What is Subliminal Advertising: Definition and Examples

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With each passing day, advertising is becoming more and more diverse and creative. Long gone are those days when brands would overwhelm the customer and advertise their product straight into their faces. 

The biggest breakthrough in advertising was seen in the 1900s when radio and television became popular among people.

This gave brands an opportunity to reach out to people on newer and interactive platforms. On the other hand, since the ads spoke directly to the customers, it felt more personalized to them.

As years passed by, brands came up with more personalize campaigns and ways to emotionally complete the customer.

The era of online advertising started and companies came up with new practices that transformed the advertising industry radically. 

One of the earliest revolutionary campaigns of display advertising began with the banner ad of AT&T. As many as 44 percent of the people who saw the ad clicked it.

Even though the page that led further lacked optimization, it was a big hit of the time.

However, in the past few years, advertising has shifted from being overly expressive and formidable to a more subtle form.

For starters, have you ever noticed the logo of the e-commerce giant Amazon closely? Do you find something unusually appealing with the arrow? 

If you’ve ever paid attention to Amazon’s logo you notice that the arrow isn’t just another fancy attribute but has a deeply hidden meaning associated with it. The current logo has been in use since the 2000s and doesn’t seem to go anywhere. 

The yellow coloured arrow connects a to z in Amazon, while making a grinning face. The small detail works so well that it gives the customers a happy impression of Amazon’s all-inclusive store. 

amazon_logo

Believe it or not, Amazon is only a single example of the viral advertising practice, most companies are trying out these days. It’s effective and causing an impact on the customer without them even realizing it. 

Welcome to the world of Subliminal advertising – an age of passive, subtle and clever advertising practice that is making customers like certain brands and purchase from them more often.

Let’s take a look at what it is all about.

What is Subliminal Advertising?

Advertising is fundamentally supposed to be impactful and smart but not overwhelming or overpowering. Today’s customers have much more exposure to a varied number of platforms on the Internet. With this, they are more likely to spot brands and recognize them.

In this journey, people always find examples that change their perception of a brand. They might not even realize it, but they get more inclined towards the services of certain brands. 

Wondering why? Because these brands reach the customers at a subliminal definition. They engage people by sending out these cleverly crafted subliminal messages. 

In other words, subliminal advertising is the form of advertising in which brands send subliminal messages to the people in order to engage them at a subconscious level. 

If you’re wondering how to do Subliminals work, they use several elements such as colours, words, shapes and placement to form an intended meaning that helps customers establish powerful associations with the brand.

While it may seem unusual, advertisements have been famous for a long time for sending out subliminal messages.

They turn subtle by a photoshop trick, concealing a hidden meaning in their logo, or placing a unique double meaning caption. All of this fits into the definition of clever.

Put differently, the more clever an ad is, the better a customer feels about the product. 

The point is that subliminal advertising has a purpose to it. It isn’t something just intended for fun. These ads communicate what they want and encourage the purchase of a product through subtle effects.

Even though these effects are not visible to the naked eye unless looked upon carefully, they still manage to leave a deep impact on the viewer. 

How Subliminal Advertising is Better Than the Rest?

The modern father of advertising, David Ogilvy pointed out that a good advertisement is the one that sells the product without drawing attention to it.

It is Clever and Leaves the Customer Wanting for More

When it comes to subliminal marketing, it does exactly as it should. It shifts your focus to the product, with subconscious hints, without drawing upon much attention to itself. 

It’s not just images that find a home in subliminal messages. Brands are using all kinds of elements from sounds too appealing visuals and animations for communicating with the customer. The idea is to get into their heads without making them realize the fact.

If you’re an avid fan of videos and movies, you might have heard of the term easter eggs. What do you think they are? Easter eggs are nothing but a fancy term given to a process where organizations communicate with the audience subliminally. Artists often leave secret messages or elements in their videos for their fans to figure out and get the message. 

It is yet another form of subliminal advertising, which makes people go crazy and savvy about something. While overpowering advertisements have nothing left to be discovered, subliminal ads leave the customer wanting more.

