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Your Slogan May Backfire

An article in the Journal of Consumer Research, recently discussed in the Harvard Business Review, found that while brands have priming effects slogans often have reverse priming effects. In other words, brands often influence consumers as intended but slogans often cause the opposite effect.

Quoting the HBR article…

[pullquote_left]After participants were exposed to brands associated with luxury (such as Tiffany and Neiman Marcus), they decided to spend 26% more, on average, than after they were exposed to neutral brands (such as Publix and Dillard’s). After they were exposed to brands associated with saving money (such as Dollar Store and Kmart), they decided to spend 37% less than after they were exposed to neutral brands. The brands had the intended “priming” effect.[/pullquote_left]

[pullquote_right]But when it came to slogans, the same participants exhibited the opposite of the desired behavior. After reading a slogan meant to incite spending (“Luxury, you deserve it”), they decided to spend 26% less than after reading a neutral slogan (“Time is what you make of it”). When a slogan invited them to save (“Dress for less”), they decided to spend—an additional 29%, on average. The slogans had a “reverse priming” effect.[/pullquote_right]

The research suggests that this is a result of behavioral resistance to perceived attempts at persuasion. While consumers do not view brands as an attempt to persuade, slogans are viewed as an attempt to persuade and therefore exert the opposite effect. This effect, which was measured in general consumers, is most likely heightened amongst a highly rational and critical scientific audience.

Quick note to our readers: do NOT take this result as an indication that you should use reverse psychology in your slogan. Simply be careful in selecting what your slogan will be and don’t be afraid to get creative.

"Is your brand doing its job and adding value to your products and company? If not, or if you’re not sure, it’s probably time to do something about it. One option: call the experts at BioBM and let us help you build a brand that’s powerful. A brand that makes a statement. A brand that sticks. A brand that will evoke respect from your customers, envy from your competitors, and pride from yourself."

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