The Priming Effect: Part Two - Make it Work for You

Andrea Palmer

Published Thu 09 Jun by Andrea Palmer in Perfecting Your Website's Design, Creating Better Content and Marketing More Effectively

In Part One, we talked about the concept of priming and how its used to influence people’s impressions of brands and companies. Part two gives practical guidance on how you can put this into practice.

In Part Two, we’ll be looking at how the design of your website and use of content can successfully prime potential customers to take the appropriate action, almost without thinking about it.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Usability
  • Using Emotions to Build Empathy
  • Using Persuasive Pictures & Images
  • The Power of Community

1. Usability

The usability of a website plays a crucial part in priming your potential customers. 

So how can you make your website user friendly?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can your users freely and easily move around your website and find what they are looking for?
  • Are your calls to action logical?
  • Do your calls to action take users on a clear path, e.g. sign up, download, subscribe, make a donation?
  • Are your online forms easy to understand?
  • Are all your links cohesive?

Practical Guidance

  • Take into account users' errors - It's inevitable that mistakes are made when filling in forms, sign ups, etc. To alleviate any fears and help pave the way for a smooth easy passage, build your website with user friendly error messages
  • Make online forms easy to understand – Whether it's a contact form or something more detailed like an order form, help users to understand what to do by providing helpful advice in call out bubbles
  • Make text links cohesive and user friendly -  Here’s how to make sure your links encourage users to click with effective text links
  • Choose your web developer wisely – Make sure he/she is building you a website which is responsive with all web applications 
  • Test and test again - Use family, friends and colleagues to give you an honest opinion of how well your website perfoms before it goes live

2. Using Emotions to Build Empathy 

Large organisations build empathy with their customers by observing their behaviour and drawing conclusions about their emotional needs. They use emotional language to talk about the value of a product and service as well as to describe the utility of the product. Learn more about this in our article The Psychology of Decision

When visitors land on your web pages, you’ve only got a short time to persuade them to take action.

Practical Guidance

Let's look at two examples:

1. The TSB bank website - The value of their proposition offers benefits to the users through their services.


  • It’s free from jargon and speaks to its customers in their language
  • It makes decision-making easy: It doesn’t overload the users with too many choices; instead it offers clear benefit-driven options
  • It has clear calls to action: It uses emotionally driven text, images and contrasting colours to help users take action quickly
  • It resonates with its users: Through copy and pictures it shows every day life situations and scenarios to help put users at ease
  • It offers benefits by way of free advice, offers and solutions 

2. Cancer Research Website – Let's take a closer look at how emotionally driven wording is used to persuade visitors to take action.

  • Urgency: Cancer is happening right now
  • Fear: It’s cancer, you’re bound to have questions
  • Enthusiasm: Let's beat cancer sooner
  • Guilt: We receive no government funding; we rely on what you give us

3. Using Persuasive Pictures & Images

Images can tell an instant story but they need to work for your brand and have the right emotional pull to encorage customers take action. For example:

The NSPCC home page uses a subtle image with strong emotional copy that goes hand in hand to prime its visitors.

Let’s take a look at how this works:

  • The image - The child is dressed as an astronaut; he looks away from us = The message: Healthy happy child who has opportunities in life
  • The Copy /call to action - “make a donation” “Your donation can take a child anywhere!” = Without donations a child may not have aspirations or opportunities in his life

On their own, neither the image or the copy work but together they provide a very powerful message to visitors. 

Here are a few other elements which help give this message extra pulling power:

  • Placement of the image in relation to the copy (call to action)
  • Use of contrasting colours to draw attention to the call to action
  • A simple uncluttered page that gets to the point and draws the eye to the most important elements

4. The Power of Community

According to Forbes, ‘Some of the world's strongest brands were originally built through low cost community-based marketing, like Starbucks and Nike. 

If companies focus on the needs of its customers, they often don’t need to spend a lot of money to attract new customers.' 

Practical Guidance

  • Show how a community can work together  -  Provide visual evidence of how many have signed up, subscribed, how much has been achieved and how far there is to go to reach the end goal
  • Give incentives – Sign up and receive free xyz, money off, vouchers, free advice
  • Make it easy with the least amount of effort to join in – instant sign up through social media and easy clear forms
  • Give examples – Use images of real people/communities you're helping

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