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Strategic Marketing or Retail Trickery?

Have you ever been primed? I mean has anyone ever deliberately influenced your subconscious mind and changed your thoughts or behavior without your knowing it? It’s more than likely than not that you were 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 those cucumbers 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.

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.


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