Years ago I owned a paperback entitled ‘Subliminal Seduction’, written by Wilson Bryan Key back in 1974. I was fascinated by the book, albeit a difficult read (the author was a member of MENSA and his book, at times, read like a theoretical dissertation). The premise behind subliminal messaging suggested that advertisers were embedding hidden images into photographs and artwork in order to subconsciously manipulate customers into buying their products. The offending subliminal illustrations, below the threshold of conscious perception, usually consisted of salacious images or words, often hidden in elegant depictions of ice cubed drinks and alcohol bottles, among other things, meant to appeal to our more primal urges.
Subliminal advertising took off in the 1950’s when James Vicary, a self-proclaimed market researcher, conducted an experiment in a New Jersey movie theater. Over a period of six weeks, Vicary ran a film in which he’d inserted the words ‘Drink Coca Cola’ and ‘Hungry? Eat Popcorn’ in random frames a fraction of a second long, not discernible to the conscious eye. At the end of the experiment, Vicary claimed a positive correlation between the hidden messages and increased concession stand sales. Statistics showed an 18% increase in beverage sales, and a whopping 58% increase in popcorn sales. On the surface, an astounding success. When the findings were released, subliminal messaging took off as the hot advertising tool of the decade.
On the horns of Vicary’s irrefutable evidence, Wilson Bryan Key’s Subliminal Seduction theory took the matter one step further, and exposed the advertising industry for the manipulators and deceivers they were.
Until Vicary was proven a fraud.
After he’d failed to duplicate the results of his New Jersey experiment years later, Vicary admitted that not only did he falsify the statistics he originally cited, he never even carried out the experiment in the first place. The whole thing had been a hoax.
And just like that, proponents of subliminal advertising receded into the shadows.
Wilson Bryan Key never wavered however, standing by his assertions. While the majority of advertising gurus dismissed Subliminal Seduction as the workings of a deluded, albeit clever mind, a few holdouts still supported the theory. To this day evidence suggests subliminal messaging was, and to some extent still is, used to influence product sales. Whether or not the strategy works, remains up for debate.
Searching for new and clever ways to build my readership has been challenging – peaks and valleys challenging. SEO’s, share buttons, regular posting, social media connections, all great strategies, but every Blogger in the global village is working within the same parameters, all of us jammed together in that same overcrowded paradigm. It’s time to look beyond. Time to evolve.
After all, every Blog has its day.
Did you see what I did there?
Despite evidence that subliminal seduction may not work, I’m willing to throw caution to the wind and take a leap of faith. In future posts, don’t be surprised if after reading, you feel a sudden overwhelming urge to hit ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘follow’, or perhaps leave a lengthy comment. You may even find yourself a little flushed and euphoric. If that happens, don’t question it. Enjoy the feeling and act on your impulses. And remember to tell your friends.
I’ve left you with a couple of examples of subliminal advertising.
Nothing salacious on my part, I promise.
Until next time,