What was the one uncovered secret about the ‘Marketing realm’ that genuinely shocked you? Generating profits, boosting sales, and creating a buzz in the market; all of these have been accomplished notwithstanding the cut-throat competition persisting in this world today. But at what cost? For decades the masses have been deluded by the shenanigans played by the advertising industry; falling prey to its consumerist motives. Marketers have gone above and beyond in their sale-oriented approach, so much so that they’ve not only been indifferent to a seemingly cognizable ethical boundary but also unknowingly (or very much not) misused consumer data.
Having said all that, what could be worse than tampering with your subconscious mind?!
Yes, you read that right. Subliminal Marketing is one such bizarre approach that several marketers have found effective in their maneuver. According to deskara.com, “Subliminal Marketing, is a form of marketing that uses intentional messaging, sounds, or visuals to get a specific point across to those viewing the ad. The purpose is to make your audience walk away from the ad with a specific message in their mind that they didn’t consciously perceive directly.” But how did this method come into existence?
In 1957, James Vicary, a social psychologist and market researcher experimented on more than tens of thousands of movie-goers in a New Jersey theater. In a press release, he revealed that during a movie, he showed the audience 0.03-second flashes of 'Hungry? Eat Popcorn' and 'Drink Coca-Cola' to check if concession sales improved. Vicary later claimed that the experiment had in fact caused a 57.5 % surge in the sale of popcorn and subsequently an 18.1 % surge in the sale of Coca-Cola. However, there still happens to be a lack of sufficient evidence to support this claim.
But how does this queer practice work in effect?
Subliminal advertising is propelled by subliminal messages. These messages are primarily employed in media, such as TV ads, online advertising, and songs, to cite a few examples. The messaging is intended to increase the persuasiveness of the commercial or to convey a whole other message entirely.
The perception of and the reaction to subliminal messages, all occur at the subconscious level. Our subconscious mind is constantly operating in the background, just as we breathe in and out without even thinking about it. Subliminal marketing is always designed to appeal to our subconscious mind by leveraging external stimuli to elicit responses.
Despite the empirical edge that subliminal marketing has over generating monumental sales, there still are questions raised with regard to its effectiveness on various levels. Yet advertisers continue to use this to manipulate consumer behavior, and are largely deemed unethical. Some subliminal advertisements cater to unethical wants or improperly target a specific market. A cigarette advertisement, for example, might include a subliminal message teaching children that smoking is cool or safe.
Other advertisers may utilize sexually explicit messages. This has the potential to undercut a consumer's conscious values, promote unethical behavior, or raise a consumer's desire to engage in an unhealthy or harmful practice. Because customers are unaware of the message, they are unaware they are being pushed into behavior they would not otherwise manifest. Some customers claim that musicians include subliminal messages in their music. For example, two Judas Priest fans attempted suicide in 1985, and their parents claimed that the band placed the subliminal message "do it" into their music.
One could go on and on about how unethical marketing can subtly affect people’s lives for the worse, and yet paradoxically and indirectly increase one’s income. But is it worth generating profits at the expense of others’ welfare?
There are no right answers.