Findings suggest that public health experts should consider harnessing the power of environmental cues to spread their messages, whether on nutrition, smoking or binge drinking. There is a lot of effort put into telling people to eat ‘five a day’ and “everyone agrees they should eat more fruits and vegetables.”
But just because you hear a catchy slogan about eating more nutritious foods doesn’t mean you will think to do so when it’s time for lunch or dinner. People need to remember the information at the time when the relevant behavior is taking place. Hence the strategy of devising a slogan with the word ‘tray’, an object found in the environment of canteens and fast eating places.
Although catchiness may indeed be important, marketers should also pay greater attention to whether their slogans and products will be hinted by the environment. The findings can be applied to the marketing of all sorts of products.
In the brand study of ‘Puma’, the researchers built on previous research showing that “cats and dogs have a strong cognitive association in memory because of their many feature similarities as domestic pets.” Study participants were shown a series of 20 pictures. Some were shown only images unrelated to Puma (such as a picture of a stapler), while others saw either five or 10 images of dogs.
When the participants were then shown pictures of different brands of sneakers, those who had seen a lot of dog pictures were 30% faster to recognize the Puma brand.
Findings show that cue exposure can affect attitudes not only toward the exposed object but also toward any object that shares a conceptual relationship. In addition to relying on existing conceptual relationships, the data indicate that marketers can create novel links between their product and a commonly encountered feature in the consumer environment.
The study also shows how frequency of exposure to a given environmental cue, and not just recent exposure, can influence product evaluation and choice.
People who saw more dogs liked Puma sneakers more. Conceptual priming effects can have a strong impact on real world consumer judgments. And it wasn’t because the participants consciously made the connection between dogs and cats and Puma. Priming effects can emerge without deliberate learning and can occur outside of conscious awareness.
Advertisers and marketers need to think creatively of ways to link their product to something in people’s everyday lives. Marketers of a product that appeals to business travelers, for instance, might want to take advantage of the image of luggage as a cue because luggage is a common element of a business traveler’s environment.
If the company linked their product to luggage, business travelers might be more likely to think of the product every time they were at the airport. Using the same environmental cue for all audiences may not be the best approach.
Rather, the hints chosen for slogans, brand names and advertising messages can be customized based on geographic regions, or demographics. A nutrition slogan using the word ‘tray’ would probably do no good for families who eat around their kitchen table. Also, the same suggestion may mean different things to different groups.
Marketers should consider the nature of consumer environments when designing product names, packages and advertising campaigns.
A car dealership in Minnesota might consider linking itself to cold weather or mittens, whereas a restaurant in Arizona might want to consider links to the dry climate. Depending on what planet NASA decides to go to next instead of Mars, the Mars candy company might even want to think about introducing a new candy bar. Earlier when NASA sent their probe to Mars, the candy company named its product as ‘Mars Candy’ and their advertisement campaign was hinting the potential customers accordingly.