Subliminal Advertising – How Does It Work?
You’ve probably heard about subliminal advertising and, if you are familiar with the term, then you probably know a little about it. But do you really know how subliminal advertising works? Is there a way in which you can resist its effects? Can you really discover the subliminal advertising in commercials?
There are many questions in regard to this subject because, let’s face it, subliminal advertising is the magical mystical part of advertising and we have always been drawn to mysteries and magic.
Our brain – the biggest mystery
Some would say the existence of life is the biggest mystery; others would say the afterlife is the biggest mystery and so on. In truth, there are many mysteries that surround us but, before trying to figure out the ones that are somewhat external to our being, we should focus on the biggest internal mystery: our brain. We know stuff about it, but we are nowhere near to knowing everything about it.
Our brain has three levels of functioning: the conscious state, the subconscious and the unconscious. The first state is the rational state, the one in which we use our rational side of the brain to evaluate the world around us. The subconscious and the unconscious states represent the parts in our brain that drive our emotions, our way of perceiving the world, etc. The biggest mystery psychology has yet to solve is how we can control those parts of our brain, how big their influence really is, what they are capable of.
On certain levels we already have some answers and on those answers subliminal advertising is based. Subliminal advertising is not meant for the conscious state of our brain, it is meant for the other states. They say knowledge is power. And, because we don’t really know much about our subconscious and unconscious, we lack the power to control them. That’s why they are most powerful and that’s why subliminal advertising targets the most powerful parts of the brain in order to trigger actions.
How does it work?
OK, I will tell you about a little experiment of my own because this part of advertising has always fascinated me. I once conducted an experiment in which I took 20 images of beautiful landscapes, children playing, flowers and other positive things. Using a technique of photo alteration, I inserted in those positive images, little pictures of negative things: people hurting, stark landscapes, negative emotions, etc. The trick was that, as one would look upon the image, the little image wasn’t visible to the eye without a deep analysis of the bigger image. I hid those little images among details in the bigger pictures. After this, I took those images and showed them to people, one by one, asking them, for each image to answer a question. The questions weren’t necessarily related to the images, they were question like “Please write down the first emotion that comes into your mind”; “Please write down the first movie title that comes into your mind”, etc.
I wanted to see whether, although people didn’t perceive the little images, they could be influenced by them. The result was fascinating. All the people indicated negative emotions, gruesome movies and other things like those when looking at beautiful serene pictures. Some of them even told me they felt uncanny and depressed just by looking at the images, although they didn’t really know why.
From this experiment, I realized that, though the conscious part of their brain didn’t perceive the little images, their subconscious was affected by them. Those images had gone directly into their subconscious, taking over their actions.
This is the principle of subliminal advertising. By introducing unperceivable images into commercials, movies and videos, it triggers actions directly from our subconscious part. Of course, visual subliminal advertising is just a method; there’s also auditory subliminal advertising and many other methods, like olfaction subliminal advertising.