Last week, I read an article on the Neuromarketing website about "blindsight" and subliminal marketing. It started off talking about how people blinded by brain damage can sometimes "see" without being consciously aware of it: addition to our main visual processing system, we have a secondary, more primitive system that feeds directly into our subconscious... Studies of individuals blinded by brain damage show how blindsight works... the man navigating around the obstacles is blind...he has no conscious knowledge of how he is doing it.

Later, after some discussion of subliminal advertising studies, the article continued:

The neuromarketing takeaway from all this is that reinforcing your brand message is important even when consumers don't seem to be paying attention. Colors, shapes, scents, names, logos, and so on may be subconsciously processed and stored.

So how does this apply to banner advertising?

We know that banner ad click-through rates have been declining steadily for years. Our brains have learned to recognize and skip over banner ads without even being consciously aware of them.

But are we unconsciously aware of them? Yes, of course. Otherwise how would we skip over them?

The real question is whether we're influenced by banner ads, even though we don't notice them. The research seems to suggest that it's possible. But my guess is that a banner's design greatly influences it's unconscious impact.

Which do you think your subconscious would be more likely to recognize, remember, and be influenced by: a photo of a person and a bunch of text, or a distinctive logo and colors strongly associated with a particular brand?

I can only speculate, but the logo and colors seem much more likely.

If that's true, then what do you want to put in your banner ads? Your logo. And it'd better not be something generic like a Times New Roman capital B.

But the implications go far beyond that.

When someone who's been subconsciously influenced by your banner ad lands on your website, your Twitter or Facebook profile, an article you guest-posted on somebody's blog, etc., what do you want them to see? If possible, you want that same logo there.

I've been thinking for a while that I need to display my logo more on my webpages, and this article has reinforced that idea.

The more you can spread your distinctive branding around the web and other places members of your target market go, the more prepared they're likely to be to respond positively when you do finally get their attention.