learn it is a Surface made by Microsoft.Other companies intentionally present their names first, and often have names designed to prime particular expectations. Here's a recent commercial for the Easy-Bake Oven that opens immediately with the name:What does the name "Easy-Bake" prime us for? Clearly, the idea that baking with this product will be easy to do. In fact, its name is meaningless—it's just a name—but from the moment we hear it, we will form that expectation. As long as the rest of the commercial doesn't obviously contradict that assumption, we will continue to hold it, even if the commercial actually presents no real evidence that it is true. If a brand has positive connotations, often simply presenting the brand name repeatedly without any actual information about the product is enough to make customers more likely to buy the product. When you go to HP.com, what is the first thing you see? It's a gigantic ad for the HP Spectre Laptop:http://www.hp.com/This is a bit strange, as anyone going to the site probably has something else in mind besides buying that particular laptop. It does serve a very important function for HP, though: it primes you to think about that laptop, and makes positive associations about its capabilities and visual appeal. You will probably not buy that laptop today, but the thought has been placed in your mind, and with enough repetition it may eventually motivate you to return to the site to purchase that laptop.Grocery stores are laid out in a particular way to prime certain associations:http://www.fastcompany.com/1779611/how-whole-foods-primes-you-shopThey put fresh flowers in front so the first thing you see is something fresh and beautiful, an association you will carry on to the rest of your shopping experience. As long as the produce is not obviously not fresh, you will assume it is fresh because you have been primed by something fresh.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Videos

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial