Product Manger Tips: How To Use Subliminal Advertising

by drjim on January 23, 2009

Subliminal Advertising Is A Powerful Tool That Product Managers Need To Learn To Use

Subliminal Advertising Is A Powerful Tool That Product Managers Need To Learn To Use

Gosh – doesn’t the whole concept of subliminal advertising just sound naughty to you? I mean, I’ve always sorts lumped this type of advertising together with hypnotism and sorta figured that they were slightly immoral. You know, it can’t be right to get people to do things that they wouldn’t do otherwise, right?

Let’s assume that you are not trying to get your customers to take off their clothes (you are growing sleeeeepy…) or stop smoking or anything like that. Instead, you’d really like them to think positively about your product or, gasp, even go ahead and buy it.

Advertising and its kissing cousin subliminal advertising are generally thought of most often in terms of business-to-consumer marketing efforts. However, there is absolutely no reason that this concept can’t also be applied to business-to-business advertising, product brochures, etc. After all, businesses don’t buy products, people do.

Lots of really smart people have spent much time studying the field of subliminal advertising. Among them is Martin Lindstrom who is an international marketing expert and the author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. Bruce has a few thoughts for how we can incorporate subliminal advertising concepts into our next product brochure / slide deck / website / etc.

  1. Product Feel Matters – A Lot!: Here in the 21st century, we can do amazing things when we manufacture a “real” product that people can hold in their hands. However, sometimes we are too clever even for ourselves. Bruce has done studies with consumers using two different TV remote controls. Both had identical functionality; however, one weighed more than the other. The heavier one was always reported to be of a higher quality. Even if your product is nothing more than an application that comes on a CD, including a “heavy” user guide in the box can improve your customer’s perception of the quality of your product. If your product can be downloaded off the web, you’ve got a real “perceived quality” issue that you are going to need to overcome.
  2. Rituals Rule!: Stress, time limits, and the state of the global economy are all weighing on our customers minds. As our personal stress levels grow, we unconsciously start to seek out those rituals that are the most familiar and comforting to us. By including images and words in your product material that associate your product with those rituals, your product will become more appealing to your customers.
  3. Music Soothes The Savage Customer: The power of music to influence customer’s buying habits is well know in retail circles. That’s why you’ll hear music with a slower beat in grocery stores – slower music makes you move slower and thus gives you more time to shop and buy. In many business-to-business situations, you don’t have a chance to include much music. However, when customers come to your site for a product presentation or to negotiate a contract, putting on the right tunes can make all the difference in the world.
  4. Customers Want Cachet In What They Buy: Sometimes it’s called “putting on airs”, but no matter what anyone says we all like to think that by buying a product we will become special in someway. If the product is expensive, rare, hard to get, or uses some special magic, then we want that product all the more.

Just because we may be responsible for products that are sold to businesses does not mean that the subliminal advertising techniques that have been developed for the retail market can’t be used by us. Now the trick will be to make sure that we use this new found advertising power responsibly…!

Have you ever used subliminal advertising techniques in your product material? Were you able to measure a positive impact of this type of advertising? Have you ever detected subliminal advertising being used in advertising that has been sent to you? What did you think about the product that used this advertising? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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