The concept of subliminal advertising is one that has captivated generations, attracting researchers, inspiring marketers and even drawing the attention of the government for propaganda purposes. The term was first made popular in a book by Vance Packard called ‘The Hidden Persuaders,’ published in 1957. The book focused on a study of movie theatres that were believed to have been using subliminal messaging to increase the sales of both Coca-Cola and popcorn at their concession stands.
“Over the years there have been literally hundreds of studies,” explained Philip Merikle from the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, “these studies show that considerable information capable of informing decisions and guiding actions is perceived even when observers do not experience any awareness of perceiving.”
There was considerable backlash as the general public began to better understand this concept, upset that they were being controlled and manipulated. Despite this upset, subliminal advertising is still incredibly common among today’s marketing efforts.
Here are 26 examples of subliminal advertising that you may have missed:
The automotive manufacturing company Continental is best known for their specialty, tires. The first two letters in the company’s logo depict this, creating a tire.
The Unilever brand includes a wide variety of different products, and they didn’t overlook this fact in their logo. Each small symbol that comes together to create the letter ‘U’ has its own important meaning and purpose, such as a heart to symbolize love and well-being and a bird to represent freedom from everyday chores.
The Big Ten is an academic association consisting of 10 universities, formed in 1896. In June 1990 the associate added Pennsylvania State University, raising their numbers to 11. Rather than rebranding with a new name, they redesigned the logo to include the number 11, found in the spaces on each side of the letter ‘T.’
The yellow arrow in the well-known Amazon logo is shaped like a smile, representing the fact that Amazon wants their customers to be happy with their experience, however, it also has a lesser known message. The arrow points from the letter ‘A’ to the letter ‘Z,’ indicating that the company has everything from ‘A to Z.’
The three-pointed star found in the middle of the Mercedes-Benz logo is actually a nod to their own perfection, representing superiority on land, in water and in the air.
The red in the logo is designed to represent a sense of speed. Even the space in between the F and the red stripes carries significance. If you look closely, the space is in the shape of the number 1.
The logo for NBC was originally designed as a sales ploy. The company was owned by RCA in the early 1950’s. The logo itself is a peacock, with a tail of bright colored feathers which the company hoped would show the consumers that were still using black and white television sets what they were missing out on.
If you look carefully at this logo, found in grocery stores and convenience stores throughout the country, you will find the image of two friends sharing chips and salsa, a clear attempt at subliminal advertising.
Hope for African Children Initiative
This organization, known for helping children in Africa, had a logo designed that embraced their very message. If you look closely you can see the outline of the continent of Africa, as well as the image of a child and an adult looking at one another, a symbol of the support the organization provides.
The logo for this small consulting firm is genius when it is broken down. Looking at the squares in the logo, imagine that the darker colored squares are ones and the lighter squares are zeros. The logo would then spell out 1010000 on the top line and 0010100 on the bottom line, or, when translated from binary code, this would read 80 and 20.
This symbol used to indicate when the power is on or off on a device is located on many devices throughout our homes, however, most of us are unaware of how this symbol was originally designed. It refers to the binary symbol, the use of 1 and 0, and their representation of different switches, where 1 means on and 0 means off.
The chocolate company Toblerone is based out of the Swiss city of Bern, which is better know as ‘the city of bears.’ If you look closely at the logo, the company has incorporated the silhouette of a bear.
If you look closely at the space that is created by the woman’s hand and leg, they form the shape of the outline of Australia.
Baskin Robins is known historically as being the ice cream chain that offers 31 different flavors of ice cream. If you look closely at the logo, the number ‘31’ is incorporated in the pink-colored segments.
Pirates of the Caribbean
This well-known franchise is part of the Disney family, but did you know that Disney incorporated their own Mickey Mouse logo into the Pirates advertising? Look closely at the positioning of the skull-and-crossbones and you will find Mickey’s ears.
The BMW logo as we know it today is a nod to its aircraft roots. Originally an aircraft producer, many believe that the center of the logo depicts rotating propeller blades, however, it is actually a representation of the checkered pattern on the Bavarian flag.
Yes, those ‘golden arches’ do ultimately form the letter ‘M’ for McDonald’s however, design consultant and psychologist Louis Cheskin designed the logo to represent a set of breasts, playing upon Freudian symbolism.
This large, well-known European retailer has its headquarters in France. The logo incorporates the ‘C’ from the company’s name in the white space of the logo, while the colored portions depict the colors of the French flag.
In order to understand the Bluetooth logo, one must first have an understanding of the history of the name. In the tenth century AD, the King of Denmark was King Harald Blatand. He was well known for his ability to unite Danish tribes into one single kingdom. His nickname was ‘Bluetooth,’ as he was also known to love blueberries staining his at least one of his teeth blue in color.
Bluetooth technology is known for its ability to unite multiple electronic devices into one cohesive network, similar to the way that Blatand united the tribes. The symbol for Bluetooth includes 2 Scandinavian runes – “Hagall” (equal to the Latin letter H) and “Bjarkan” (equal to the Latin letter B), Meaning that the logo spells out Harald Blatand’s initials. The first generation of Bluetooth devices was blue in color and shaped similar to a tooth.
This professional baseball team, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is comprised of the letters ‘M’ and ‘B’ for the team’s name, carefully placed to represent a baseball glove.
The designer of the Apple logo, Rob Janoff, explained: “I bought a whole bag of apples, put them in a bowl and made sketches of them for a week, trying to simplify the details. At some point during my artistic experiments, I took a bite from one of the apples. Later that day, to my surprise, I found out that ‘bite’ sounds very similar to ‘byte’ – a computing term.”
The employees of Greenlabs are known for their great intellectual abilities, which is represented in the logo by the crown of the tree, which is drawn in the shape of a brain.
The first two letters of the word ‘Vaio’ represent a wave, symbolizing an analog signal. The last two letters are drawn to resemble the numbers 1 and 0, which is a representation of a digital signal.
The FedEx logo is one that nearly every American is familiar with, however, have you ever noticed that there is an arrow formed between the letters ‘E’ and ‘X’? This arrow is positioned to represent accuracy and speed in their delivery.
Created by Stanford professor Vaughan Pratt, the Sun Microsystems logo forms a square in which the word ‘sun’ can be read from any one of its corners.
Known for being the most used social media applications across smartphones throughout not only America but the world, this caricature brings new meaning to the highly recognizable logo!