The sum total of any advertisement is the message people take away from it and the effect the message has on them.
Since its birth, marketing has approached the delivery of a brand’s message in a number of different ways—some successfully and others less so.
One slightly controversial topic is that of subliminal messaging. If you type the phrase into Google you are inundated with articles from sources of varying credibility discussing the omnipotent power of marketers to brainwash the public into acquiescing to our will.
What do we actually mean when we talk about subliminal messaging? Possibly more importantly, is it used in marketing today?
Subliminal messaging is something we all understand differently, partly because we all perceive things differently and partly because we all have different experiences.
In order for subliminal messaging to be labelled as such, a subliminal advertisement must be designed to deliberately pass below the normal limits of perception.
What these “normal limits” are remains unclear. But basically it’s the idea that marketing agencies are sneaking in hidden frames in advertisements and hiding suggestive pictures in the shadows to make consumers link products with themes that are designed to make consumers purchase.
I sometimes wish my job was that easy. The truth is, people are far more aware today than they have ever been.
The Internet and mobile technology allow people to fact check things at a moment’s notice and share their opinions via Twitter or Facebook with everyone else in the world.
When advertising first began along the streets of Madison Avenue, the Mad Men that worked in those offices had one job: Sell your brand.
It didn’t matter if they lied or bent a few facts. Nothing was off limits and creativity was king.
Are cigarettes really a healthy alternative to chocolate that will help you lose weight? No, but this approach certainly sold cigarettes.
Today people don’t want to be lied to, and they have the power to destroy a brand literally in the palm of their hands. Honesty and transparency are now the only way that a brand is able to survive, and that can’t just be in the things they say.
When we market a brand now, we look at who that brand really is, what their story is, and how we can best possible convey their identity. But that’s only half the picture.
Actions have to follow up the press releases, and promoting an environmentally friendly car with low emissions and then being caught cheating on tests is far worse than not promising anything in the first place. But who would do that?
There are many different ways marketing agencies use to tell a brand’s story, and all of them contribute a facet of our overall perception of a brand. A Facebook page presents one face, a press release another, a billboard can show a new product, and all of these things are stored away in the back of our minds and associated with the overall identity of that brand.
These faces become who that brand is to us, and finding ways to enhance that identity, without necessarily selling anything, is the cornerstone of any good branding exercise.
Public relations agencies are faced with a big challenge in this day and age. The very reason for our existence is to best use the money we are paid to brand our clients.
The sheer number of ways we can do this forces us to decide where it will have most impact, and often the flavour of the day is an attractive proposition. The rapid surge of the Internet and social media have lured many companies to move their entire marketing efforts online, and there has been a slow decline in the money spent on “analogue” advertising.
While the digital realm definitely warrants a portion of any company’s marketing budget, having a Facebook page and tweeting out 140-character messages is not the same as building a brand.
“Traditional” advertising is a window into public opinion. It’s a medium that has withstood the test of time and one that offers unique pros and cons.
Every company is different, but if you really want your brand to have an impact then it is important to have your message integrate with people’s lives. If they see you as they scroll through their Facebook feed while eating their cereal, then on a billboard on the way to work, see an article in the newspaper when they get into the office, and then see you on their office calendar, you know that your message is being received loud and clear.
Always think about how your message is going to be interpreted. TV ads blare out every other minute, and social media is transient by its very nature. But traditional advertising methods such as calendars are different.
Calendars are a functional part of the office or home, and are often chosen because of the theme: muscle cars, horses, beautiful scenery, and your brand.
Sure, people don’t necessarily select the calendar because your logo was on the front, but by the end of the year they will remember who you are.
A recent comparison survey showed that 80% of people refer to their wall calendar every day, compared to 32% who look at their digital calendar. That frequency translated to 74% of calendar users being able to recall the name of the brand on their calendar.
Calendars remain the king of this storytelling journey. Calendars, in an age where everything is becoming digital, have remained present in most homes.
There’s something unobtrusive about calendars. They stay on your desk, kitchen, wall, or office 365 days a year, and all the while the brand they represent gets to tell their story.
One day at a time, every facet, they’re all given the chance to shine and build on that central brand identity. Honesty, transparency, and a personal connection: There really is nothing subliminal about it.