The Complete “Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch” Arc

This post contains all of the four part “Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch” arc

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, Part 1

I was told it’s time to buy new furniture by She Who Must Be Obeyed (with respect to Rumpole of the Bailey [[not to mention H. Rider Haggard’s “She]]). I have a strict requirement for furniture, especially couches; they must be long enough for me to stretch out on so I can take a nap without disturbing our dog (he usually takes his position at my feet when I’m lying on the couch) and they must have a significant “cush” factor. I like couches that engulf me in a warm embrace.

Susan, my wife, knows this and I trust her to pick out furniture that I’ll be comfortable in. She makes the first pass, I get called in to determine cushiness, and then we go home and wait for the appropriate furniture to be delivered. Imagine my chagrin when she showed me her first choice, a post modern bauhaus piece…

The world's most comfortable couch

…What surprised me was how comfortable it was despite its look.

Did I get you there? Did your mind do that little thing where it attempts to take two incompatible information streams and make them coherent and compatible? The reason for your confusion has to do with what psychologists and linguists call priming. Basically I primed you for a furniture/couch/comfortable experience and presented you with a non-furniture/couch/comfortable image. The majority of people seeing the image after the priming will go into a small fugue state as their mind throws more and more cognitive resources into either convincing itself that yes, that’s a couch or yes, Joseph’s a nutcase.

Did it again? Gave you two “yes”s that slowed you down a second because you expected a “yes” and a “no”?

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, Part 2

The reason priming is important is because studies indicate the average adult’s experience of an event is about 85% based on what they expect their experience to be (something I discuss in detail in Reading Virtual Minds Volume 2: Experience versus Expectation. You can create a good or a not-so-good experience for online and offline visitors based on what you’ve primed them to experience.

These concepts often appear in language, especially when different disciplines are involved. My favorite anecdote comes from a time when Susan and I were working at Dartmouth. We were having lunch with a bunch of friends at Mrs. Ou’s (is she still there? She must be in her 90s if she is, and probably still whacking people with her wooden spoon if they reach over the counter behind her back). One of our friends was studying sociology. He almost choked when Susan, doing immunoassay development, checked her watch and said, “Oh, I have to go destroy some cultures.”

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, Part 3

I still remember my first business meeting and listening to people talk about ROI. “We need to maximize our ROI”, “How can we increase our ROI?” and so on. I explained the easiest ways to do this were to diversify how we were distributing things. Different distribution methods would naturally demonstrate different ROI. After a short period of time we could easily see which regions were showing up best and plan from there.

People were dumbfounded. My goodness this was brilliant. What else could I share with them?

I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t obvious to them.

Of course, I was talking about Regions of Interest a mathematical concept from statistics, not Return on Investment. Strange thing was, my language fit so well with their expectation that they incorporated my suggestion and the company grew.

These primings occur in all our sensory experience. Have you ever asked for a Coke® and been given an ice tea? Try it on someone sometime. The look on their face is a study in itself as they’re mind devotes more and more resources into making the ice tea taste like a Coke®.

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, finale

Let me give you one last example of priming; everybody knows the story of Sleeping Beauty, right? The new transposon vector that can deliver large DNA cargos to vertebrate cells, making it a useful tool for genetic applications?

Normally That one would have stopped you dead in your readings. Why not so now? Because you’ve been primed to expect the unexpected. In fact, if I gave a line or two about what most people recognize as the Sleeping Beauty story, that would have caused most people to fugue because they’d be waiting for the “punchline”.

Often bringing concepts into a discipline from outside a discipline can break the rules of priming completely and get things into deep memory (examples in the earlier posts in this arc) or priming then “reversing” the prime as explained above. Comics know this very well. Punchlines work because they are dramatic releases of the tension built by priming, the send up or lead into of the joke before the punchline.

Priming can be subtle or not so subtle. Anybody notice my numeration method in the top paragraphs in this arc? I use “a” and “2”. A subtle priming to expect the unexpected. Some RSS readers will show up this arc as “Can you fit this couch into your memory?”, a phrase constructed to be intentionally ambiguous, another prime to invite you to slow down for a second or two and encourage you to take a look.

I’ve written before about my lack of industry jargon adds to my credibility in An IMedia Reader concurs…. This arc is an example of what it’s taken me years to learn; Prime people for what you want them to remember then deliver it. Not at first, but at second (literally). People might not remember the joke or the punchline yet they’ll remember what came after it each and every time.

Prime your audience, release the priming tension, then give them the message you want them to remember. You’ll brand them every time.

