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April 20, 2016

We've all been there: Someone shows you a few pictures or asks a few questions, and then you end up picking the exact card that they have in their back pocket. How do they do it? How do they trick your brain into picking that seven of hearts without ever showing you that card? Some call it magic; however, there is a science behind it called priming. Priming is a powerful way to use stimuli to influence people around you, and it is a huge asset in the world of advertising.

When you feel like you deserve some fast food after a long week, do the golden arches appear in your mind, or does your brain tell you to go EAT MOR CHIKIN? There's a very good chance that you're thinking about your most recent fast food memories because those images are most prominent and thus take the least effort to recall. Your brain puts that logo in your head the next time you try to decide what you "feel like" for dinner.

We see this same phenomenon at Waze. The more often people see the little digital billboards on the Waze map, the more they tend to visit those locations. Wazers don't even have to directly interact with the ad to become more inclined to visit your stores—they are gradually being primed by seeing your brand logo on the map. When they have 10 spare minutes before work, they'll know how to find your fuel pump, or your new breakfast sandwich.

Let's look at an example of one of our advertisers on Waze, where we clearly see that a higher Pin frequency (i.e., more of those little digital billboards on the Waze map) goes hand-in-hand with a higher engagement rate with ads.

In addition to this direct effect on ad engagement rate, we also see a latent effect on visitation behavior. We use ad effectiveness studies to compare the behavior of people who saw an ad to that of those who didn't, and we often measure significant, double-digit increases in navigations for people who were served the ad. Again, this isn't magic: There is science behind it.

And isn't that exactly what you want to achieve as a marketer? To be top-of-mind at that exact moment where the context is highly relevant for your business? That's the beauty of marketing done right. You can help people spend less brain power by being there exactly when they're trying to think of where to go. (Sounds like perfect customer service to me!)

Now, I won't try to trick you into selecting a certain card to close this post. However, I would like to invite you to use this priming technique to get more customers through your door. It's up to you to keep them coming after that. Sound fair?

Bart Kloosterboer is an Account Manager on the Waze Ads team.
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