The BMW Logo That Wasn’t Really There

BMW flash projection
Stare at a lightbulb for a few seconds, and when you look away you’ll see a colored spot no matter where you look. That’s an “afterimage,” and these ghostly remains of what you are looking at can be much more interesting than a mere bright spot. Here’s a demonstration of a color afterimage:

In that illusion, the black-and-white picture appears in color for a few seconds due to the afterimage from looking at the initial reverse-color screen. (If you thought the color was in the video, go back and look at it again!)
Here’s another interesting illusion created by an afterimage:

So, given that creating an afterimage is an interesting way to trick our brain into seeing something that isn’t there, why haven’t marketers exploited this in some way? Part of the issue is that it’s not so easy to create the image. Few consumers will want to stare at a meaningless image or a blue dot for a long time in order to see some kind of commercial message. (I do think if the branding image was amusing enough when revealed some people might make the effort to view it.)

Building an afterimage doesn’t have to take that long, though, if the light is bright enough. Old-fashioned flash bulbs, for example, created powerful (and annoying) afterimages because of their combination of intensity and duration (long when compared to a typical strobe). So, using a bright light source will avoid the need to have people stare fixedly at an image. Recognizing this, BMW (a name linked with neuromarketing efforts in the past) created this example of afterimage branding using a flash projection technique:

Some people consider this “subliminal,” though since the viewer eventually sees the “BMW” the ad doesn’t really bypass conscious perception.

What do you think about this – fun and clever, or a little too sneaky?
BMW Flash Projector

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— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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9 responses to "The BMW Logo That Wasn’t Really There" — Your Turn

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Edgardo
Twitter: edgardo_gm
5. January 2011 at 10:53 am

For the audiencie, thoug fun and cool, it might be an experience a little bit scary.

The brand must be very carefoul on deciding where to show an ad like this, because for some people will definitely be quite sneaky.

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Verilliance
Twitter: verilliance
5. January 2011 at 11:15 am

I think it’s so novel that the audience was “wowed” and in awe, rather than feeling like BMW had been sneaky. Therefore, effective.

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eaon 5. January 2011 at 4:26 pm

the blurb says ‘..turns spectators into astonished fans’.
Hardly.
Does this create any value at all?
Nope.
Worthless gimmickery of the worst kind.
I commented on it here http://bit.ly/fztxsg

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Mike 5. January 2011 at 4:31 pm

Nothing sneaky about it! I think it is very cool and very creative.

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Robert 5. January 2011 at 7:09 pm

Wow, very creative use of the afterimage effect. I’d love to experience this myself.

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Brendon B Clark 9. January 2011 at 6:49 am

You know what? It may be gimmicky and it may not become standard operating procedure.

However, was it memorable for these viewers? Sounds like it. Good job for trying some old stuff in a new way.

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Ryan Critchett
Twitter: ryancritchett
12. January 2011 at 12:28 pm

I think this is awesome – Very clever, not sneaky to me! I believe in doing what works, as long as it’s not crossing the line! Awesome stuff.

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Frank De Raffele 13. January 2011 at 7:14 am

The commercial itself was cool. I don’t think seeing the logo made people want a BMW…the commercial accomplished that. All the image did was allow the audience to identify the cool commercial and the idea of living your dream with the company responsible for putting the commercail together. This guy made me want to pursue my dreams with more vigor.

Sneaky…yes, a little. But without proper production value and a well thought out message it has no effect. If we go back to the original subliminal messages in the 50s (if I remember correctly) the actual result was not measurable. I love the idea and its delivery. Well done.

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Anon Ymous 24. January 2011 at 8:00 am

What a crap way to be given an unwanted migraine. This approach to selling only pisses me off.

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2 responses to "The BMW Logo That Wasn’t Really There" — Your Turn

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