Subliminal messaging is a technique used to influence people without them realizing it. It employs visual or auditory stimuli to heighten a message’s persuasiveness.
In short, a subliminal message is a hidden message that the brain picks up without you realizing it. While subliminal messaging is mainly used in media such as music, TV ads, and radio commercials, it still works for digital media, including paid social campaigns.
A couple of notable ads that leveraged subliminal messaging include:
Examples of Subliminal Messaging
One of the best examples of subliminal messaging used tactfully by a brand is that of FedEx. A close look at the logo reveals an arrow formed by the white space between the “E” and the “x.”
The message behind the arrow is that FedEx is as fast and accurate as an arrow from a skilled archer’s bow.
With the fast rise of social media, subliminal messaging has quickly found its way into social media campaigns.
Here’s an excellent example from the popular ice-cream store Baskin-Robbins:
What better way to reinforce the fact that they have 31 flavors of ice-cream than to put it in their logo? Oh, and to surround that logo with the different flavors. For ice-cream lovers, this just screams “ice-cream heaven.”
Subliminal messaging is a powerful way to communicate with your customers on a deeper level, a level on which you can really get inside their heads.
Why Use Subliminal Messaging in Your Social Media Campaigns?
Let’s get one thing clear before we proceed.
The purpose of subliminal messaging in your social media campaigns isn’t to manipulate your audience into buying your products/services. This is impossible to do, no matter how you try.
So what’s the point of subliminal messaging?
Subliminal messaging only works when a need already exists for the product you’re promoting. The point of subliminal messaging is to help your target audience choose the right solution for that need — hopefully, your solution.
To achieve this, you can use subliminal messaging to:
Boost brand awareness
Foster an emotional connection between your brand and your target audience
Done well, subliminal messaging can make your brand top of mind whenever the solution you provide is needed.
Whether consciously processed or not, the fact is that brand impressions have a bearing on how your target audience interacts with your brand.
Why Subliminal Messages Are Effective in Social Media Campaigns
The most effective ads are those that produce results without drawing attention to themselves. In other words, an ad that doesn’t look like an ad but gets people to act is one of the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal.
That’s what subliminal messaging helps you achieve with your social media campaigns. Because it’s subtle, users hardly notice that you’re marketing to them.
So why is subliminal messaging so effective when applied to social media campaigns?
What makes subliminal messages unique is that they are below the threshold at which the mind can consciously perceive the stimuli. Because most meaningful decisions are made at the subconscious level, subliminal messaging impacts people’s behavior and decisions.
Another reason to use subliminal messaging in your social media campaigns is to delight your customers with an “easter egg.” Done well, this could lead to your ads going viral as people love sharing interesting social media posts.
5 Ways to Use Subliminal Messaging in Your Social Media Campaign
Now that you know what subliminal messaging is and how powerful it is, let’s dive into how to use it to power your next social media campaign.
Leverage Subliminal Messaging in Your Logo
One of the best ways to use subliminal messaging is in your logo. While most of your marketing assets are constantly changing, your logo stays constant (usually.)
Since your logo is likely to appear in most of your marketing efforts, it’s the perfect conduit for your subliminal message. That’s because the more people see it, the more ingrained the message becomes in your audience’s subconscious.
We’ve already seen FedEx’s example of subliminal messaging in a logo, so let’s take a look at another well-played subliminal message in a logo.
Tostitos don’t just make tortilla chips and dips. They also help create memorable get-togethers.
That’s precisely the message they subliminally share in their logo. As a result, the logo elicits feelings of fun, joy, and warmth. When you stand in front of a selection of tortilla chips, your heart will be drawn to Tostitos.
This is why you must invest in a good logo design. One that just doesn’t look pretty but also speaks to your target audience’s subconscious mind.
Use Sub-Audible Messaging in Your Audio
Delivering subliminal messages via audio has been used extensively in the self-help and personal help industries. As a marketer, you can also leverage this technique in your social media campaigns.
Sub-audible messaging is a great way to incorporate subliminal messaging into your social media campaigns.
