Art of Neuro-Marketing– Primacy & Recency Effect: Messing with Customers’ Subconscious Mind…

The human brain is wired to best recall the first and last items in a series, and the middle items least– it’s called the primacy & recency effect…  Research suggest that when a person is shown a list of just about anything, such as; items, words, products… participants tend to remember only– ‘first few’ and ‘last few’, and are more likely to forget those in the middle of the list…

According to Didi Zheleva; for business this means that when communicating, e.g., market messaging, customer engagement, speech, presentation… always summarize the main points at beginning and at end… since these are the things that people tend to most remember…

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Studies show that the human brain tends to store the ‘first’ item of a list in a person’s long-term memory, while a person’s short-term memory holds the ‘last’ item in a list… This process of primacy & recency is dubbed the ‘serial position effect’… When people recall information, they are gathering information from two separate stores in the brain, which is commonly known as short- and long-term memories. When mapped-out, the recency & primacy effects are high points on an inverted bell curve, and they are the critical factors in prioritizing and retaining information…

In the article Primacy & Recency Effects on Clicking Behavior by Jamie Murphy, Charles Hofacker, Richard Mizerski write: The location, location, location… it’s the mantra across all business; restaurateurs and retailers seek a prime location when building a facility, packaged goods suppliers seek prime shelf space in retail stores… advertisers want to be the first or last in a pod of TV advertisements… business strives for top listing in classified business section… Also, location of links on a web page can influence whether or not it gets clicked…

Studies suggest that the position of links on a web page does make a difference– in its frequency of use… The best results place the most desirable links toward the top of a web page or email… and the least desirable links toward the bottom of the web page or email… Also the most lucrative or important link are put first in the menu… but its also suggested to place an important link as last link in the menu…

In the article Position Effect in Advertising by Shelley Moore writes: Research suggests that ‘serial position effect’ (primacy & recency) has important implications for advertising and appears to work across media… A few examples:

  • TV Ad Placement: Research suggests that the recency effect might actually be stronger than the primacy effect in television. Research show that television viewers have better recall of ads at the end of a commercial break, rather than ads at the beginning…
  • Website Link Placement: Studies found that links at the top and bottom of a menu on a website get the most clicks. Results were the same when controlled for link wording… Hence it’s suggested that the most important links are placed at the top, and at the bottom… of a web page… Consider the behavior that many site visitors just skip through a page– from top to bottom– without reading anything in the middle…
  • Search Engine Ads: The top two Ad positions on the first search engine results page are best in search engine marketing… Top Ad ranking are key for both click-through and conversion rates…

In the article Product Rank To Increase Sales by Roger Dooley writes: In  sales situations, studies show that there is positive bias for the first product or service seen… Although this ‘first seen bias’ doesn’t overwhelm all other considerations, but it still can serve as a ‘neuro-nudge’ that could influence a customers in a final decision… Hence when a customer sees an item first they tend to remember it better, and this ease of recall can create a positive feeling about that item… But this ‘first seen’ issue or primacy effect is just a– nudge, not a big shove…

Further, the more a customer deliberates about making a decision the weaker the primacy effect becomes… However, there are other sales tactics that may work better, e.g.; showing a customer another more expensive product/service ‘first’ to produce a price anchor, then suggest another product or service that is similar but less expensive… Still in most cases, purchase decisions often come down to small differences and subconscious leanings– hence, lead with the best option first…

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In the article Essentials of Business Communication by Lee Hopkins writes: Most business messaging is– dull, uninteresting, irrelevant, big waste of listener’s time… The psychological reality is that unless an audience is interested in the subject matter of the message they are highly unlikely to pay any attention… Which means that if you force people to listen/read to an uninspiring message– it will actually turn them-off… Hence an opening statement (first words) in any business communication must include; a series of very powerful words that captures the audience’s attention, e.g.; a quote, a joke, a loud noise, a preposterous statement…

Equally, a closing statement (last words) must conclude with a powerful ending that leaves audience with something to remember… Business messaging is serious business and very few people have the skills to deliver an inspiring, relevant message that an audience will retain, and act upon… But practice and a little guidance from experts can improve skills… Lesson: The ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ statements in any business communication are the two most essential elements… and they must inspire by: 1. give the audiences reason to listen… 2. give the audience something to remember…

Hence before any business messaging: Ask the question– What should the audience– think, feel, or do when this is over? Once you understand the target audience expectation; create a roadmap and identify– ‘start’ and ‘end’ that provide a memorable bang… all of this blended into a  well crafted, interesting and inspiring messaging that makes a lasting impression. Scrap the conventional pleasantries, dull introductions, and launch into bold communications that establishes rapport and builds instant credibility…

But is there any research that support validity of the primacy and recency effect theory? Research conducted by Murdock, Glanzer and Cunitz to determine whether there is a relationship between the position of words in a list and amount of words freely recalled from that list… according to their research– they found that more words were remembered at the beginning (a mean number of 10) and at the end of the word list (a mean number of 9.3). The middle words were the least remembered (a mean number of 7.9)… Hence, take advantage of the primacy and recency effect, and make the most of the beginnings and endings!

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According to Jack Malcolm; the first moments of any meeting, sales call, presentation… are extremely critical and should not be left to chance. Three aspects of ‘first’ impressions are particularly important; looks, likeability, confidence… Looks are important. There are scores of studies that demonstrate the unfair fact that attractive people hold a persuasive edge… Likeability is a personal trait that people make inferences about very quickly… You’ve no doubt had the experience of warming up to, or being turned off by someone instantly, maybe without even knowing why…

Rapport is one of most important of Cialdini’s six persuasion principles; people are much more apt to listen to, and be persuaded by, someone they like… And, confidence is both convincing and contagious… people will get a quick impression of your confidence, your solution, your message. The best way to communicate confidence is be well prepared, and to ‘start-off’ strong… and if you have an ugly girlfriend/ boyfriend, don’t show any pictures…