You must have read about the hidden messages and double-meanings used by Disney in their animations or by Coca-Cola in their advertisements. Ever wondered why are hidden messages used? How effective they are? Or do they bring results, if any? Well, Keep reading to know more.
Numerous implicit messages are bound to be present everywhere; ranging from media advertisements, animations, audios to texts literature and comics. These messages are notorious for their dominant effect on the audience due to their perception at the subconscious level. They were termed as Subliminal Messages by James Vicary who discovered them in the 1950s.
Though they have been known to exist for centuries now, the idea of their existence itself is considered ambiguous! Thus, Vicary made an attempt to prove their potency in the 1950s.
What Subliminal Messages are?
Let us first look at what subliminal messages actually are. The word ‘subliminal’ literally means below the threshold. Thus, these are the signals that function below the absolute threshold level of one’s consciousness. These messages tend to go undetected and are usually also known as ‘backward thoughts.’ We cannot detect these messages even if we make an attempt to do so because they operate on an unconscious level. Take a glimpse at How the unconscious mind rules you every moment.
However, subliminal messages are often confused with other related concepts like supraliminal messages, symbolism, and allegories, which tend to have different functions altogether. Subliminal messages can be differentiated from supraliminal messages on the basis of their detectability. Supraliminal messages are the exact opposite of subliminal messages because they can be perceived by our conscious mind.
Symbolism and Allegory, on the other hand, are literary devices. Symbolism is the use of symbols to convey a meaning. It forms an association between the visible and the invisible. It is very much detectable. Allegories are the hidden meanings and morals that the author wants to convey through literary texts. Both allegories and subliminal messages have messages but the former uses symbolism as a form of expression while the latter refuges into appealing the subconscious mind.
What Ogilvy Said?
As David Ogilvy rightly said, “What really decides consumers to buy or not is the content of your advertising and not its form.”Thus, most of the advertisements and brands are known to use punch lines, tag lines and images that manipulate us subliminally. To illustrate, the tagline of Raymond’s – “The Complete Man,” plants the thought into one’s subconscious mind that without owning a product from Raymond’s, one is incomplete. There are so many other examples that prove the same point.
Subliminal Message Program
Not only limited to the taglines, but subliminal message programs are also available in the market today. They are well accepted as a form of self-help and for getting other things done; such as losing weight, terminating smoking, developing better study habits, etc. Such programs come in various forms such as pictures, audio clips, video clips, and software.
One of the most common of these forms is audio cassette tape with music or natural sounds, such as waves or wind, masking verbal audio suggestions. Individuals play these tapes generally while working, resting or conducting other activities in order to bring out the changes one expects.
Subliminal video cassette tapes generally show relaxing scenes; such as a beach at sunset or a pine forest in the mountains, while presenting soundtracks of music or natural sounds. Subliminal messages may be present in the visual or the audio portion of such tapes. These tapes require the individual to watch a television set to get the tapes’ full benefits.
Drawbacks of Subliminal Message Programs:
These subliminal devices present many problems. Firstly, there is no way an individual can demonstrate the truth of any subliminal messages being presented by such devices. By definition, these messages presented are at the levels, that are not easily accessible.
Secondly, there is no way an individual can evaluate what backward messages he or she is receiving. This is a major drawback because an individual has to blindly trust the manufacturer to place correct and positive subliminal messages on the tape.
Next, there is no way an individual can adjust the level at which such subliminal messages are presented. These devices have their subliminal messages recorded at a fixed level of obviousness relative to their visual or audio masking signals. An individual has no means of control and cannot alter the levels.
An individual cannot account for local environmental conditions. As an example, a subliminal audio tape being played in a quiet room may have its messages presented at an acceptable level of obviousness, but the same tape played in a noisy room may have its messages drowned out and reduced to a level which has no influence whatsoever, even on an individual’s subconscious.
An individual is unable to adjust the message to his/her own sensitivities. These devices also compel individuals to listen to or watch the same masking signals every time. The repeated presentation of these signals brings boredom and discontinuation. Thus, the efficacy of subliminal messages is questionable.
It is very well known the Vicary had admitted fabricating the results of his experiment, which was later verified by other experiments. Two of these studies are given below.
There was an experiment conducted by Smith and Rogers to assess the effectiveness of subliminal messages in TV advertisements and the results of this experiment will surely make your eyes pop out! Incentives that usually follow any given message produce a high rate of efficacy through supraliminal messages than subliminal messages; the latter being only 1/10th of the former.
Subliminal messages were less likely to be remembered. They have tiny effects as compared to the large effects of supraliminal messages, which tend to be constantly reflected upon in the back of one’s mind. Furthermore, these backward messages are masked with so many detectable (supraliminal) signals. Thus, the desired response might not strike as predominantly.
Another study conducted by undergraduate students proves how there is no evidence to support the claim! So many companies and advertising agents have overrated these undetected messages. But they are actually the mere results of an active reflection on the part of the perceiver rather than of the existence of the messages themselves!
The common notion of the people that supports the efficacy of subliminal messages actually fails to distinguish between the presence of these messages and the impact of their presence on the viewer. For example, Disney has always been accused of “Hidden Messages” in their animation. However the question is, does the creator imply us receiving the message or are we seeing what we want to see? Now we know, why the issue of subliminal messages is such a hot debate.
The Final Verdict
After having discussed the scientific cons of subliminal messages, it is necessary for all of us to know that subliminal messages aren’t as powerful as we consider them to be. Rather, the power actually rests in our hands. We should do what is a necessity for us. Though there are pieces of evidence against, subliminal messages bring in the witty element in an advertisement, which impresses the audience to some extent. However, having great advertisement content and a bad product isn’t too far either.
In conclusion, the manufacturers who use undetected messages should be aware of their efficiency and shouldn’t fall prey to the myths. Similarly, consumers should have proper awareness of these advertising techniques. They should beware of the shortcomings of the subliminal products and must give it a good thought before investing. Both the parties ought to continue making conscious efforts to attain their goal rather than refuging into anything else.