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More evidence about the power of association (vs. persuasion) in marketing. A new online study by the University of Houston has found that simply adding buzzwords associated with an attractive benefit makes a product appear more attractive – independently of any persuasion attempt.  The study, by Dr Temple Northup looked at buzzwords associated with the idea of healthy food (organic, whole grain, organic…) and found that when you add these buzzwords to product descriptions, the perception of the products described improved. Influence by association, not persuasion.

The lesson?  Rather than limit yourself to the hard task of persuading your customers to buy, use the power of association. Capture positive and popular associations (buzzwords, words, forms, emotions, colours…) that people make around a core benefit, and then add those to the product description – and watch sales increase!

Truth, Lies, and Packaging: How Food Marketing Creates a False Sense of Health

The psychology behind this study combines basic priming with the associational nature of human memory.  Mentally, the concept of healthiness is stored in our minds as a cluster of associations we make around the idea of healthiness.  In other words, the associations we make around the idea of healthiness effectively define the meaning of healthiness for us (just as the associations friends make around you effectively define who you are – for your friends).  By using these mental associations in pack or sales copy, we activate the idea of the benefit, without having to persuade.  Simple. And smart.

  • Mark A Carbone
    Mark A Carbone

    Great article. Thanks for a good find.