Subliminal stimulation is defined as a sensory stimulus functioning below an individual’s threshold of conscious perception. Subliminal messages produce strong changes in behavior.

The use of subliminal techniques in retail outlets have been reported since the dawn of advertising. Grocery stores purposefully play classic rock to subliminally signal shoppers to rewind to their childhood days and implicitly urge them to purchase household products that their moms once used (curb switching of brands). Slow-paced music in supermarkets is often associated with more customers moving around at slower pace that may result in more time for purchase and trials boosting overall sales.

My friend, BZ (name concealed), a professional hypnotist and instructor at Silva Mind Control, helped me design an elaborate experiment with visual stimuli flashing at unobtrusive places on-campus to produce subliminal perception amongst student groups. When I teach Marketing Communications I often conduct this experiment to demonstrate how subliminal stimuli produce certain changes in the thinking or performance of student-led teams in assignments. MBA students across cultures, geographies, faiths, and races fall for it.

Marketers and advertisers who use techniques of subliminal perception are masters of psychological manipulation and control. Here’s a video clip featuring a professional mentalist and hypnotist who turns the tables on advertisers:

James Vicary superimposed two messages, “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Eat Popcorn,” for 1/3000 of a second every five seconds over a movie to report that Coke sales increased 58% and popcorn sales rose 18%. His experiment and results were published in magazines like, Nation, New Yorker, and Saturday Review. Vance Packard also dealt with Vicary’s experiments in his seminal book, Hidden Persuaders.

This Australian premier TV channel has recently rekindled the concerns of subliminal perception in advertising:

Click on the web link below for the ten best subliminal advertisements ever made:



About Sudio Sudarsan

Sudio Sudarsan helps companies and startups drive demand and impact through more effective use of their brand, marketing, design, digital, and innovation assets. He teaches advanced courses in marketing to MBA students at premier b-schools in three continents around the world. You can follow him on Twitter @iSudio; view some of his retired presentations at View all posts by Sudio Sudarsan


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