Understanding unconscious consumer behaviour in marketing


No one wants to admit that they are influenced by marketing. If you use surveys to assess what impact your marketing campaigns have on your target audiences, the results from focus groups will often suggest that you are wasting your time. Yet the marketing industry turns over millions of pounds in business a year. Is it all wasted money? Hardly. The fact is that most of marketing’s effects happen outside of consumers’ consciousness, at either the subliminal or supraliminal level. We are all affected by marketing, we just don’t realise how. It’s not nearly as simple as seeing an ad for cheese and deciding to buy some cheese.

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Branding is key

An example of this from the UK is the belief that a balanced diet is one that includes you eating at least five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day. It’s a notion heard in schools, from health industry experts and from politicians, but there’s no specific benefit to five in particular. The number was dreamt up as part of an advertising campaign between state officials and farmers in the American state of California in the ’60s, and it proved so popular that it has stuck around.

Supraliminal effects

People have heard of subliminal advertising – the famous idea that seeing a picture of a drink for a fraction of a second on-screen could make you thirsty. What about supraliminal advertising? Brands are a central part of modern advertising theory, which is why every good brand has a brand bible that describes in minute detail the logo, colours, fonts and tone of voice you should use.

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How does this work in practice? Researchers have found that if you walk past digital signage displaying adverts for M&S food, for example, the quality of the food you intend to buy and the amount you are prepared to pay for it will increase, whereas an ad for Aldi or Lidl will have the opposite effect. What does this mean, apart from the fact it might be time to invest more in digital signage like https://moodmedia.co.uk/digital-signage-solutions/?

The fundamental lesson is to have a clear brand. That way, when consumers are in a position to buy, effective advertising will help them remember your brand and make them more likely to want to buy goods or services at your brand’s price point.