Sub-audible messages are audible cues, usually at a lower volume than your primary audio source. Due to the lower volume, they are heard on a subliminal level, not by the conscious mind.
Alternatively, you can use a sound associated with something your audience loves. A typical example is the use of Christmas-themed bells in an ad to drive sales during the holiday season.
Never underestimate the power of sound.
Used well, it can be a vehicle to send subliminal messages in your social media campaigns. Just keep in mind that many people browse social media timelines with their sound off.
So use visual cues to send subliminal messages in your campaigns as well.
Add Meaningful Images to Your Social Media Campaigns
The average human being has seven categories of sensory inputs, namely:
Vestibular (balance and movement)
Proprioception (body awareness)
Of the seven, the visual category is the most potent sensory input that dominates our perception. This makes sub-visual messaging one of the most effective forms of subliminal messaging.
To do this, you can either flash images in video (no, not this flash) or simply use colors that are usually associated with something familiar to your audience.
Color psychology is a simple way to send subliminal messages. Studies have shown that specific colors trigger certain neurological and emotional reactions in viewers.
Here’s a summary of the meaning behind common colors and the emotions they evoke:
Red: energy, action, physical needs (like hunger or affection), danger (the need for safety), excitement, strength
Used wisely, color psychology can heighten the way people perceive your social ads. More importantly, used well, color psychology can help influence your audience to respond positively to your ads.
Subliminal messaging isn’t just about adding hidden messages to your social media campaigns. It can be as subtle as using the right colors to elicit the proper response from your audience.
Embed Your Message in a Song
Music plays a vital role in creating effective ads, but you can even increase its impact in paid social media campaigns by adding a subliminal message to the music you use.
One way of doing this is by overlaying your message over the song. For example, you might record a short conversation with your message’s contents and overlay it with a theme song.
The conversation may not be the focus of attention when the ad is being watched, but the subconscious mind can pick it up.
This technique is best used to encourage your audience to trust your brand. This is especially true if the music is upbeat, and the message is designed to inspire confidence in your products/service.
Use Typography to Send Subliminal Messages
Typography, or the art of arranging letters and text, is another excellent way to send subliminal messages in paid social media campaigns.
Capitalizing certain letters in a sentence can send a message. Alternatively, you can strategically obscure some letters.
Here’s an example from the popular magazine SFX:
This is a classic case of good graphic design and typography working well to create a scroll-stopping ad.
Scrolling quickly through your feed, this ad seems to say, “Subscribe..Plus! Free Sex.”
This could stop you in your tracks and make you give the ad a closer look. Of course, the ad is about SFX magazine, but the typography placement is likely to draw some eyes.
The type of font used can impact how a message is perceived. In short, while the font used may not pass a message directly, it still has an impact on the experience a person has with your message.
For example, like Adobe Garamond Pro, some fonts have a more masculine feel to them and are best used when targeting men in an ad campaign.
If you want to create an ad with fun and comical undertones, you might use Comic Sans.
Subliminal Messaging Best Practices
Before you run out and design your next social media campaign based on subliminal messaging, you must follow a few best practices if you want to see results.
Here is what to keep in mind when leveraging subliminal messaging.
Know Your Audience
Designing effective subliminal messages for social media requires a deep understanding of your audience. This ensures that your messages are not only to their taste but that they address their core pain points.
Not only was the ad tasteless, but it was also offensive to women. As much as sex sells, it shouldn’t be used to sell everything – particularly food.
Creating effective subliminal messages for your social media campaigns takes a lot of skill. Even when you come up with a great idea, make sure to get a second, third, or even fourth opinion before you run it.
Marketing is becoming more challenging as the competition becomes stiffer, which is why you must pull all the stops to meet your marketing goals. If you haven’t yet, try including subliminal messages in your social media campaigns to help meet those goals.
Connecting with your customers on a subconscious level is a great way to spur them into action. It can also help foster emotional bonds that lead to brand loyalty.
Have you tried using subliminal messaging in your social media campaigns? If so, what was your experience with this strategy?