A post on Mind Hacks pointed me toward a great post on the Language Log blog that covers a recent article on priming in response to brand names and ad slogans. It seems that if you prime using a brand name, you get behavior congruous with that brand’s associations; if you prime with the brand’s ad slogan, you get reverse effects. Here’s the summary from Language Log:
Laran et al. found that when they had people look at cost-conscious brand names like Walmart in an alleged memory study and then later take part in an imaginary shopping task, they were able to replicate the implicit priming effect: people were willing to spend quite a bit less than if they’d seen luxury-brand logos. But when subjects saw slogans (e.g. Save money. Live better.) instead of the brand names, there was a reverse priming effect: now, the luxury-brand slogans triggered more penny-pinching behavior than the economy-brand slogans.
The study authors argue that the “reverse priming” effect is driven by non-conscious processes to avoid bias. In other words, we associate slogans with attempts at persuasion, so the reverse priming kicks in to immunize us against the effect (and actually reverses it). Brand names do not have such an association, so we respond to their priming in congruence with the goals or constructs the brand elicits (e.g. Walmart = spend less).