Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication


How well are you priming shoppers?

Let’s start this week with a little test.  In your head, quickly complete the 5 letter word that follows : G_ _ _ _ .

There are over 400 words that have 5 letters and start with a ‘G’.  You could have thought of ‘glare’ or ‘grass’ or ‘globe’.  How many of you thought of ‘green’?   We suspect quite a lot of you.

Now, green is quite a common 5 letter word beginning with ‘G’, so some of you may have thought of it anyway.  However, the visual at the top of the page shows a green traffic light.  It is very unlikely that you would have made a conscious link between the visual and the word completion task.  But sub consciously, that green traffic light should have had quite an influence.  We hope so, otherwise the experiment didn’t work!

This is an example of priming.  We were trying to prime you, so that you would think of the word ‘green’.  Priming is about embedding something in someone’s memory, with the aim of influencing behaviour at some point in the future.

Priming can work in lots of ways.  For example, how many of you have looked at a car you might buy, or have bought a car, then suddenly you start seeing those cars everywhere?  It is not that there are any more of those cars on the road, your brain has just been primed to notice them.

Priming can be implicit, like the examples above.  Or it can be explicit – advertising is the classic example.  Either way, the key thing that it does, is increase the chances of someone behaving in the way you want them to behave.  And we think this is crucial when trying to influence shoppers.

Priming allows you to influence shoppers before they get to the shelf.  Anything that can take the battle away from the shelf, away from which brand is on deal this week, that makes your brand more likely to be thought of, seen and bought, could be a powerful competitive advantage.

So, what type of things can you do to prime shoppers?

Note we use the word ‘tell’ below – the ‘telling’ could be explicit or implicit.

Tell the shopper what to look for.  This is all about visual identity.  How does the shopper recognise you? A good example of this in recent years has been compact deodorants.  Shoppers were primed in advertising to ‘look for the cans with the green band’.

This is also about visual consistency.  For priming to work properly, the key visual cue for a brand needs to be absolutely consistent through the line.  For compact deodorants, every piece of communication, in and out of store, reinforced the same visual cue.  Priming helps the shopper find a brand in store, but it also triggers a memory association the shopper has with a brand.  To make this happen, brand and shopper marketing communication needs to be properly joined up.

Tell the shopper you are coming.  We’ve talked before about the short launch window most new products have. Maximising the launch window is key.  One way of doing this is to prime the shopper beforehand.  Tell them that the product is coming.  This could be at shelf (some of you will remember the Toni & Guy example we shared before), through direct marketing, or via existing products.  Heinz are about to prime shoppers about their mayonnaise re-launch on their ketchup bottles.

This thinking can also apply to seasonal categories and products.  The earlier you can prime, and then trigger, the first purchase of the season, the more likely you are to get subsequent ones.  And for many categories, one extra purchase is worth a lot of money.

Tell the shopper where to find you.  A lot of good new products fail because they fail to register with, or get seen by, shoppers.   This is an increasing challenge as more new products have properties from more than one category.  If so, where do I find it?  In category A or in Category B or in a new Category C?  A shopper doesn’t have the time or energy to go on a treasure hunt around the store.  No matter how good your product is.  Give them a helping hand.

Priming is about acting early.  Why would you wait?  Why rely on winning the head to head battle at shelf, each purchase occasion?  When you could do some things to load the dice in your favour.  And increase the chances that a shopper will be thinking about and looking for your brand when they are walking down the aisle or tapping a word into a search box online.

Small bits of priming can make a big difference.

By the way, look out for next week’s blog, it’s a really good one.  Another bit of priming for you there…

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.