Are You a Victim of the "Costco Effect"?

Have you ever walked into a store planning to buy just one or two things and walked out an hour later with a whole shopping cart full of stuff? It's happened to all of us more than we'd like to admit. It's called "the Costco effect" and it turns out that it is no accident. 

Stores and restaurants use an assortment of psychological tricks, or priming,  to  get you to spend more money than you planned. It’s more than likely than not that you were well primed the last time you went grocery shopping.

Whole Foods leads the pack in consumer priming. What do you see first when you walk into the store? Fresh cut flowers. Advertisers call this an example of “symbolics”–unconscious suggestions. In this case, Whole Foods wants us to know the store is bursting with freshness.

The way the produce is displayed in wooden crates and baskets is reminiscent of a farmers market. And have you wondered who's job it is to get to the store early to hand chalk all of those signs? Here's a hint - it's not chalk and they aren't handwritten; it's paint and they are mass produced in a factory. But all of that does does make it feel folksy, like you just missed Farmer Bob dropping off baskets of tomatoes and cucumbers that he picked just this morning. 

And the misters that keep certain vegetables glistening with water? It's so you and I associate them with freshness and purity. Ironically, that constant water supply makes the vegetables rot more quickly than they would otherwise.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestselling book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, described priming this way:

What we think of as freewill is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act—and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment—are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize.

Find out how money primes influence our behavior with others and

our motivation to reach our goals.


The good news is that you have the power to choose what primes your brain. If you start your day reading news about crime, death, protests, child abuse, or other awful things in the world, your brain is primed with danger, fear, and stress. On the other hand, if you start your day identifying those things for which you are grateful – family, friends, pets – you prime your brain with love, affection, belonging, and other positive emotions.

There are many ways to prime the brain and consciously influence your unconscious mind. Make your work environment a bastion of productivity, creativity, or positivity. Create the links and associations that will prime your mind with inspiring images or words that connote the outcome you want. Little things like a sticky note with the word success or I did it! strategical placed in view is a very simple first step. Quotes and visuals are also a great way to prime the brain with empowering mental mantras.  

#neuromarketing #costcoeffect

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