Discuss about:
-the effects of subliminal advertising
-positive and negative effects
-influence on the consumer buying behavior
-what else you think is relevant


            Subliminal advertising is the act of trying to influence the perception of the sub conscious mind to communicate an act to the conscious part of the mind that under normal circumstances could not have happened. This is therefore an act of trying to change the perception of a consumer towards buying a product that was not in his budget but as the marketer does this the consumer does not know. This behavior by the marketers is aimed at boosting their sales by using this hidden technique. They hope that by making the customers buy a product initially, they will develop a liking for the same product later. When they buy the product it will no longer be new to them and another customer out there may see the product being bought and also try to imitate the other. This way an initial product may be liked by many customers due to its outward appearance but inside it may not be of the perceived quality. Majority of the customers are normally attracted to a product because they have heard about it or seen it being advertised. Many companies will try to cut on the widely acknowledged advertising methods like television, branding and try to wait for their customers in the shops. They use many techniques that the customer cannot notice like specially controlled long loops to make sure they keep the customers longer in the store. This may eventually make some customers buy what they had not planned to.  As Durrly (1999) asserts, this way of advertising normally causes many customers to be involved in impulse buying. Companies also use attractive pictures of celebrities to sell a product because the presence of such a photo will catch the eye of the customer more than if it was the photo of a product only. The use of subliminal advertising has several positive and negative effects both on the side of the customer and the advertiser.


            Subliminal advertising normally boosts the sales volumes of majority of the enterprises that practice it. Greg (2006) says that the marketers know that the subconscious mind is incapable of differentiating fictitious and real information on a product. The subconscious mind which is the target of these false illusions gets them from these adverts and passes them on to the conscious part of the brain. These illusions will stay in the active part of the mind for a very long time and they can be permanent. Every time the customer visits a particular store and sees the product whose illusion is in his mind he will buy it. This will eventually create a demand for the product as many other customers will be trapped the same way.

Subliminal advertising has a strong impact on human behavior. Marketers normally rely on this strong behavior to make their sales. Due to this strong behavior customers cannot even notice or question the quality of the products they are buying because they developed a special liking and attachment to the product. This is usually enhanced through the strategies marketers use like buzz marketing where a marketer will use the word of mouth to fully convince the customer to buy. They also create characters out of some products where a particular celebrity’s photograph appears on the cover of a product. Those who like that celebrity will find themselves buying the product just for fun. They also use exaggerations to describe the product. They will talk of how the product is unrivalled in the market and how its use will yield maximum and immediate results. They also use metaphors to compare the products efficacy with other known brands in history. Customers who may have been aware of the comparative product will develop a perception to buy and may also pull their friends and family towards also buying the product. Therefore through subliminal advertising consumers will blindly develop a liking for a product which under normal circumstances they couldn’t.

Subliminal advertising also makes consumers give preference to a product which ordinarily had no immediate plan for. It makes consumers prime a target product. This is through its ability to instantly change the perceptions of the consumers. Those who had their shopping lists suddenly find themselves giving priority to products which may be were planned for buying during the next visit. This is due to subliminal advertising tending to create a strong emotional appeal of some products over others in the mind of the customer. Pharmaceutical companies sometimes offer kick backs to doctors who normally advice patients falsely on the high quality and instant effectiveness of one company’s drugs over another. Such a consumer can rarely discredit such advice even though it may be wrong as the processes and composition of the rival product could be the same. These acts tend to influence human behavior in a particular manner and the subconscious part of the mind tends to have a very strong impact on the conscious part.


            Subliminal advertising creates wrong impressions in the human mind and makes them make irrational decisions. These wrong impressions have a very big effect in the long run. They make people spend their money on unwanted items even before they meet their necessary needs. This causes a lot of suffering to those members of the society who require these necessities like children.

In the process of creating wrong impressions, this form of advertising makes majority of the spending public loose their control on spending their money. A shopper will spend a substantive part of his income on an item he had not even dreamt of. But because an experienced marketer implied on him to do so through the use of flowery language he may even use his credit card because the money he had was over.

Subliminal advertisements are manipulative. Most customers who are caught by these advertisements may completely loose their power to make their choices logically. Subliminal messages sent through the subconscious mind are brief audio or visual messages that are not noticed by our conscious mind but over time they create illusions that are very strong in the mind and the individual is incapable of logically differentiating between real and fictitious things.