Oh, before I forget, Prince Charming might not have kissed Sleeping Beauty awake if she were on the couch shown in the above, a Genetix Clone Select Imager.

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An IMedia Reader Concurs…

A reader of my IMedia columns sent me an email entitled “Any Carrabis work I’ve read through”:

While I scratch and claw to keep sight on graphic design’s place amidst evolving technology, I enjoy reading your provocative and approachable articles. I especially appreciate your common sense unfettered by the next buzz-phrases of spin. Thank you. I keep pointing my students in the direction of your articles. If my urging falls on deaf ears, know your writing is appreciated if “going to the bank” isn’t proving that already.

I appreciate hearing from my readers, both of this blog and my IMedia work and responded:

Thanks so much for your kind words. I do my best to be both entertaining and informative in my articles and columns and, as an educator {the author is a college professor}, you know how difficult that can be.
I got a much needed chuckle from your comment about my lack of buzz-phrases. I’ve been told more than once that my ignorance of jargon gives me more credibility. Today I was reading some articles by large behavioral targeting firms and began to wonder who their readership included — definitely not me!
Let me know if there’s something specific you’d like me to cover in either my blog or in future columns.
And thanks again!

My thanks to this and other readers who appreciate that my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none, as stated in Reader Comments.

Hey, I’m the first to admit I don’t know much.

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CameraGuy Keeping me Honest

I wrote in CameraGuy’s Findings: Kodak on YouTube that I didn’t know if this was something Kodak did or not. CameraGuy came to my rescue with the following:

“From cuplitesTV
“This is a commercial that was produced for internal use. But it has become so popular, especially with employees, that Kodak has released it for external viewing. It demonstrates that Kodak not only understands it’s changing business but also has a sense of humor.
“From the comments:
“The Kodak video began as an internal presentation for the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference last May. Afraid that tech snobs would wonder why Kodak was even invited (much less delivering a keynote), the company knew it would have to prove to the attending technorati — CEOs and top level execs from the biggest and arguably best tech companies in the country including Microsoft, Apple, Sony, Google and Dell — that it belonged at the exclusive digital conference.
“(Ad Age)”

Thanks for keeping me honest, CameraGuy. From the above description, you just know somebody had to know this was ripe for viral marketing the “new” Kodak when they released it. If they didn’t know, they do now. Perfect for putting their old brand into a new market in a way (virally) the new market will accept as genuine.

Brilliantly done. My hat’s off to you, whoever you are.

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CameraGuy’s Findings: Kodak on YouTube

First, I have no idea if this is really from Kodak or not. Second, as you might guess, CameraGuy is a professional photographer I know who’s one of my correspondents, like KBar and Sweetness, who send me things they find that they believe will interest me. CameraGuy’s items tend to be political, photographic or dealing with imaging technology.

This item is funny, yes, and also very telling. If Kodak didn’t do this, they should have. Whoever did it, they took the old “Kodak Moments” branding element and moved it into a new demographic beautifully and in ways that will capture and intrigue people in that new target. Things to watch for include:

  • Marvelous segway to new audience
  • Speakers change in position about halfway through
  • Change in pitch and volume of voice
  • Change in speed of speech
  • Change in images flashed behind speaker
  • Change in rate of change of images

I could go on for a while. This is an excellent example of taking a known brand and moving it into a new audience. Nicely done, whoever did this.

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Another Ommaric Intersection – Holmeses&Watsons

I’m still catching up on my reading, still reading the Jan ’07 Omma. What caught my eye today was the “The Word About Word of Mouth” article. It has some excellent WOM strategy tips. It also reminded me of what I’ve written about Holmeses&Watsons in viral campaigns and how to create buzz.

I wrote in Moving Your Brand into New Markets, “In an interview with TechNewsWorlds’s John Mello I explained that it’s a “Holmes and Watson” scenario. Boomers want to identify a Holmes in their social network, someone with experience and no agenda whom they can trust to provide good information. Marketers targeting that demographic need to identify the Holmeses and bring them into the brand’s fold, if possible. Marketing to Boomers means finding influencers. It’s different at the other end of the scale. There everybody wants to be a Holmes so the value of each individual Holmes goes down depending on how many Holmeses there are. Marketers need to identify the Watsons in this group, the evangelists who can carry a Holmesian message without being branded as another no-name with an opinion. As one person in our research commented, ‘…they were just doing the usual thing you see on forums and blogs – trying to sound important.’ Ouch!

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