Subliminal marketing is a common technique appearing in almost every piece of marketing psychology we see and if you’re a graphic designer working on advertising pieces then you’ve probably utilised it yourself (without knowing).
Subliminal messages in advertising graphic design to communicates psychological messages via deep connotations and stereotypes that exist in society and the goal is to tap into audience’s minds, create a relationship and reinforce a sale.
When you visit a business based website and see groups of people dressed in suits, smiling, that’s subliminal marketing using psychological messages.
When you buy a magazine with a pretty airbrushed woman on the cover, that’s subliminal psychological marketing.
When you see a tv advert for a new car driving through countless empty roads, that’s subliminal psychological marketing.
It comes in every form of graphically designed advertising from print to web, packaging, logos and magazines to movies. You could say that it’s graphic design at its best.
We don’t actually take the time to look and study every advert because they’ve become apart of our daily lives but subliminal psychological marketing also has another subliminal level, one where the strategy quietly delves into a taboo subject and questions can be raised.
Subliminal psychological marketing is also:
- A way of targeting someone you wouldn’t normally advertise to.
- A way of surpassing immoral associations whilst you’re actually making those associations with the brand
You may not notice the controversial aspect of an advert because they were far too subtle or they weren’t targeted at you but more often than not, they are there. In these case’s it can create conspiracy theories and intrigue. This clever design and strategy can be a form of subliminal marketing itself, making viewers seek out the advert and actually ask themselves “Is the subliminal element actually there?”
Maybe the human mind works too hard, maybe it was a just a coincidence, or maybe not.
Judge for yourself with the advert below.
Subliminal psychological marketing for Captain Morgan:
Example: Captain Morgan Rum – Print Advert in the 1990’s
First Glance Psychological impact:
This is an advert I found pretty much at random (American music magazine) because it looked like it had room for discussion. At first glance it seems like a photo of your typical bar scene advert with graphical elements composited over the top. The magazine it was placed in had over 100 pages and at least 50 of them were adverts so the idea is that the reader will casually skip from page to page taking a quick glance at the advert before moving on. All the elements suggest that Captain Morgan means “Good Times”.
On a subliminal level:
Is it just me or is the whole advert just a little sinister!
If your were to specifically take out Captain Morgan and his hat, the advert would have a different happier, casual and lighter feel but the branded elements themselves bring in an eerie approach.
Is Captain Morgan, clearly drawn in and positioned to look devious:
- Smothered in Red
- Devilish goatee, moustache and eyebrows.
- Peering downwards from the top
- Hiding behind the page
- Ripping down the page
- Devilish grin
- Entering the real world and temptingly holding the bottle in an almost pouring gesture
- Practically pouring the drink into the glass from behind
- Looks like Hook
- Wearing a pirate bandanna (criminal)
Psychology of the Red hat
- Placed on the lady and not the men – Does this mean that the advert is Targeting females, or is it making them some sort of target?
- The hat has been composited into the photo because the hat has had no affect on the lady’s hair
- She wore the hat on her own accord (its her hand on top of the hat). But is she putting it on or trying to take it off?
Psychology of the Scene
- 2 guys, one girl (usually and typically it would be even numbers but this 2/1 ratio, suggesting singletons)
- A brick wall has been placed into the background to give an urban feeling almost that of an outside alley
- Adjacent to that is a draping curtain
- The positioning of both backgrounds create an encapsulated environment almost like being hidden into the corner under concealment of the cloak and dagger like curtain.
- The three people in the scene sitting pretty close together with the lady in the middle being practically squashed in between
- The photo except for the branding elements are all at a slant suggesting a principle of movement and maybe even dizziness but Old Captain Morgan is of course standing straight, tall and sober.
- The photo has been saturated to a low sepia to produce a darker scene
- The only vivid colours are those of the brand
Although at first glance it’s a relaxed setting with smiles all around, on closer inspection we see that
Psychology of the People
- The girl seems to have a tensed smile whilst looking down at the drink maybe suggesting some hesitation and awkwardness.
- The guy on the left seems harmless enough except for his positioning which is pretty much in the girls face almost like a brick wall.
- The guy on the right seems to be very happy all on his own, pretty much disengaged from the group. As over joyed as he is, he’s fisted hand suggests something a little more tense. He leans back to let Captain Morgan in and in terms of composition he seems to be more involved with Captain Morgan then the couple on the left.
- Lastly there’s the fourth person being you!
- Let’s not over look the out of focus glass at the bottom suggesting that you, the viewer is also there watching everything; (even Captain Morgan) which no one else sees.
Psychology of the Copy – The Captain was here.
Written in red with a hand produced type, the message is small and ambiguous. It can be seen as friendly and fun or a little creepy. It’s short, simple but highly interpretable in several ways.
This could all mean nothing except that Captain Morgan is the bringer of good times but upon inspection you cannot deny the alternate messages and mood that’s been created.
- Is Captain Morgan the devil with an ulterior sinister motive?
- Is this advert targeted at males or females? Or Both?
- Are all the people is the advert happy or actually a little uncomfortable if not unstable?
There is a long list of subliminal messaging materials which cause intrigue whether it be good or bad.
One of the most famous being Walt Disney splicing sexual scenes into Disney Cartoons.
On a better note, Disney Pixar tend to place characters from upcoming movies into their current movies
The Jamaican Beer “Red Stripe” featured in the movie “The Firm” had increased sales by 50% within one month of the film being released.
And heres a few more:
Next time you see an advert, packaging, a magazine or even a movie, look for hidden messages within the graphic design principles to spot the hidden psychological messages.