By Robert Gonye
A FAMOUS marketing philosopher said, “There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” One of the reasons the brilliant quote rings true is because of the concept of Priming. When you bring attention to things, it influences how people act upon them. Priming activates some part of our mind, and that’s enough to produce this response out of us.
Priming is a term that describes doing a little bit of something that will activate some idea in your mind and getting a response out of it. The word Priming comes from the old term “priming a water pump.”
Priming the Memory
Memory is crucial to customer loyalty. You can’t be loyal to something or someone that you don’t remember. However, memories are like a fishing net, and understanding why could help you know a little about the significance of Priming.
Imagine there’s a fishing net that’s under the water. You pull out the net by one knot. As the knot breaks the surface, some tangles are out of the water, and some under the water. Now imagine that the one knot you are holding is a customer memory. All the other knots in and out of the water are customer memories, some above the surface and below. The memories are connected, just as the fishing net knots connect.
Those knots’ strength is affected by many things, some were more emotional than others. Regardless of the strength, all the memories connect, and when you activate one of them, you activate the rest to a certain degree.
Some of those knots around the one you are holding can be different things like images or pictures, an advert that you saw the night before, or that as you walk past the aisle in the grocery store. You see the same picture that makes you remember the product or service.
If the temperature was made cold in the office, you’re consciously aware that it’s cold. That knot of coldness and everything associated with it may have pulled above the surface. But under the surface, maybe a desire to feel warmer and situations where you felt warmer probably haven’t broken the surface.
Smell is a vital memory evoker and primer, too. Have you ever been to a perfumes store? Selling lotions, soaps, various things that have the feel of plush or at least not mass-produced. The smell is strong. If you smell something, you’re probably aware that you’re consciously smelling something, but that smell will pull up a part of that net, and that’s going to pull a lot of other things up to the surface, maybe including a desire to make a purchase in the store.
Priming from a customer experience lens will allow you to appreciate that some organizations are not aware of how the little things they are doing are priming the customer. For example, an (ISP) Internet Service Provider which does not prime you properly. You are already fired up because your Internet’s gone down for the 20th time that week, and they are trying to sell you bundles through the hold. Of course, that intermixes with the repeated message that that “your call is important to them.” The effect is the opposite. Each time the terrible music pauses to let in the “your call is important to us” message, you cringe. It reminds you of every other time you’ve been frustrated and waited on the line for resolution and every different negative feeling.
Primers pull some of those responses to the surface. So, as an organization, you have to ask yourself, are you drawing positive or negative reactions?
When managing your customer experiences, think about whether you can steer customers in the right direction by pulling up some of these more positive associations in their memory’s fishing net instead of some of the more negative ones.
The idea of priming properly to evoke positive associations dives down into a Journey Map. When you’re designing your customer journeys, understanding how you prime customers can explain what causes them to do things you don’t want them to do. Furthermore, look for what you can do to prime the memories that influence customer behaviour in the most important ways for your business. It would be essential to consider:
- What music are you going to be putting on hold?
- Which images are you going to be using?
- How does it smell in your physical location?
- What are the words that you want to use?
All of those things should be priming customers to do something that you want. However, it should be appropriate.
The Question Is, What Do You Do With This Information?
The first thing you should do with this information is to recognize that you will be priming your customers now one way or the other. There’s no neutral point on this. It will impact your customer. The issue for me is, is it deliberate? Did you mean to do it?
The second thing you should consider is whether you want to continue with these primes. Are they yielding the right behaviour? Are you getting the results you want?
The third thing you should do is adjust your primes. Given the experience you want to give your customer what new primers should you be putting in place? Bear in mind that these are not universal. Different groups of customers will feel other primes depending upon what’s important to them. So the whole area of customer segmentation and everything else plays a part in this.
Moreover, if you are not aware of why primes will inspire what behaviour, or even what primes your customers want, we recommend undertaking research. When you understand what customers value, you can design an experience that gives it to them.