How to Effectively Use Subliminal Marketing in Your Overall Ad Strategy

One thing that advertising campaign strategists often like to explore is how to apply “subliminal marketing” into their work. In 1957, author Vance Packard claimed in his book “The Hidden Persuaders” that subliminal marketing was employed in wide use by movie theaters to increase popcorn and soda sales. Another book, “Subliminal Seduction” by Wilson Bryan Key, pictured how subliminal marketing was being employed in widespread fashion by most multinationals. While these two authors put forth the idea of how advertising attempts to control the masses with hidden messages in their ads and logos, the question really is, does it work?

Subliminal Marketing

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in April 2011, researchers Thijs Verwijmeren, Johan Karremans, Wolfgang Stroebe, and Daniel Wigboldus found out that subliminal marketing DOES work—if the subject had a physiological need and had no particular brand preference. In short, if your product is, say, a burger, subliminal messages may work for brand recall IF your target market is hungry and has no brand loyalty to other burger brands. In short, as a brand, you would still have to work toward ensuring brand recall and loyalty by creating a great, memorable product that corners consumer preferences.

On the bright side, there is still a use for subliminal marketing: logos are a great way to play with subliminal messages, for one. If there is a particular message that you want to convey, your logo is a great thing to start with.

One particular logo that speaks a great company ethic is Hyundai. If you thought that it was just a slanted letter “H” in an oval ring, you, like most of us, missed the point that Hyundai was driving home, completely. In all truth, the Hyundai logo is actually a handshake between the client and the company, a seal of an exchange perfectly executed. Isn’t that a great way to communicate one’s corporate values?

Other companies also employ subliminal messages through their logos and ads. Some range from the interesting: The Beats logo is actually the side/profile view of a head wearing headphones, listening to music (most likely from a Beats headset); Wendy’s collar has the word “MOM” on it, hoping that whenever you’d long for mom’s cooking, you’d head for a Wendy’s; and Amazon’s logo actually contains a smile, symbolizing how they hope their customers would be happy with each purchase, and it also has an arrow pointing from A to Z, symbolizing that they carry all the items you could possibly think of buying.

Subliminal Messages

The use of subliminal messages in advertising has confusing, if not conflicting, results. In this BBC Magazine article, the conclusion is that inserting subliminal advertising in a lengthy medium such as a movie may be “a devilishly tricky thing to pull off.” The article traced out different research that showed that subliminal advertising DOES work, but it may take a whole lot of effort and optimizing in order to ensure that it is effective and that the audience does not catch on to the hidden messages.

Jumping off from what the article traced out, it may mean that shorter media such as a two to three-minute YouTube video or a one to two-minute podcast may be better “carriers” of subliminal strategies.

This blog article, on the other hand, points back to how logos are great, ethical “carriers” of subliminal messages.

And so, as a company, it may be a good idea to apply subliminal marketing to your logo, and too short media such as videos and podcasts, especially toward the end of the medium.

Indeed, nothing beats the bedrock or backbone of having a great, memorable product to build a good, effective marketing campaign around it. Subliminal message marketing is then made more effective if it’s tied to a great product.

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About the Author Jesse Byron

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