by Antone P. Braga

I once saw a cigarette ad depicting Joe Camel playing the saxophone. I had to laugh at the irony of a wind instrument in the hands of the very image that is proven harmful to breathing. Few people give it a conscious thought and therein lies the avenue for covert persuasion. When we are approached directly it is much easier to rally a defense. Junk-mail is thrown out and its message expelled by a conscious act. Some residue may remain, but the bulk of bulk-mail is tossed. Not so with repetitive advertising portraying an image. Image weaves a spell so that the icon takes on an influence of its own. It is no accident of happenstance that Joe Camel has a wonderful time playing the saxophone. As you might imagine, an advertising and marketing strategy is only implemented after much research and thought. There is a science dedicated to selling image, and no better way than to exclude the conscious mind from the conversion process. Infiltration is easiest when no question is asked, no attempt made for direct sale. No response is called for, so rather than respond, the message is logged and our conscious thought is happily not bothered.

It comes down to a matter of self-control. Is the conscious or the sub-conscious actually in charge of each of us? When I quit smoking cigarettes many years ago, I experienced a tug of war between my sub-conscious urges to smoke and my conscious desire to quit. I felt a physical and mental dependency ingrained in me that only the strongest conscious thought could dissuade. I did finally win the contest only when my conscious thought became a little stronger and more willful than my subconscious data base, a data base that consisted of a physical addiction reinforced by image spin doctors and a mental association that linked cigarettes to nearly every one of my separate daily acts. Turn the key to start the car, pour a cup of coffee, open a beer, get out of the shower, pick up the phone, and on and on went my list of cigarette associates. I could justify any one of them to myself at any time because I operated in the conscious mind function of observer. My data base could overcome any logical argument: “The cigarette is my best friend.” “No one can take away my pleasure.”

Naturally when a positive image is drummed-in we eventually acquire a bias. Without realizing exactly how we arrive at a conclusion, we have been helped along the way to that end. An image becomes positive in our minds when it is portrayed as something we like or want. Not that we all want to play the saxophone, but it represents an enjoyment, or hidden aspiration (if not a practical one)—it makes glamorous the every-day. Most of us are drawn to a little glamour, over the hum-drum routine. An avenue is available to our sub-conscious for every longing, preference, and satisfaction. Once having established what it is we most want to hear, the message is given in a way so as not to constitute blatant false advertising, and the message repeated often enough to permeate society well enough, so that even the unaffected will be at odds with the majority, at least until the majority grasps control of its own mental destiny. A good example of this phenomenon is the phrase, “Peace of Mind.” We all want some. Now if the message is drummed-in and associated with a product or service, it does not matter if the product or service actually provides us peace of mind; our peace of mind avenue is open for reception.

Recently I saw a prominent insurance company ad portray information on the internet as not trustworthy, especially concerning negative stories about the company, in its apparent attempt to discredit criticism while at the same time glorify the company image. And, once again the propaganda is paid for from policyholders’ premiums. Who doesn’t want to be in good hands, or have a good neighbor, or someone on our side? Our defense is lowered because something we desire or admire is presented as the image, when in reality the product or service can be, and often is, something quite different…notwithstanding advertising’s sweet lullaby.© 1994-2013 APB

Help on the way: this content is local to your area in that it affects virtually everyone in your area, indirectly or directly: property insurance policyholders. When the next news stories run having to do with a local disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado, fire, etc., perhaps think of those disaster survivors and to what extent you may have helped in their preparedness and recovery. Thank you for any help you give.