Despite all the questions about the effectiveness of subliminal messages, several companies are actually spending millions on marketing strategies involving the use of these hidden messages. So how effective are subliminal suggestions embedded in marketing communication materials?
According to many professionals in the marketing industry, branding is really all about creating associations in people’s minds.
1. Does it really work? Several studies have shown that subliminal marketing communication indeed works. These studies are backed by psychology experts who believe that subliminal messages are able to bypass consumers’ conscious reactions. So a consumer who sees a subliminal ad will believe that the product being advertised is nice to buy, and his conscious mind will not get the chance to ask whether or not the product is necessary or not.
2. How does it work? Subliminal messages in marketing communication works by sending hidden messages to people’s subconscious minds that reinforce things that people already have an innate need for. This is why sometimes we can’t control our response to these advertisements.
These messages become most effective when they have something to do with things, thoughts, or emotions that people commonly experience. These are usually subjects that most attract people’s subconscious attention. They are also used because they are shared by people of all ages, class, and background.
Sometimes, the messages are also specifically targeted to certain individuals. For example, a scotch advertisement was discovered to have images hidden in the ice cubes of the said beverage. According to psychologists, the images used are already usually present in dreams that alcoholics often have. So when the subconscious sees those images, they recognize it, thus leading the person to have the urge to act on the feeling.
3. What are the different ways to use them? Marketers come up with many creative marketing ideas to use subliminal messages in their ads.
Some companies also embed implied messages in their famous slogans. Don’t you ever wonder why the famous sports brand slogan “Just Do It” is so vague yet it somehow makes sense for most of us. When we read the slogan, the brain quickly makes an association and tells us that the message applies to that thing we really want to “just do.”
Some hide photos and images within the print ads and posters, like the scotch example. Some hide words in the print ads, posters, or even product packaging.
Some also embed subliminal messages in TV ads and radio ads; the messages are unheard or unseen by the conscious mind but are quickly absorbed by the subconscious. In a 1950s study, subliminal messages telling moviegoers to buy soda and eat popcorn was said to have actually led to an increase in popcorn and soda sales.
Subliminal persuasion is used in endless ways in marketing. It would be hard to control this phenomenon from being used in marketing since they are almost always completely undetectable.
4. Is it ethical? Advertisements can only go up to a certain point. They cannot plant messages in the mind. According to experts, subliminal programming only reinforces thoughts, feelings, and desires that are already present in the subconscious, so a subliminal message in an ad will only lead to a purchase if the consumer is already subconsciously interested in the product being sold. This is why companies these days are free to use subliminal messages up to a certain extent.