Does Subliminal Marketing Work In-store? - Medallion Retail
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Does Subliminal Marketing Work In-store?

POSTED ON: 02/25/16 In-store Marketing

Details matter. Especially when you can’t see them.

The conversations about subliminal advertising having been raging on for decades. Is it real? (Probably.) Does it work? (Sometimes.) In the 1950s, did movie theaters drop single-frame images into the coming attractions to drive popcorn cravings? (No. James Vicary lied.)

But with that lie, Vicary introduced what many advertising people considered a breakthrough tool, and what the Average Joe decided was mind control. The reality lies somewhere in the middle.

Subliminal messages (phrases, images, scents and sounds) are those that operate below the level of conscious awareness, and are delivered in a way to be perceived from the subconscious mind. You know, those satanic commands you hear when you play a KISS album backwards, and the suggestion of a naked Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Or the showering lady in the Palmolive print ad with a decidedly masculine right arm.

Subliminal marketing continues today, even after legislative attempts by unsure organizations not willing to chance it. In January 1974, the FCC announced that subliminal techniques, “whether effective or not,” were “contrary to the public interest,” and that any television station employing them risked losing its broadcast license. Basically, “We don’t know what it is or if it’s real, but don’t do it on TV.”

OK.  How about doing it in-store?

An updated form of subliminal marketing is setting the mood and creating a tone in retail locations across the nation. As in-store marketing continues to evolve in response to the experience-demanding shopper, there are definitely some emotional moments in the aisle.

Teams of designers, writers, psychologists, urban anthropologists, content creators and social media experts are developing in-store sights, smells and sounds to alter the attitude of the shopper. But it’s not about tricking people and forcing them to buy something they don’t want. I think of it as simply creating an environment conducive to procuring goods and services. It’s CX enhancement.

Color, display placement, scent, lighting, music, visual and aural juxtaposition and emotionally charged signage are the tools that stimulate the shopper on a deeper level. With the right combination of elements, the smart retail marketer can help the shopper feel:

  • Familiarity
  • Safety
  • Inspiration
  • Concern
  • Connection
  • Hunger
  • Calm
  • Thirst
  • Self-consciousness
  • Confidence
  • Receptivity
  • Excitement
  • Nostalgia
  • Energy
  • Deserving
  • Adventurous
  • Guilt
  • Longing
  • Relaxation
  • Innocence
  • Admiration
  • Love
  • Desire

Next time, subliminal messaging and the creative mind…

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