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Selling the Subconscious

Tonight's guest Jon Kelly has explored the terrain of unconscious messages through his work with human speech. Many believe our conscious awareness is the tip of the iceberg to a deeper well. Freud posited an individual's subconscious as a zone for suppressed memories and desires, while Jung added the additional layer of the Collective Unconscious, a kind of universal mind of shared archetypes.

It was Freud's nephew Edward Bernays, who took his Uncle's ideas and applied them to America's rapidly expanding marketplace in the early 20th Century. A propagandist for America in WWI, later Bernays coined a new term for his work- public relations. He was one of the first to take advantage of the subconscious as a selling tool. "You no longer had to offer people what they needed; by linking your brand with their deeper hopes and fears, you could persuade them to buy what they dreamt of," Tim Adams wrote in an article(1) about Bernays.

Another way the subconscious was mined for commerce, was through Muzak, the ubiquitous "elevator music" heard in places such as department stores. Named by George Squier by combining the word "music" and the brand Kodak, Muzak began to be piped into stores to deliberately manipulate shopper's patterns. "This attempt to affect the subconscious by rhythm and tempo was the real beginning of Muzak as we know it today," Paul A. Toth wrote in an After Dark story. For instance, it is now known that music affects customers' perception of time while shopping, and they will be more likely to make impulse purchases if they loose track of time.

--L.L.(2)

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4371266,00.html
2. http://archive.coasttocoastam.com/info/about_lex.html

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