Examining the Subliminalness of Branding


One of our favorite Simpsons episodes, the one where Bart joins a boy band, features one of the series’ best scenes wherein LT. Smash, exposed as a Navy propagandist, explains that the Armed Forces recruit on three levels, “subliminal, liminal, and super-liminal” (the joke being that “super-liminal” involves just yelling demands at people: “Hey, you, join the Navy!”). Well we were surprised to learn that “super-liminal” is real phrase, used by researches reported on in this AdAge story, “This Brand Makes You More Creative.” It’s a really interesting piece, talking about perceptions association with logos, all those things a brand carries around with it, as studied by Duke University, who were trying to get to the meat of what’s behind your brain when thinking about these sorts of things. Turns out, Apple, in particular, have spent their dollars wisely, as, beyond the “super-liminal,” their “subliminal” message is pretty deeply ingrained:

For the Apple-IBM test, 341 subjects were presented with a split screen and asked to push either a right- or left-hand button when they saw a box flash. What they didn’t see — and couldn’t possibly have seen in just 30 milliseconds — was the flash of the Apple or IBM logo while the box was on the screen.

Afterward, the subjects were given a creative challenge: Write down as many uses for a brick as you can think of, besides creating a building. The researchers then asked an independent group of judges to rank the answers for creativity.

The results: The group that had been subliminally primed by the Apple logo came up with 15% to 30% more uses for the brick than the control group. And the independent judges more often rated them as more unique and creative.