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The Influence of Priming on Consumer Behavior and Innovation Opportunities

The Influence of Priming on Consumer Behavior and Innovation Opportunities

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Let’s delve into the fascinating world of priming, where subtle cues wield significant influence over consumer behavior. In this thought leadership article, we’ll explore how priming shapes our choices, impacts innovation, and opens doors to strategic opportunities.

Priming refers to the activation of mental constructs or associations through exposure to stimuli, often without conscious awareness. These cues can be visual, auditory, or even linguistic. As marketers, understanding priming is akin to wielding a powerful tool—one that can either reinforce existing behaviors or provoke unexpected responses.

Brands as Primes: A Curious Case

Case Study 1: Walmart vs. Slogan

In a series of experiments, researchers discovered a curious phenomenon: brands cause priming effects, while slogans produce reverse priming effects. (1) Let’s unpack this:

  • Brands: When participants were exposed to the retailer brand name “Walmart,” associated with saving money, their subsequent spending decreased. The brand itself primed thriftiness.
  • Slogans: However, exposure to the Walmart slogan, “Save money. Live better,” had the opposite effect—it increased spending. Slogans, perceived as persuasion tactics, triggered a reverse priming effect.

Implication: Brands subtly nudge behavior, while slogans act as persuasive cues. Marketers can strategically leverage both for desired outcomes.

Color Priming: The Emotional Palette

Case Study 2: Coca-Cola’s Red

Subconscious cues, such as colors, evoke emotions and influence behavior. Consider Coca-Cola’s iconic red hue. Representing passion and excitement, it primes consumers for immediate satisfaction. When combined with the message “Open the happy can,” the desire intensifies. (2)(3)

Takeaway: Brands can orchestrate emotional experiences through color priming, fostering deeper connections with consumers.

Reverse Priming: A Hidden Opportunity

Case Study 3: Correcting Bias

Sometimes, priming works in reverse. Consumers automatically correct for perceived bias. For instance, if a tactic implies spending money, they become thriftier. Conversely, when seeking value, they indulge more. (1)

Strategic Insight: Brands can intentionally trigger reverse priming to disrupt habitual behaviors and encourage innovation. Imagine a luxury brand subtly hinting at affordability—opening doors to new market segments.

Ethical Considerations

Priming isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Marketers must tread ethically. Here are some questions to ponder:

  1. Subliminal Influence: How can we use priming without compromising consumer autonomy?
  2. Innovation: Can priming spark creative thinking and novel solutions?


Priming is both art and science. As marketers, we wield brushes of perception, coloring consumer choices and shaping innovation. Let’s embrace this hidden force, ethically, and unlock new possibilities.

Remember: The canvas awaits. Paint wisely.


  1. Laran, J., Dalton, A. N., & Andrade, E. B. (2011). Curious Case of Behavioral Backlash: Why Brands Produce Priming Effects and Slogans Produce Reverse Priming Effects. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(6), 999–1014
  2. Digital Alchemy. (2018). How Priming Influences Consumer Behaviour
  3. CustomerThink. (2018). How Priming Influences Consumer Behaviour
  4. Entrepreneur. (2022). 3 Consumer Behavior Experiments to Inspire Your Startup’s Growth
  5. MotiveMetrics. What is Priming? A Psychological Look at Priming & Consumer Behavior

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

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