Advertisers spend millions of dollars each year using psychological techniques that play at the subconscious level to entice you to take actions or buy products that you might not otherwise. They understand that it is the consumer’s subconscious mind that makes most decisions, and they are experts at forming associations between your subconscious programming and their clients’ products and services.
Most of us are exposed to more than 5000 marketing messages every day.
Advertisers design their campaigns to emotionally influence the subconscious in a fleeting instant, with colour, words, images and music. Subliminal (meaning below your conscious threshold) advertising is a hugely popular method of reaching the subconscious, and we are exposed to hundreds of thousands of subliminal messages each year.
Studies exploring subliminal perception show clearly how they influence subconscious processing and action. In one study, two groups of students were shown two different but similar pictures of trees;
One group saw a picture only of the trees. The others saw the second image, which was doctored to also contain an artfully concealed duck.
After studying their image, each group was asked to draw a nature scene and to label it.
The group who had studied the trees that contained the subliminal duck image drew more ducks and related imagery, such as feathers, birds and water, as compared to the other group, who had studied the undoctored image!
In another study, published in the Journal of Advertising, researchers gathered two groups of participants, one shown advertisements with no subliminal images and the other shown advertisements containing sexually subliminal messages.
The first doctored ad was for Marlboro Lights cigarettes, and it showed cowboys on horseback riding through rocky terrain. Subtly blended into the rocks was an image of a penis (yes, a penis). The second ad was for Chivas Regal whisky, and in the bottle a designer had skilfully and subtly blended the image of the back of a nude woman.
Everyone in the study was hooked up to monitoring equipment; instruments that recorded galvanic skin response, which measures stress levels and arousal through the electrical conductivity levels of the skin. Your skin conductivity will react even to subconscious arousal, which is part of the principle on which lie detector tests are based.
Each group looked at the ads (one group the undoctored ads, the other group the ads containing the subliminal images) for only 30 seconds. The result was that the arousal response of the group who saw the advertisements containing the subliminal sexual images was 20% higher than for the group who saw the advertisements without the subliminal messages.
Why do advertisers go to such lengths in their advertising?
Because a stronger emotional subconscious association between an image and a brand/product causes millions of us to make purchasing choices for those products, choices we might not otherwise have made if we had been considering only price, quality and other more independent and impartial factors.
So next time you feel drawn to a product / brand / advert, maybe ask yourself whats really going on…
About the Author
Chris Walton is an internationally recognised performance psychologist and consciousness researcher. He is the author of two best-selling books and the creator of the Gamma Mindset System: www.GammaMindset.com.
“The Secret Sales Pitch: An Overview of Subliminal Advertising by August Bullock. (2004).”
Subliminal sexual references study: “The Journal of Advertising in 1984.”