Retail hypnosis and the art of getting you to buy

A while hypnosis spiral on a black background.

Retail hypnosis – coming to a store near you? (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Lawrencedwolf/Wikipedia)

A common misconception surrounding hypnosis is that it can somehow make a person do something they wouldn’t otherwise do, something completely out of character and in violation of their values. However, if a person is on the fence or wishes to be persuaded, hypnosis and related tactics like subliminal advertising may help grease the wheels, some scientists claim. Call it retail hypnosis.

‘Sensual artists’ make you want to shop more

English food art decorating firm Bompas & Parr, which bills itself as a place of “sensual artists,” has turned its jelly and alcoholic food arrangement techniques in an entirely different direction. Now, the company will focus on using hypnosis to sell clothing at Browns Focus store on South Molton Street in London. Forget everyday retail merchandising; retail hypnosis is gentler, a whispering wind, a gentle nudge.

By using various hypnotic techniques including an optical window installation that uses what Bompas & Parr call “vertigo therapy” to pull curious consumers into the store; music laden with subliminal encouragement for customers to pursue their sexy fashion muse and achieve their dreams; and various enticing scents, Bompas & Parr is attempting to seduce the buying psyche of upper crust shoppers with retail hypnosis, rather than bombarding them with plebeian advertising messages.

The scents deserve greater mention. Feminine “micro-encapsulated vanilla scents” are released in the entryway of the store, where the consumer establishes their first impression, and their business is typically won or lost, assuming they have passed through the doors in the first place. According to retail sales research in the U.S., sales of clothing can double among women when such scents are present.

Does subliminal advertising work?

While there is some evidence to support that retail hypnosis and the use of related subliminal advertising and aromatherapy can work, many skeptics in the scientific community assert that these tactics have no bearing on whether or not a consumer makes a purchase. Subliminal advertising in particular have been controversial ever since it was first openly used in 1957 by U.S. market researcher James Vicary to hawk Coca-Cola and popcorn at a movie theater by flashing calls to action repeatedly on the screen for fractions of a second.

Once news of the experiment leaked, a tempest in a teapot brewed over whether governments and cults would use such techniques to subjugate individual will. Such did not prove to be the case, as both already had more effective means of indoctrination in place.

Yet support for the trappings of retail hypnosis and subliminal advertising – and how they play upon the seeds already present in the mind – persists. A study conducted at University College London found that subliminal conditioning was actually rather good at bringing negative thoughts to the fore.

“There has been much speculation about whether people can process emotional information unconsciously, for example pictures, faces and words,” said study chair Professor Nilli Lavie. “We have shown that people can perceive the emotional value of subliminal messages and have demonstrated conclusively that people are much more attuned to negative words.”

Retail hypnosis in action


Adam Eason School of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

Bompas & Parr

Miss Cakehead:

The Telegraph

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