When it Comes to Advertising the Subconscious Mind Can be Your Friend or Enemy

September 21, 2009 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

Science still hasn’t explored the depths of the subconscious mind completely. In many ways it’s still a mystery. From what I can gather it helps us make decisions, it warns us of danger and generates that strange feeling we get in our stomachs when things just don’t seem right. It also never sleeps.

For decades scientists have been studying it. For years I have been also trying to understand it and how it relates to advertising and marketing. The one thing I have figured out is that it can be a friend or an enemy. Let me share my insight.

Since I was very little I have always been attracted to certain brands of automobiles. I don’t know why at such a young age I was partial to one over another. Maybe it was because I overhead conversations of adult family members who liked one over another. Whatever the reason it was on a subconscious level at that point. Later it may have become a conscious choice as I began to know the strengths and shortcomings of particular manufacturers.

So what triggered the favoritism? Was it color, size, design, amount of chrome? Car manufacturers have been asking this question since the Model T. One thing I do know. The subconscious plays a key role in the decision of what car to buy. You know that feeling. It comes over you when you sit down in that perfect automobile and then follow the salesman to his cubicle to sign the deal. Sure, your conscious mind made sure you got a good deal, got the features you wanted, and the right financing. However, it was your subconscious that said, “this is the one, buy it.”

How many times have we as consumers made those kinds of decisions when purchasing something? It doesn’t mean we are doing the wrong thing it just means that we are listening to something deep inside of us that without our conscious knowledge has taken in information, made a decision and then through a “feeling” has transmitted that decision to our conscious mind. This is a very powerful thing.

As an advertiser, marketer, or designer you can choose to tap into this phenomenon for your good or choose to ignore it and maybe see very negative results. I’ll cite an example.

You have a product. Just for an example let’s say you’re a contractor and you build houses. The potential buyer walks up to your house and gets a feeling about it. Now that feeling could be very positive. At first glance it’s got great curb appeal, good landscaping, a nice front door. But wait a minute. The subconscious mind is active and seeing things that the conscious mind may be ignoring. What about that out of plumb window or wall? Maybe the trim joints aren’t tight or there is caulk missing. The subconscious picks these details up and formulates an opinion. The potential customer’s gut begins to talk to him. He gets a bad feeling deep down. That’s called intuition.

Now, many times a consumer will ignore this feeling and against his or her better judgment go ahead and buy. Most of the time things work out, but when it doesn’t there can be huge costs to pay. That out of plumb window could mean the whole house is shifting on a poor foundation. The miss-fitting trim could mean poor quality construction. There could be some real problems hidden by a good paint job and a slick sales presentation.

The same goes with ads. Are your ads well designed with thought given to flow and hierarchy? Do they look professional? Does the photography show your product in its best light or are there flaws and blemishes showing. The conscious mind may not see them but the sub-conscious mind will. It sends a message you don’t want sent to your potential costumer.

On the other hand by paying close attention to detail and by hiring a trained, experienced, professional designer, marketing person, or photographer you ensure that these details will be seen to.

Books have been written on this topic so I’ll defer to the experts on all the in’s and out’s of how this works. I hope though that I’ve gotten you to thinking about your advertising and how, whether you knew it or not, you can help or hurt yourself as an advertiser.

If you are a visionary small business owner I want to help you make sure your advertising and marketing efforts make the subconscious mind your friend not your enemy. My contact info is:

Michael Irvin
Creative Project Manager
913.677.7060 cell: 913.530.7030

Find me on

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