John Wanamaker, considered by some to be the father of modern advertising and a pioneer in marketing, has often been quoted as saying, "I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half." Too bad Seducing the Subconscious was not available to him, he may have had better results with figuring out which half was wasted.
For quite some time there has been a widely accepted formula for persuasion advertising - AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire and Action (there is a slightly alternate formula AICA - Attention, Interest, Conviction and Action). In either case, it is believed that you must get the prospects attention, arouse interest, create desire or conviction and move them to action. But as Wanamaker observed you can follow this formula and still create an advertisement which flops.
In recent years television has come to dominate the advertising markets. But consumers have become burned out on TV advertising - paying less and less attention to them. Yet many still seem to work in spite of the majority of people not paying attention and unable to recall the message of the ad. So what is going on? How do ads work if people are not paying attention, have no interest in the ads and appear to have little or no desire for the product? That is the subject of Seducing the Subconscious.
Robert Heath, the author, makes a case that if we are paying active attention to an ad, our defenses go up. In his words, the more attention we pay to an ad, the higher chances of our "counter-arguing" the information presented in the ad. But when we pay little or no attention to the ad, it slips under the radar and invades our subconscious. When it becomes part of our subconscious, we have no defense against it. The ad is able to influence us without our knowing or realizing where the influence came from.
Mr. Heath writes from his 23 years of experience in the agency advertising world and his current position as a university professor lecturing on advertising. The book has a rather heavy academic style. But the information is highly interesting and engaging. He is British so there are some occasions where the language or the companies will be distinctively UK.
To arrive at the model of Seducing the Subconscious, you will first need to understand how we learn and process information. Mr. Heath goes into great detail explaining how we learn - active learning and passive learning, how we store memories and how we process communication. This is a very interesting and fascinating process. It is really a very detailed study in human psychology.
Once you have a good understanding of the science behind the process, Mr. Heath introduces you to the model of Seducing the Subconscious. He gives plenty of case studies - advertisements which worked and some which flopped. What I found very interesting was the success of many advertisements which made no "pitch" but the message appealed to the subconscious - it slipped into the viewer's subconscious mind and was able to exert great influence without the knowledge of the consumer.
This model is applicable to brand advertising. One of the important components is the repeated exposure. I would love to see how this applies to direct response marketing and certainly hope the author addresses this segment at some point in the future.
If you are involved in any way in marketing/advertising, this is an interesting but somewhat academic read. You will gain some valuable insights about human memory and communication.
As we come to a better understanding of Seducing the Subconscious, we will see it more and more in things all around us. From a consumer's standpoint, your best defense is to stop ignoring ads and to actively pay attention to them.
This is cutting edge science and should be on the reading list for those who want a better understanding of how and why advertising works or fails to work.