How Subliminal Messaging Affects Consumer Behavior
The subject of subliminal messaging in relation to consumer behavior presents an interesting dichotomy between the scientific community and the general public. The purpose of this paper is to discover what, if any, effect subliminal messaging has on consumer behavior, as well as shed light on the differing positions regarding this controversial subject, and provide a brief historical background on the material.
Before the topic of subliminal messaging can be addressed, one must first understand subliminal perception. Subliminal perception is defined as "the processing of stimuli presented below the level of the consumer's awareness." (Solomon, p.629) Subliminal messaging is the process of using embedded content within a visual or aural stimulus that the recipient is not cognitive of receiving or processing. (Solomon, pp 63-65)
The subject of subliminal messaging is hardly a secret. The topic has been a main storyline is recent Hollywood movies such as Josie and the Pussycats, Zoolander, Fight Club and Serenity. According to a recent survey of American consumers, "it is found that almost two-thirds believe in the existence of subliminal advertising, and more than one-half are convinced that this technique can get them to buy things they do not really want." (Solomon, p. 63)
Although the concept of subliminal stimuli and perception had been around for more than 50 years, it was not until 1957 when a market researcher by the name of James Vicary held a press conference to declare the formation of his corporation, the Subliminal
Projection Company, which was designed to utilize what he referred to as a recent breakthrough in advertising: subliminal stimuli. Vicary claimed to have come to this finding by projecting the words "Drink Coca-Cola" and Hungry? Eat Popcorn" in 1/3000 of a second at 5-second intervals during showings of a movie entitled Picnic. Reported sales for popcorn rose 57.5%
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