Subliminal Creativity - Medallion Retail
Strategy, Creativity, Retail Marketing

Subliminal Creativity

POSTED ON: 03/01/16 Subliminal Creativity

Look at the image above. How does it make you feel? What thoughts does it inspire? Does the image compel you to take any sort of action?

If you’re a believer in subliminal messages, it very well may.

I’ve written previously about subliminal messaging and how it has (and continues to be) used by marketers to subconsciously associate brands with specific emotions. The idea of “hiding” motivational and suggestive information within a visual is not new, and has moved in and out of favor over the decades.

Currently, it’s in favor. Many communications and psychology experts believe that while subliminal messages don’t create hordes of product-buying zombies, they do have an influence on how a person connects with a brand. (To be clear, I’m not speaking of Easter Eggs, those clever surprises in movies and video games that producers hide for hardcore fans. These exist solely for their delightful discovery, and are not delivering any messages per se.)

Gaze upon the ice cubes again. Go deep. Feeling anything? Maybe warmth? Appreciation?

No matter.

My point is that subliminal messages can honestly have an effect, and their use in advertising, at the very least, provides consumers with layers of meaning and opportunities for interpretation. It’s a form of personalization.

OK. Stop reading and take a look at this video. I’ll wait. And don’t skip ahead.

Pretty weird, right? Practically gasp-inducing.

This classic piece of video has been floating around for years. It’s a personal favorite, not just because it’s interesting and creepy, but because it also serves as a potent reminder that marketing professionals are just people. We’re all vulnerable, malleable individuals who can indeed be influenced without knowing it.

Check out those ice cubes one more time. Really get inside them. Lose yourself in the beautiful surfaces. What do they speak of? Do they tell of a great marketing brain; a person you should listen to?

No worries. Let’s continue.

The video is the creation of Derren Brown, a UK-based mentalist and illusionist. He’s also a consummate showman and an unrepentant provocateur. Depending upon who you ask, he is a charlatan or a gifted practitioner of psychological mentalism. Brown is loved and despised in equal measure; my guess is that he is perfectly happy with both kinds of attention.

I happen to believe he does have some sort of manipulative power. (But then again, P.T. Barnum is a personal hero.) In this video, the similarity between Brown’s ideas and those of the creative guys is more than circumstantial. There are, to me, some shocking parallels, along with details that couldn’t possibly be faked. Clearly, the creatives took in information without realizing it.

Which reminds me. Give that photo up top another gander. Let its silent voice seep into your brain. Allow its essence to speak. Surrender yourself to a mind greater than yours.


I’m sharing this video for two reasons. One, because I think it’s a crazy must-see for anyone who traffics in ideas. And two, it demonstrates the need for creative people to refill the well. It’s important to replenish the images in the mind’s eye; to experience, on every level, new places and perspectives and vantage points. Because whether you see something or not, you’ve seen it. And eventually, it all shows up in the work.

Be open-minded. Drink in the image of those ice cubes again. Hear their words. And if you feel compelled to send me gifts or offerings (and why you would even do something like that I have no idea), don’t fight it.

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