Subliminal Communication

19 09 2007

I was introduced to this video in the context of innovation, and where ideas come from, but I think it has even more significant meaning in the context of marketing communications.

The obvious lesson here is that the power of suggestion is real, and the easy take-away is that people will remember what they see. But underlying the obvious is the backbone to word of mouth. It’s easier to recall information that is repeatedly in front of you. It’s readily available to your cognitive process and comes out, even when you may not even mean for it to. We often sew such messages into applicable conversations and experiences. Buzz marketing operates on this principle, though on a deeper level. At the surface, buzz marketing focuses on building recognition through positive word of mouth, which is a conscious activity. However, how much of buzz marketing really operates on the deeper subconscious level? In other words, we’re so used to seeing certain images in a certain context that we unknowingly associate the two, and the act accordingly (which would entail bringing up the product or service in casual conversation).

Sounds simple enough for marketing, but what does this mean for public relations? I am one who follows a more relationship-based public relations approach, that the practitioner is the mediator between the organization and the public, and through a symmetrical relationship provides both the org and the public a basis on which to build a positive and mutually beneficial relationship. However, the advent of integrated marketing communication almost 2 decades ago brought new meaning to public relations and marketing, as both functions work synergistically and harmoniously to create a consistent meaning for an organization. IMC is problematic for public relations because even the hint of marketing persuasion stands to damage the credibility of public relations efforts, which are supposed to be free from marketing and selling messages.

So the question that is worth tossing around is, what does this mean for public relations? As more and more companies integrated all communication efforts, public relations practitioners will undoubtedly run into marketing focused concepts, and may even have to operate underneath that context. Is this problematic for you as a consumer? What value does a company’s public relations efforts hold for you and does the integration of PR and marketing damage those expectations?


Communication Aesthetic

11 09 2007

A day of remembrance: 6 years ago today saw the most violent foreign attacks on the US since Pearl Harbor. Having been born on the anniversary of the other major foreign attack on the US, and recognizing its importance, I have often felt that while the 9/11 attacks, like Pearl Harbor, changed the course of our nation. I have to admit, I have never been a 9/11 activist per se, though, at the time of the attacks, I did have the opportunity to put together a special report for political strategy and market research firm, Wirthlin Worldwide, thus doing my own part in rallying around the flag. 

Since then, I have felt that humble, quiet observance of 9/11 is the best way to hold in memory those who unnecessarily died. I cringe at the media that try to capitalize on the events (i.e. Oprah and other shows dedicating their shows to another special human interest story). I think they mock the somberness that should accompany today.

But I can’t help but recognize what I came across today on a local university campus. Standing prominently on campus was a small, humble display consisting of a set of 3 pictures of 9/11, two US flags, and two US Marines standing completely still, heads tilted down. It was touching. It was moving. And yet it was simple. The two US Marines stood their, completely still, their hands on their sides. There were no loud videos or music playing. No shouting, protesting, or rallies. Just a simple artistic reverence.

And it got me thinking about the power of aesthetics. Scholars recognize it as a non-verbal communication cue. Combined with my love for the arts and humanities, I saw this scene as a powerful remembrance–an artistic display equal in power to the Vietnam wall. Nothing was said. No bright colors were displayed. And yet, its meaning was powerful.

Often in communication, we forget that it isn’t he who yells loudest that gets the most attention. With so many messages coming from every direction, it’s often the simple and resolute communication that makes the most meaning on people.