Is subliminal advertising still effective?

What do you think of when you look at these images?


Subliminal advertising makes use of images and sounds that the human mind is not aware of, in order to influence people and make them attracted to a product. An organisation can use subliminal perception in marketing with the aim of delivering a message that “sticks” in consumers minds and would thus influence them to buy their products. According to one source, subliminal messages really only influences consumers under certain conditions. Subliminal refers to “below the threshold” and targets the subconscious mind.

To return to the location of these images, the first one, baskin robbins, shows an early 2005 logo, designed to utilize the company’s initials to advertise it’s total number of ice cream flavours. The Tour de France contains a well integrated biker in the logo and the chocolate Toblerone has a dancing bear in the mountain. This design is a tribute to the swiss town where the chocolate was originally developed.

Does subliminal advertising really work? and could it actually motivate consumer behaviour? thus to act or not act upon the message of an advert based on influence and perception? How far could marketing go with this to sway consumers and still maintain a legal and ethical disposition? Do you have a personal experience to share?

See 10 Facts about subliminal messages you will love

See Video on subliminal sensation and influence


10 thoughts on “Is subliminal advertising still effective?

  1. I think that audio subliminal messages work better than visual ones, because firstly not unless you know what to look for it is not that easy to see the subliminal images. However a catchy tune is hard not to get stuck in your mind and thus when going to buy an item you are drawn to buy it because you have the tune in your head.

    Interestingly on the note of legal and ethical disposition. Could you argue that what Woolworth is doing in terms of having kids collectable (e.g the domino’s) that this is unethical as kids are forcing their parents to go to Woolworth and buy enough good to attain the Domino. I think this affects consumer behaviour and could be argued to be subliminal in a sense. Blackmailing parents to go buy from their store as kids must have the latest fad. – Mary Ann Gitonga

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi

      I really love the fact that you have used Woolworths and the Domino Stars as the example. I have a couple of kids and yes they are chasing all the dominos, I have had to buy them the collection pack at $5 and we are now going more to Woolies to shop so that my kids can collect more of these dominos, not only that but my son was asking after a Disney movie that he hadn’t seen yet. Everyone wins right? Good example.


  2. I agree that musical messaging works very well, however I think that logos can leave an equally great impression in people’s minds. I think logos work best when a person needs/wants to purchase something unusual and they immediately think of a company logo that they know sells the product that they are after. The person will then be drawn to purchase the product made by this brand.

    I have a question, is portraying an image of a certain product considered subliminal advertising. An example would be cigarette advertising in which the actors were always looking “cool”. Is this ‘image’ considered subliminal advertising?


  3. Can subliminal messages really persuade comsumers into purchasing or is it more an exercise in brand awareness?

    The popular example of Gilbeys Gin shows the word ‘sex’ written in ice. How would this message, intentional or not, make me want to buy Gilbeys Gin? Yes, it implies the product is a bit sexy and flirty but I think the ad manages that message on its own.

    The ad became popular because of the ‘subliminal message’ which has contributed to brand awareness but at first glance it wouldn’t have been noticed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. James Vicary in 1957 flashed a subliminal message in local theatre “Drink Coke” and “Eat Popcorn” and claimed to have increased sales by 18% of coke and 50% of pop-corn, people were outraged to hear this but later James Vicary confessed that it was hoax and he did to protect this image as an advertisemnet executive. But later, many empirical studies suggested that subliminal messages are ineffective in influencing attitude or consumer behaviour.

    Many people use self help tapes which contains subliminal messages encoded in them to help people loose weight or boost there morale/confidence, Greenwald, Spangenberg, Pratkanis, and Eskenazi (1991) conducted research and found neither of the tapes are effective in there claims. More than 200 articles from mass media and 150 scholarly articles were researched by Pratkanis and Aronson(1992) and none suggested that these subliminal messages work.

    But there is something called subliminal priming which is effective,
    to make the subliminal message or advertisement work a motivation to the consumer should already be present or be created to which the subliminal message is targeted. For example, a subliminal message of a sports drink will only be effective if a motivation or driver such as thirst will be there. it is called sublimnal priming.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The key components of subliminal priming that increases its likelihood of effectiveness is that the individual is motivated to pursue the behaviour through the prime, and that the pursuit is accessible within a reasonably short time frame.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. My first feeling after reading Raymond’s article was that subliminal advertising don’t work effectively on logos. But upon reflection, I believe it could work depends whether marketers use them wisely.

    Before today I wasn’t aware of what’s mentioned above on the baskin robbins, Tour de France and Toblerone logos, but I might from now on. This can be referred to my personal experience with FedEx. A subliminal message is hidden behind the FedEx logo, as stated in this article:–the-fedex-logo-hides-an-arrow-in-its-negative-space-even-a-glance-subliminally-inspires-thoughts-of-efficiency-and-forward-motion-1

    While I agree with Paul Harrison that effectiveness of subliminal priming is driven by personal motivation and accessibility within reasonable timing, as illustrated in the Utrecht University and Radboud University study with Lipton Ice Tea*, research could be done on whether promoting subliminal messages (after its initial launch) actually help to target customers.

    Bringing it back to my own experience, since my sister told me about FedEx’s logo, I have perceived FedEx as a smart brand and whenever I need an international courier service, I would think of them first.

    *The Utrecht University and Radboud University study on Lipton Ice Tea can be found here:


  7. In principle the idea of directing advertising to the subconscious mind would probably work by making consumers decide on an unconscious level to buy a product. This could bypass the normal decision making process and have the consumers inexplicably drawn to a product, without knowing in particular why they are drawn to that particular product.

    I think that the more important question is whether or not this is ethical?

    Is this not exploiting consumers by having them make purchases that they do not necessarily need. This in effect prevents clients from thinking rationally about which purchases they wish to make and evaluating the risks involved.

    If subliminal advertising does in fact work, should it be allowed?


  8. Personally, I don’t believe that logos have affected my purchasing behaviours as a consumer.
    I’ve come across various different articles and blog posts over time that point out the hidden pictures within logos, that often, such as the Toblerone logo, I would never have seen without being told.
    One in particular that I remember is the FedEx logo that has a hidden arrow within it. I honestly don’t believe that I would associate moving forward or looking ahead, even though that’s what it’s supposed to imply. And seriously, why would having packman hidden within the LG logo influence me at all? Especially if I would never see it without being told? In that way, I truly don’t believe that subliminal advertising works in print.


  9. I think subliminal advertising works in terms of brand recognition. For example, if I am craving chocolate I automatically visualise the Cadbury logo splashed across a wall of purple but i don’t necessarily buy Cadbury chocolate, I can just identify it before others. Audio subliminal messaging on the other hand is much more effective. I can never get the Coles Status Quo ‘Prices are Down’ song out of my head and it always triggers my memory to go and pick up something from the supermarket.


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