Does Subliminal Advertising Really Work?

by JRO on November 6, 2013

  • SumoMe

Advertisers are always seeking new ways to convince customers to purchase their products. One enduring marketing method is subliminal advertising. Given the subtly of subliminal advertisements, many have wondered whether the technique is actually effective.

The messages do sometimes work, but they are not always effective on everyone. Most studies done on subliminal advertising show that the messages they impart leave temporary imprints on people, and that not everyone will act on the messages.

What Is Subliminal Advertising?

The concept involves persuading a person to do something by redirecting their subconscious mind. The subconscious mind lacks the ability to make logical decisions, and it often accepts things without judgment. For example, when you start thinking of something, like a movie, what comes into your mind? Some people immediately think about popcorn, while others will think about the other messages involved, such as the topic of the film or wanting to buy clothing from the movie. Many of these thoughts are guided by subconscious impulses, some of which may have been imprinted from subliminal advertisements.

Subliminal Advertising Approaches

There are a number of ways a company can use subliminal advertising. Many people think of flashing words on a movie screen when it comes to subliminal messages. Quick, flashing images during movies are common, but there are also sound recordings that can cause a person to think about a product. Remember that catchy jingle from a commercial? That is a form of subliminal advertising. These messages are delivered right to the brain, without the person even realizing it.

When a person is already thinking along the same pattern as the product being promoted, they are likely to desire the product more. For example, when you are thirsty, you can easily be convinced to grab a soda or a glass of water if you see a commercial for soda. The same goes when you smell coffee in the morning, and you suddenly want a cup for yourself.

Subliminal advertising can have some impact on the choices you make. According to multiple research studies, you are only likely to be influenced by subliminal advertising if you already have a desire or motivation to purchase a product. It is impossible to make a person do something they do not want to do through subliminal advertisements, though studies have demonstrated that subliminal ads can alter a person’s mood, particularly if they see negative images. People are attuned to negative words, and they often react strongly to them because they are not commonly associated with their normal cognitive thinking.

Emotional Advertising

People respond to advertisements geared toward something emotional. Studies conducted on negative words in advertising showed that people responded more to the negative words because they immediately connected to a feeling of displeasure. Research found that people were subconsciously picking up signals from the words as warnings. Negative words may have a rapid impact on a marketing project, which works well for companies needing to promote safety in the workplace, or companies hoping to warn customers of something dangerous. However, there is a fine line that companies walk with negative words, as they often don’t want to directly attack competitors, or impart a negative association between their company and prospective consumers.


Harry Briggs focuses on advertising, design, commerce, business, marketing, management and other related topics; to learn more about advertising and design visit

Previous post:

Next post: