Don't Take Action Based On This Paper: Secrets of Effective Subconscious Communication

Maya Bourdeau

Omar Mahmoud

Jiao Zhang


You cannot tell someone not to think of something.1) Therefore, beware what you evoke when you say you are “not that.”

Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it. Michel de Montaigne

If someone says, “Don't think of an elephant,” the first thing you do is think of one. If you tell a customer, “We're not like those other banks,” the first thing they do is wonder if you are.

If you're worried that your son will drop his glass, say, “Hold your glass well” rather than “Don't drop the glass!” (which would immediately make him think of dropping the glass).

In terms of marketing communication, this means it is usually better to “be this” rather than “not be that.” For example, instead of saying, “We're not like those other banks that ignore customers,” you say, “We are award-winning financial coaches.”