Subliminal advertising can negatively impact on a business and affect their sales completely. This is due to their deceptive nature that may give the business a very bad name when consumers realize that they were being duped to believe what was not true. This can cause irreparable harm to the future prospects of the business in terms of expansion and product loyalty. Customers will develop a negative attitude towards their products. They will believe their advertisements are usually exaggerations and cannot be relied upon. This negative image on the company may be long term and irreversible.


According to Holmes (2001), consumer behavior is the study of why, when, how and where customers buy or do not buy a product.

When marketers start using the subliminal advertising techniques they try to falsely persuade a consumer to buy a product. Therefore this seeks to deny the consumer the chance of logically deciding the reasons why he requires or does not require the product. This has a very negative effect on the ability of a consumer to make informed choices in his spending. Therefore subliminal advertising takes over the role of decision making and creates a very bad trend where people will find themselves with products they have spent their money on but they cannot explain why.

This form of advertising also denies consumers the power to decide when they want a product. It fully convinces a consumer that a particular product is urgent to his needs and should quickly be bought. This is usually done through using deceptive techniques that deny the consumer the right to decide on his priorities. According to Kennedy (1995), many consumers will therefore find that their decision making responsibility has been taken over by this strong stimuli which they cannot control. The denial of this right to the consumers is very unfair and immoral. A consumer has every right to decide on what he wants and then be allowed to get just that. Any marketer has a right to sell and inform the customers what he has in store for them but the act of using unnoticeable and cleverly embedded messages to persuade decision making is morally wrong and unfair to the customer.

This form of advertising also takes control of the consumer’s responsibility of how to buy or not buy a product. Most of these adverts seek to fully convince a consumer that a product is best when bought in its entirety. It never leaves room for the customer to buy in bits. The customer is never given a chance to go test the efficacy of a sample product and come for the main product at a later date. Therefore this form of advertising does not seek to rely on the power of the customer to go and inform others of the goodness of a particular product.

A customer is supposed to fully decide on where to go do the shopping for his goods. But with this form of advertising a consumer cannot decide to go to an alternative place to do his shopping. The illusions created in his mind by this form of advertising seem to take full control of his actions as regards the choice of his shopping venues. This form of advertising therefore seeks to eliminate competition by rivals for particular products; this is allowed anywhere but the only problem is that it is done unfairly through fictitious ways that are not informative to the customer.


            Subliminal advertising is very much in use today in many areas all over the world. However companies that engage in this form of advertising should weigh the immediate gains and what they stand to lose in the long run. Many well established businesses suffer when those they consider their loyal customers stop doing their shopping in their businesses. Many people will feel cheated when they discover that after all, their trusted shop or mall has been playing mind games with them to spend their money there. They will develop a lot of resentment towards their products regardless of whether they are genuine or not. The company’s products will no longer be able to compete competitively with rival products. This is due to the perceptions that will already have been developed by those who were previously perceived to be loyal customers. Rival businesses will eat into the market share of these products and the producers will suffer greatly due to low sales volumes which will lead to low profit margins. This can cripple a company’s operations completely. The aim of these adverts to prime requirements may be well perceived because a consumer will prime what was already intended. However the worst part is where the advertisements to seek influence in a great way impulse buying. Customers totally loose their power to make rational choices on what they require. This is the trend that in the long run impacts negatively on the consumer behavior towards the company’s products and makes the company suffer. It would be fair for a company to engage in normal advertising for its products rather than subliminal advertising behaviors. The company tends to suffer in the long run because any positive attributes that its products may have over others are normally ignored. This is due to the negative attitude the customers will develop towards their products. It will therefore be fair for companies to advise their marketing teams to be very careful when engaging in this kind of advertising because it may have a very negative effect on the same goals it is meant to achieve.


Durrly Timothy (1999), Pitfalls in subliminal advertising, Irfan Publishers Ltd, P. 21

Greg Frost (2006), Mental Psychology, Ryan Educational Books, P.9

Holmes Mart (2001), Customer Behavior, Penguin Books, P.52

Kennedy Renns (1995), Marketing Decision Making, Fairview Printers, P.44



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