Priming is the psychological phenomenon in which subtle cues in the environment (pictures, text, sounds, etc.) influences subconsciously (or without awareness) how one thinks, feels, and acts. When students at NYU were exposed to politeness related words, they tended to wait longer to interrupt a conversation of others compared to students who were primed with rudeness words.
Research on consumer behavior uncovered similar effects. Consumers exposed to prestige logos (e.g., Nordstrom) chose to buy more expensive socks than consumers exposed to thrift logos (e.g., Wal-Mart). And a recent study by professors at Duke University demonstrated that consumers perform better on standard creativity tests after being subliminally exposed to an Apple logo.
Implications: Priming is a fascinating psychological phenomenon that can be strategically used to build company brand identity and inform ad placement decisions. Priming is not trickery. To be effective primes require understanding of consumers – their needs, desires, goals, and environment. To be effective, priming requires understanding of consumers’ needs, desires, goals, and environment. Priming that aims to trigger actions irrelevant to consumers may fail to influence behavior or the impact will dissipate after a very short delay.
Experience priming: Michael Shermer (TED, 2006)