MARK217: Subliminal Perception

For me, one of the most interesting concepts in this week’s lecture was subliminal perception. Subliminal perception is the process of using very weak or rapid stimuli at a level which is below the consumers conscious awareness (Algie, 2014). In order to be successful, stimuli must be beneath the threshold of awareness but “not beneath the absolute threshold of the receptors involved” (Schiffman et al, 2014, p.154). Subliminal perception is used either to subtly advertise a product through another source of entertainment (such as a TV show or movie) or to attach an idea (such as sex and power) to a product within its own advertisement.



One of the most famous examples of subliminal advertising was in the late 1950s when its effectiveness was tested at a drive-in in New Jersey. The words ‘eat popcorn’ and ‘drink Coca Cola’ were flashed on the screen repeatedly during the movie. It was reported that in the 6 week period of the test, popcorn sales increased by 58% per cent and Coca Cola by 18 per cent however this was never confirmed and was later deemed false (Schiffman et al, 2014).

Another more recent example was in 2007 when a viewer spotted a McDonald’s logo embedded within a screening of the Iron Chef TV program. The logo flashed for just 1/30th of a second. McDonald’s denied that this was subliminal advertising and suggested that this was merely a technical glitch. (O’Barr, 2013).

Here’s some more funny examples of subliminal perception:



Pepsi cans and subliminal messages?



Jatz- this one’s pretty far-fetched!




Silhouette of a naked woman atop of Coke can?

Subliminal advertising is often associated with consumer mistrust and there has been very little evidence that supports its effectiveness. A comprehensive study of existing literature found that subliminal advertising has no effect on attitudes towards products and consumption behaviour (Schiffman et al, 2014). It has also been found that many American consumers believe that subliminal advertising exists and is used frequently by advertisers. Advertisers often play on this and produce advertisements that parody subliminal advertising.



Algie, J 2014, ‘Week 5: Perception’, MARK217, lecture, University of Wollongong, viewed 3 April 2014

O’Barr, WM 2013, ‘”Subliminal” Advertising’, Advertising & Society Review, Vol. 13, Iss. 4

Schiffman, L, O’Cass, A, Paladino, A & Carlson, J 2014, Consumer Behaviour, 6th edn, Pearson Australia, Frenchs Forest, Australia


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