Subliminal advertising uses words, images, or sounds, which appear in print, radio and television commercials, in recorded music or on TV shows. Advertisers design these messages with hopes of increasing the appeal of their product, and creating an overwhelming desire to purchase it. In most cases, when you see or hear a subliminal message, your conscious mind ignores it, but your subconscious mind hears it loud and clear.
The earliest instances of subliminal advertising occurred during the turn of the 20th century when advertisers inserted imperceptible visual and audio stimuli into their marketing practices. The combination of pleasant music and visually appealing images produced a craving for, and ultimately a purchase of the product.
In 1957, market researcher named James Vicary inserted the words “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” into a movie. The words flashed on a single frame, long enough for the subconscious to absorb it, but too short for the audience to consciously acknowledge it. The subliminal ads supposedly created an 18.1% increase in Coke sales and a 57.8% increase in popcorn sales, notes Business Insider.
While this all sounds convincing, Vicary eventually admitted that he fabricated his findings as a marketing stunt, and many experts debate whether using subliminal advertising really works, or if the idea is just another example of pop psychology. Still, some companies now attempt to use their own version of subliminal advertising on social media websites.
A viral video starts with a few viewers, but its unique nature makes it catch on quickly, and spread across social media networks. Levi used a rather clever viral video to advertise their jeans. It has no advertising text. All you see is a bunch of young dudes moving to funky, catchy music, then literally jumping into a pair of jeans. After a few minutes of watching, your subconscious mind will pick up the Levi label on each pair of jeans.
2. Photo Product Placement
Photo product placement is not limited to video, nor is exclusive to your professional pages. Some people might continually post pictures of themselves using a brand of computer, cell phone, exercise device or cooking appliance that they just happen to be selling on their professional pages. Although the post has no direct sales pitch, on an unconscious level, it might inspire you to investigate the product.
3. Social Media Links on a Website
When you visit the website of a specific business, what is your reaction when you see links to their social media pages? Chances are, you might think that they are hipper, cooler and more customer friendly than other businesses. This may or may not be true, but having social media links sends the subliminal message that you are a “with it” company. In contrast, companies without a social media presence might seem snobbish, anti-social, or worse, like Luddites.
4. Facebook Sponsored Stories
Note: These are not the same as sponsored ads or promoted posts. People who own Facebook business pages can either pay to promote a specific post, or pay for a Facebook ad. Sponsored stories come from your personal content. Here´s how it works. Supposing you post a video of yourself, ripping down the slopes. The logo from Brand X skis sees the video, and pays Facebook to set your post up as a Sponsored Story. This means that it appears on the side of the news-feeds of all of your friends, with the bold letters, “Sponsored Story.” Congratulations! You have just become an unpaid brand ambassador. So why is this an example of subliminal advertising? Because it is not really an ad. Many social media users buy products based on their friends´ recommendations. The sponsored story simply reminds you that your friend Joey, whose opinion you respect, uses this product. Think twice before you decide to use this method of subliminal advertising. It cost Facebook a major class action lawsuit.
5. Google Ads
Using the same strategy as Facebook Sponsored Stories, Google now plans to take your likes, your reviews and your stories about favorite products and feature them on Google Maps and other Google products. The subliminal message makes the same assumption “If my friend likes it, it must be a great product.
6. Obsessive Liking
Yes, of course, you are brilliant, and your words of wisdom truly inspire. But something is up with that person who likes each and every one of your Facebook posts, retweets your every tweet, repins, all of your pins, gives plus ones to all of your Goggle Plus posts, gives you excessive K-pluses on Klout and tons of recommendations on LinkedIn. Either they have a big crush on you, or they want you to like their business page in return. Probably the latter. These people are using subliminal dog type psychology. If they keep licking your hand, they hope you will give them a treat.
7. The Message In the Logo
The logo featured on a businesses social media page creates its own subliminal message. For example, a careful look at the Tostido logo shows two people enjoying a bowl of salsa. This explains why the ad might make you hungry, even if you do not particularly like Tostidos.
8. Sex Sells
For decades, marketing professionals have told us that sex sells. While explicit sexual references on your professional social media pages can get you into big trouble, some companies might use subliminal innuendo. In an insightful expose on the subject, Artist Mike shows how certain advertising photos are not specifically about sex, but might tickle the unconscious mind. This Bread of Life ad says it all.
9. And Speaking of Sex
Not every subliminal message on social media is about selling products. Sometimes, it´s about selling yourself, or showing someone what they are missing. Consider this scenario. Guy dumps girlfriend, but the ex-lovers stay friends on social media. Said girlfriend goes on a diet and workout binge, and hooks up with a young stud muffin. A few months later, she posts pictures of herself in a sexy dress, seductively dancing with said stud muffin. Subliminal message to ex boyfriend: Eat your heart out!
10. Or it Might Play Out This Way
After seeing the photos of the girl he left behind, the dumper might indeed realize what he lost. In response, he posts a series of whiny Justin Bieber videos on his page. The message: I miss you.