First of all, let us start by apologising – this article is one of those filled with period references and, although nowadays we (sometimes) hear about subliminal messages as a marketing and advertising ‘tool’, the truth is that only those who were alive (and remember it!) in the 1980s and 1990s (when these ‘famous messages’ were popular and trendy), will truly relate to it. What can we say, ‘growing up’ can have that effect on you and, from time to time, we get nostalgic!
But we’re in the middle of silly season, so if there’s ever a time we can write about this in an article on marketing and advertising in a serious blog, this is it, right?
Well, these subliminal messages were, for example, messages from the devil that were secretly recorded in some songs of certain ‘bolder’ music bands (laughing emoji, you’ll soon understand why!) and that were supposedly inaudible (at least consciously) when the vinyl was played normally; but that revealed themselves when we increased or decreased its speed rotation, or if we listened to the song backwards, from the end to the beginning (we never quite understood how the latter worked, but the others we tested!) and, of course, they immediately made us want to join a devil worshippers sect! One of the examples we remember was Kiss, those antichrists who played heavy metal (real heavy!) with painted faces and who, said the decent people at that time, went around spreading the message of Beelzebub and attracting people to their cult (if you never heard this band especially in comparison with others like, for instance, Slipknot or Kreator you really have to try it, so click on the links! Seriously!)!
They were also the hidden images that big brands like Coca-Cola, Wendy’s (we’ll never be able to look at that logo and not see the word ‘mom’!) or KFC, for example, used to put in their TV ads to get people to buy more of their products. Even Disney (really? Is there nothing sacred in this world anymore?) was accused of introducing subliminal messages in films such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
At this point, it seems important to offer a more scientific definition of the concept, for those who have never heard of it, or those who didn’t even remember it existed.
Subliminal messages are words, images or any sensory stimuli presented below the threshold of conscious perception of an individual, which influences him or her to do something. We are most commonly talking about short frames, inserted into a song or video, which appear so quickly (usually for less than a tenth of a second!) that our mind does not register their appearance consciously. These types of messages were, in theory, ‘often inserted’ into media, such as television commercials or songs, and used to reinforce or increase the persuasiveness of the said ads, or to convey a totally different message (back to Beelzebub, for example!).
What makes subliminal messages so insidious (and therefore so perfect to be use in marketing and advertising! – devilish looking emoji) is that although we are totally unaware of the message hidden in whatever we are seeing or hearing, part of our subconscious mind can’t help but respond to these hidden stimuli, as it all happens without our knowledge or consent (again, devilish looking emoji!). True subliminal messages cannot be observed or ‘discovered’ by the conscious mind, even if one is actively searching for them – while the stimuli we respond to every day (the things we see and hear around us) are above the threshold of conscious perception, subliminal messages are below it.
The authorship of subliminal messaging (or subliminal marketing and advertising) concept is attributed to the American James Vicary, a marketing and market research specialist. And although the term ‘subliminal’ had been widely used for many years before, it was not until 1957 that its practice became known beyond the scientific and academic circles. It was at this time that James announced the creation of his business, the Subliminal Projection Company, and, to prove the efficiency of this type of advertising, he disclosed the results of an experiment on 45,699 people carried out shortly before for Coca-Cola in a cinema in New Jersey, USA. In this test, the sentences “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Hungry? Eat Popcorn” were ‘secretly’ projected on the screen, during the movie, for 0.3 seconds, and on alternate nights, which led to an increase in the sales of these products of 57.7% and 18.1%, respectively, at end of the movie. The study was completely bogus and had been fabricated entirely, as the author himself admitted years later, to get more clients and advertisers for his company (nothing subliminal about this one, right?! – emoji laughing upside down).
The question now is: is this pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, myth or reality? Does it work, or not at all? Well, it seems to us that each person will have to decide for themselves. There are studies available on the internet (as always, what’s not available there?!) that prove (passionately!) one side and the other. Read them and then it’s really just a matter of choosing your side, the one you like the best!
But let us tell you this – it is somewhat difficult to assign a scientific basis to the concept of subliminal messaging, since subliminal is not the same as insinuated. If subliminal is something that is not seen consciously, from the moment it is seen (or heard, or smelt, etc), it ceases to be so and becomes ‘supraliminal’ (what you see, hear, feel, smell, etc). An image or idea suggested ‘between the lines’, however subtle or peripheral, is not subliminal. It is often good marketing and advertising, but it is ‘seen’ and is therefore above the threshold of objective, conscious perception.
So, and this is really just our opinion (and for what it’s worth, as usual), be subliminal and supraliminal in your marketing and advertising ‘messages’ this summer! Yes, during the silly season nobody is thinking about anything else other than vacations – those who haven’t gone on holiday are thinking about it, those who are on holiday just want to think about it and enjoy it. So, unless you’re selling the ‘holidays themselves’ or something directly linked to them (or an essential product or service needed all year round, obviously!) no one will pay you that much attention. Therefore, most of the time we get frustrated with the marketing and advertising efforts we make during this period. But, by doing them, we can say we’re being ‘somewhat subliminal’ (or what subliminal was intended to be) – no one pays attention to you on social media, or Google, but your name, your brand, your business is still being shown and getting registered, almost unconsciously. It is caught out of the corner of their eye when the user is at the pool scrolling through his Instagram feed, on the beach researching where to go in the afternoon, in the evening while drinking a coffee and relaxing before going for a stroll or back to the hotel… Your post, your story, your ad has appeared, like a glimpse. He didn’t see it, see it, but he saw it! And it will stay etched, dormant, in his subconscious until the day comes when he needs something you sell and it gets ‘awaken’. Is that subliminal enough for you?!
And now that you have just read this article, we can tell you our true intention in writing it: in the text we inserted a series of words (innocuous in themselves and sprinkled throughout the copy) that your brain, in all its subconscious magnitude, recognised and stored (try reading it backwards and you’ll see!). Because of them (and there’s no deprogramming in the world that can save you now) every time you hear someone talk about digital marketing you will feel an uncontrollable urge to contact us and become our client (and if you already are, don’t worry, we’ll find a way to add one or two more services to your retainer).
You don’t believe us? Just you wait and see – soon enough we’ll be booking a month’s holiday in Fiji (or any other expensive paradise in this world) with all the money we’re going to earn!
But, in the meantime, have a great silly season (emoji smiling and winking!)!