I heard about subliminal messages a long time ago. These are hidden messages in video, audio, still images and music. The word ‘subliminal’ comes from Latin words sub + limen and translates as below + threshold. The threshold here is our subconscious, since these messages supposedly are below our conscious mind and so they are not noticed consciously.

An early study that is always mentioned in these discussions is from 1957. James Vicary played a movie at a drive-in theater and over it he flashed the words “Drink Coca Cola’ and “Eat Popcorn” every 1/3000th of a second. He claimed that Coca Cola sales went up 58% and popcorn sales went up by 18% at the snack bar. But later fact-checking found those results to be faked.

So, are there any real uses of effective subliminal messaging?

amazon subliminal messages

On the Amazon logo, is that arrow connecting A to Z  a subliminal smiley face to suggest a happy experience with their services?

Was the classic Coca-Cola bottle shape meant to resemble a sexy voluptuous woman?

Is that a subliminal (or intentional) arrow between the E and x in the FedEx logo to suggest speed?

I saw online that people have noticed that the science fiction magazine SFX (the abbreviation for special effects) seems to often cover the bottom of the ‘F’ in their SFX logo with a person’s head. Is that a style – or is it a way to subliminally make SFX look like SEX?

It seems that subliminal messages are used for marketing. The other use that I had heard over the years was that supermarkets were inserting subliminal audio messages into the music playing in the store to suggest buying certain products or to not shoplift. They also consider the subliminal messages sent to shoppers by placing the fresh produce and flowers at entrances.

Even if the music playing in a store has no hidden messages, the choice of calm relaxing music or fast-paced louder music has an effect on shoppers.

Is it subliminal to place items that kids like at kid’s eye level?

What about the smell of fresh baking bread or other items in a food store?

It sounds like subliminal messaging is all about marketing. But there are other applications.

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) which is credited to Richard Bandler and John Grinder which is intended to treat anxiety, depression, phobias, and other behavioral disorders. On the evil side, I also read that some people associate its use with mind control.

Though the use of subliminal messages sound intriguing, I don’t find convincing evidence that it is in broad use, or that it is effective. Yet, I know that the use of colors, shapes, sounds and smells evoke feelings, memories and often have symbolic meanings to many people.

Have you encountered examples of subliminal messaging?  Then, post a comment and tell us about it.