Hidden Messages and Meanings

Hidden messaging. I’ve probably sent chills down your spine by just saying it. But it can be done.

Understanding what you see, is one thing.

Not understanding that you’ve seen something when you’ve seen it is something else.

Over the years, the principle of hidden and subliminal messaging has gone down a winding road of uncertainty.

Read up on the topic and what you’ll see is controversy. Controversy in abundance.

The concept of subliminal messaging in marketing is one that has always fascinated me, though. A clever mix of psychology and advertising to influence perception outside of consciousness, or at least an attempt at this, is bound to raise an eyebrow.

Having seen it; see it then officially getting banned on TV; then coming back and making a subtle encore in the wider industry, my views are still somewhat mixed.

On the contrary, I would suggest there’s still a place for it within the marketing game. You just have to know your limits; know your audience.

Does subliminal messaging result in a direct product sale? No. Does it result in a direct call to action? Probably not.

On the other hand, can hidden messages and meanings included within a buying journey help the consumer think a little differently about a product over a competitor’s? I think it might.

X amount of studies (I have no idea how much) have been conducted to figure out if subliminal messaging could be successful. None has proved it to be so. But none has proved it to be “unsuccessful” either.

Marketing, therefore, reaches a dilemma.

After nearly 60 years of trial and error who really knows. Even after a thorough BBC study this year, scientists are yet to determine whether there are any real advantages.

Reaching a conclusion that the results aren’t statistically significant – even though the results were in favour of a positive change in behaviour – still leaves us in the dark after building such hope.

Knowing that Hollywood movies, election campaigns, magazine covers, and too many a-list brand logos and identities to even begin to list, though, have all been built with some form of hidden message included fills me with some hope for subliminal messaging.

Even if that hope is one hanging by a thread.

The marketers of the 21st century must consider every piece of content as a rare chance of speaking to a prospect. To a customer. Every chance must be savoured. So would you turn down a secret sales pitch given the chance?

If we, as marketers, are doing our jobs properly, we must try to deliver something extra when we deliver our marketing. A value, a meaning, a message…

Nobody knows they saw it. But they did.

Glance at the first letters of each of the paragraphs within the body of this post. Do it now. You don’t have to go over the top when it comes to hiding a message within another.

What do you think?

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