It Turns Prohibited into Subliminal

A subliminal message works when advertising is prohibited. Certain prohibited products such as tobacco and liquor aren’t advertised openly. They have strict laws against them. However, this doesn’t mean brands who make these products have to give up on advertising.

Adopting a smart move, they have chosen subliminal messages as a form of advertising. 

15 Classic Examples of Subliminal Advertising That Will Make You Fall in Love with It 

Let’s take a look at some of the brands that totally ace subliminal advertising

1. Milwaukee Brewers

milwaukee_brewers_logo

The logo of Milwaukee Brewers from 1978 to 1993 is a classic example of subliminal advertising. If you closely look at it, you will spot a catcher's mitt that is composed of the letters M and B.

In other words, the initial letters of the brand perfectly add up to make a catcher’s mitt in their logo.  Subliminal advertising at its best!

2. Pepsi and Coca Cola

pepsi_cocacola

One of the best examples of subliminal advertising at its core is a banner advertisement put up by Pepsi. The soft drink brand released the advertising banner on the left. On the right you see another similar banner put up by Coca-Cola. 

Pepsi’s original version of the ad is quite subliminal in a way that makes the user think and take a look back at it again. It secretly says that getting a coke when you actually want to buy a Pepsi can be scary. 

On the other hand, Coca-Cola’s response to this ad is perfect. Even though both have the same picture, the tagline makes all the difference in the world.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean

Did you ever notice that Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean narrows down the gap between a children’s movie and an adult action movie?

It might sound strange until you carefully look at the poster of Pirates of the Caribbean.  

Whether or not the movie had the idea of subliminal advertising in mind, you can actually see the skull and crossbones from the poster overlap with Mickey Mouse’s head and ears. So is not that amazing? Well! The movie went on to raise more than $3.7 billion dollars in box office sales alone. 

4. SFX Magazine

sfx_magazine

SFX or Special Effects is a hit sci-fi magazine that was first released in 1995. You can find the magazine filled with fantasy and sci-fi news. However, if you dare to look more closely, you will find a hint of subliminal advertising.

The internet is filled with gossip about how the cover of SFX magazine looks different when women appear on them.

The letter F appears to be the letter E giving the magazine an altogether different meaning. With this subliminal advertising, the magazine sells more than 26000 copies. Kudos to the subliminal special effects!

5. Toyota

toyota

Toyota’s logo is one image with multiple meanings. The design showcases subliminal advertising at its best. Look at the logo below.

Do you see something unusual?

Hint: You can form each and every letter of the company from its logo. 

Try doing it yourself, you’ll be able to discover the alphabet T to A. The logo in the case of Toyota definitely defines the brand at all times.

It makes you go back and look for those words again now that you know what it means. Subliminally appealing, isn’t it?

6. Samsung’s Oscar Selfie

Samsung’s Oscar Selfie

Subliminal advertising is not always a well-worked special effect or an image illusion. Brand sometimes uses it to their advantage even when a product is not directly in the picture but present in the background.

It is popularly known as product placement when certain products are left around and shown repeatedly in a film or video. 

The brand Samsung took subliminal advertising to a whole new level when Ellen DeGeneres took the popular selfie using a Samsung phone at the 2014 Oscars.

Samsung was also the official sponsor of the event but never confirmed that the selfie was planned. 

Whether it was planned or not, getting your brand noticed with some of the most popular people in the industry was surely worth breaking the Internet. 

7. Marlboro and Ferrari

marlboro_ferrari

This one is indeed the most popular controversial event ever related to subliminal advertising. It happened in Formula One, which is one of the favourites and permitted advertising places for the alcohol and tobacco industry.

However ever since the company was banned from advertising such products directly, they chose a more subtle way.

Marlboro’s logo was removed from cars due to restrictions As a result the company simulated a tobacco packet at the back of the car that resembled a barcode. Intelligent and subliminal at its best!

futurama_simpsons

Futurama is an animated series originally belonging to Spain. The company is one of the best examples of subliminal advertising where the sound is required. In one of the episodes, the lead character of the show Benders hymns a song.

