It’s all around us in subtle forms, and many are critical of it – subliminal marketing. It plays on the deepest parts of our minds in ways we overlook, but here we blow the whistle on many of the more subtle tactics used by companies – some may surprise you.
We’re not talking about a one-frame flash of the McDonald’s logo during a show – let’s analyze more discreet tactics used by companies.
I was in Wal-Mart having a conversation with my old man about how easy it would be to implement a system where every item can be placed in magnetic-topped containers, and fetched via an electronic system of servomotors and electromagnets just like the local dry-cleaning business does.
It would keep us from looking all around the store for a specific item, since the supercenters are as large as small cities.
Then, while explaining this, I saw something in a little section between aisles that I wanted but wasn’t in my mental shopping list (jumbo hand sanitizer) and grabbed it.
My god, I just answered the previous question!
Wal-Mart has the funds and resources to implement an automated shopping system, but then they would lose money because people would miss seeing all those deals in the aisles that they would otherwise not think of needing.
I also read somewhere that Wal-Mart’s strategy with the little kiosk-like stands between the aisles is to make those items on sale to make a shopper think the entire associated aisle’s contents are also on sale all the same, although they’re actually marked up.
But people still buy them under the false pretense set by the aisle-external display and big signs adorned with smiling yellow faces. This is a prime example of what this article is all about.
Books-A-Million’s horrible music
At my local Books-A-Million, all the seating areas have the most concentrated amount of speakers set above them, where the store’s infamously horrendous Jazz music blares.
Why? So you don’t sit down and read an entire book in the stead of buying it.
The high-speed, loud, usually brass-packed Jazz music is purposefully designed to destroy your concentration so you can’t concentrate on the book within the store, cleverly disguised as music they offer to actual human beings for “easy listening.”
Even better, the type of people to actually enjoy that type of music (whom may also listen to nails scratching a chalk board for pleasure) are the classy type to just buy the books outright anyway.
What I do is just grab the book I’m interested in and go read it on the floor in another part of the store to avoid the obnoxious music. Most of the time I only want to read a small section anyway, but if I want the whole book I’ll just buy it and escape the store’s music outright.
Which is another example of me falling for another subliminal tactic.
This one is more of an example of linguistic subtlety within the car insurance company’s well-advertised slogan:
Geico can save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.
Hold on: there’s a subliminal mad-gab in there that enters your mind without even realizing it. Let’s rewrite that with the subliminal syllables sounded out:
Geico can save you fifteen percent or moron car insurance.
There we go – now the implications are clear. Referring to other car insurance brokers as “moron car insurance” evades the perception of many people, though the subliminal message is clear without even knowing it.
Whether or not having a gecko tell you that in a British accent is designed to further cement that into your mind or not isn’t as easy for me to analyze, however.
This one’s ancient, but still relevant: $9.99 is effectively ten dollars, but your brain reads from left to right (per the English number system) and sees the price as “9″ whereas it’s a dollar more.
Plus, crossing the barrier between powers ($9.99, $99.99, $199.99 etc) even moreso justifies spending money in your mind for a product you may not need that much.
This was parodied fairly recently by Ellen Degeneres in a JCPenny’s commercial series as a modern example of the trick’s acknowledgement.
Do you know of any examples of subliminal techniques used by major corporations we missed here? Let us know in the comments.
Stephen, another Coffee Desk pal, is a recent Computer Science graduate. With endless research into Computer Science and its many aspects (even P=NP), he is a formidable if less frequent member of the editing staff. He currently works with Java technology, namely bridging the gap between .NET CIL and Java's JVM - and that's just his past time. He is the only member of the SiN editorial staff that does not reside in the Eastern time zone.