Not buying it: Marketing messages may not work in uncommon situations

Sep 15, 2008

Marketers like to talk about "priming" goals -- or sending subtle messages to encourage consumption. For example, thirsty people who encounter ads related to thirst tend to buy more beverages.

But a surprising new study in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that goal priming can backfire, especially when consumers are in uncommon situations.

Authors Juliano Laran (University of Miami), Chris Janiszewski (University of Florida, Gainesville), and Marcus Cunha, Jr. (University of Washington, Seattle) examined the phenomenon called "goal priming," and its opposite: "anti-priming."

"A priming effect occurs when active information influences people's behavior," explain the authors. "For example, a consumer exposed to information related to impressing others (e.g., a brand slogan containing the word "excellence") may become more likely to buy expensive products that are symbols of status. Anti-priming effects occur when the use of goal primes backfire and lead to the opposite effects of those intended by the priming cues."

During the course of the study, the researchers stimulated goals in undergraduate participants by having them unscramble sentences. Some of the sentences related to having fun, some to impressing others, and some had neutral sentences. After their goals were primed, participants chose restaurants—although they did not know the tasks were related.

When participants were planning a dinner for that night (a common situation), they chose restaurants consistent with the primed goals. In a less common situation (choosing a restaurant for a dinner a month from now), people who were primed for fun or impressing others were less likely to choose a corresponding restaurant. Subsequent studies yielded similar results: In familiar situations, priming goals worked; in uncommon ones, the goal priming backfired.

The authors believe that marketers should be aware of the effects of priming and anti-priming. "The implication of these findings is that retailers should understand the amount of experience consumers have with certain choice situations before using priming as a marketing tool to influence consumers," they conclude.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Researcher explores sustainable ties among the poor in Philadelphia-based organization

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alibaba signals that China is an innovative tech center

May 16, 2014

When most people think of the Chinese tech industry, they probably envision vast Foxconn factories with armies of workers churning out iPhones and laptops. And Silicon Valley, in this popular view, is the world's tech innovation ...

Recommended for you

Understanding the economics of human trafficking

7 hours ago

Although Europe is one of the strictest regions in the world when it comes to guaranteeing the respect of human rights, the number of people trafficked to or within the EU still amounts to several hundred ...

Affirmative action elicits bias in pro-equality Caucasians

Jul 25, 2014

New research from Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business indicates that bias towards the effects of affirmative action exists in not only people opposed to it, but also in those who strongly endorse equality.

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

Jul 24, 2014

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

User comments : 0