While many thought it was just another popular song, a few users closely noticed that it was the hymn of the Republican Party of the United States.

Even when the episode was translated in Spanish, it was the republican party to send the message, right from the original version. Subliminal political advertising is done right!

9. Toblerone

Sometimes brands make their logos appear so strongly attached to them that people forget their real significance. However, be it any brand, a lot of thought and consideration goes into designing a logo.

Certain inspirations and objectives define a brand and thus leave an impression on their logo.

When it comes to Toblerone, the logo secretly takes the user to the origin of the brand. If you look at the triangular Toblerone logo you will find an integrated picture of Cervino Mountain which is the fifth highest peak of the Alps. But that’s not it.

Look more closely and you will spot a bear, which is an animal that secretly connects Toblerone with its town of origin, Berna.

10. Tostitos

Even though Tostitos’s logo contains a subliminal message, it is one that anyone can spot by looking at it in a few seconds. It isn’t an accident that the two T's in the middle of the Tostitos look like two people eating and dipping it in Salsa. 

Not only does it look quite appealing but it secretly engages the user and encourages them to consume the product. Subtle yet tasty!

11. Spartan Golf Club

spartan_logo

Take a look at the logo of the Spartan Golf Club. Doesn’t it look like an illusion at first? Clearly, the corporate logo hides a double message.

While you can easily see a person playing golf, showcasing the main service of the business. Try taking a look at it from a distance. 

You can see a person wearing a helmet. In other words, it resembles a Spartan, thus making up for the company’s name. The brand cleverly describes its name and services in one logo.

Don’t you want to look back at it once more? Intelligent and Subtle!

12. FedEx

fedex_logo

FedEx’s logo is an oldie yet classically subliminal. The whitespace in the logo between the alphabets E and X makes an arrow that points forward.

It subliminally indicates the company’s ability to reach from one point to the other with success. Even though it’s pretty simple to guess, it subconsciously establishes the customer’s trust in their brand. 

13. KFC

kfc

KFC’s burger advertisement is no ordinary one. If you watch their video advertisement till the end, you will find that the lettuce inside the burger turned into a dollar.

Don’t see the point of it? Well, the brand said that it was a contest for people and the first 1000 ones who spotted the dollar could participate. 

But it is much more than that. There were a lot of discussions on the Internet that pointed out that this move of KFC was to subliminally link its burgers to cheap prices. Pretty clever and hard to guess, isn’t it?

14. Sony Vaio

sony_vaio

Sony Vaio is one brand that aces subliminal marketing with perfection. It might not appear phenomenally, but when you closely look at the logo, you will find the word Vaio actually depicting the area where the brand works. 

The word Vaio shows the symbols of analogue and digital, two main domains of the brand’s business. It secretly tells people what the company does and gains their trust for the same. Isn’t it amazing? 

15. Snooty Peacock

snooty_peacock_logo

One can clearly spot two things by looking at the logo of Snooty peacock. The brand sells jewellery and its logo is the quintessential example of its work. Depending upon the angle at which you're looking, you can clearly see either one image or the other.

While one of the images is that of a peacock, the other one is a lady wearing a necklace. Subliminally playing with optical illusions, the brand’s logo allures the customers with a peacock along with the beautiful women donning the jewelry. 

Conclusion

With these wonderful examples showcasing subliminal advertising at its best, I’m sure you’re reluctant to use it for your business as well.  Subliminal messages are not just appealing to the eye but also save you a lot of legwork once it’s out in the market. 

And it doesn’t matter what your niche of business is, great ads catch people’s attention faster than products. 

If your message is subtle, clever and reaches the audience at a subconscious level, it will be shared, adored and turned into something viral overnight.

The key to excelling is making sure that you are subtle and clever with your content and make the best of your marketing budget. So, get out of your comfort zone and try subliminal marketing today!

Kulwant Nagi

Hi! I am Kulwant Nagi. I created this blog in 2011 with the vision to help new bloggers. I am running more than 10 blogs on various categories and running a digital marketing company in India now.

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