Priming for Digital Influence

Delicious marinated BBQ ribs on a hot summer day

So, your boss wants more people to land on the website and sign up for events or order more grills from the website. All it takes is buying some ads online, sitting back with your hands behind your head, chortling at the screen and the money just flows in right? (I know you marketing guys do it, I’ve seen it in stock photos!)


If it were that simple, I wouldn’t have to throw out a whole box of mix-tape minidiscs titled “French Trip Hop for Driving”. Someone told me it was a good idea back in the 90s.

There is a long journey with many decision forks that the brain travels between landing on the website and clicking on that ‘Buy’ button. The good news is that there are also many ways you can influence that journey to achieve a desired effect.

Enter stage left: priming. People have in them associations or sets of associations formed for things they know or have heard of before. For example, when you show a photo of people out in the sun on a garden to someone, the words, ‘summer’, ‘hot’, ‘fun’ will pop into that person’s head, along with the feelings attached to those words. Of course, those words and feelings are also dependent on an individual’s experience, but let’s assume the stereotype.

Those words and feelings that get brought up also affect and make a person lean towards a certain action. Priming is thus the act of setting the stage for a certain desired action based on these associations. It requires a good understanding of the product, the audience and, most importantly, the journey that can be crafted for the audience. Priming then forms the perspective with which your audience sees your brand.

A recent project involving an ecommerce client had an objective of selling more grills on the ecommerce platform. We did intensive research into the audience and realised the decision making journey was based around food and gatherings, with a main element of urgency. A content strategy was thus developed to create quick recipes for grills, with little ingredients and video content to boot, all fronted by delicious photos of grilled patties and juicy chicken wings (I know you’re salivating now, I am doing the same as I type). The audience was ‘inspired’ by the recipes, nudged by the scrumptious photos (and their grumbling stomachs) and encouraged by the swiftness of delivery, both of the recipes and the product.

The content was presented as the ‘frontman’ of the site, with the ecommerce component as a supplementary element. Testing determined that we had a huge increase in conversion for people buying grills. Of course, the strategy and design we delivered had many other elements to it.

So don’t ignore the possibilities that the mind offers. With understanding of your audience and some deft service design or user journey crafting, you can improve your services for the audience and make the web a more enjoyable place for everyone.

Now, go grill that chicken, I know you want to.