Subliminal messages are hidden messages contained in another message. These messages are purported to be ignored by your conscious mind but picked up by your subconscious mind. Subliminal messages can be either spoken (some are recorded backwards and played forward in a technique called backmasking) or written (flashed during a presentation.) While there is limited evidence that these techniques actually work both positively or negatively, using short simple messages can improve communication so consider this technique when you need to be persuasive to get your point across.
Creating a Persuasive Message
Subliminal messages have been used in advertising and marketing since the 1950s. In 1974, subliminal advertising was banned by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Still, sexual imagery in print advertisements and flashed or subaudible messages has been used by many companies to encourage people to make purchases or act in certain ways. Some ads contain optical illusions that contain images you don't notice at first that are intended to make you feel positively towards the product and buy it.
Despite the controversial nature of subliminal messages, such as hidden lyrics in rock music said to encourage drug use or suicide, some potentially positive application can be found in the self-help markets such as weight loss and self-esteem improvement programs. Such programs emphasize the use of affirmative phrases such as "I can lose these 10 pounds by New Years Eve" and "I am successful at what I do" or "I hate the smell of smoke." The idea is that repeating the statement creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. This sort of approach has led many to achieve personal goals such as quitting smoking, in conjunction with other techniques.
Use subliminal messaging in everyday operations to focus less on manipulation and more on persuasion. To create a persuasive message, concentrate on your audience and their needs. The more emotional the content, the more likely your message is to be received as viable. So, to create a compelling message, find the right mix of motivational text and images to convince your audience. This involves designing logos and other visual images that are easy to remember and easily associated with your product or service. De-emphasize propaganda to make your communication more significant long term. Another way to influence your audience is to get endorsements from sources your audience already trusts and respects. Use strong negative messages to have a fast impact. For example, using "stop speeding or die" instead of the milder "slow down" indicates there is a more dire consequence to ignoring the message. This subsequently causes a greater effect. Use simple, subtle messages that reinforce your basic message to successfully influence and persuade people in both personal and professional situations.
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.