Wonder why you are perpetually tethered to your smartphone, refusing to put it down even when your kids are yelling at you? Guess what? You have been brandwashed! Well, at least according to renowned neuro-marketing expert turned consumer lobbyist Martin Lindstrom. Apparently, companies are finding insidiously clever ways to worm their brands into your lives. From cradle to grave, at the workplace or at home, in your daily commute or in the palm of your hands.
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Like a surgeon exposing the nasty underbelly of medical malpractice, Martin Lindstrom, branding expert and author of the neuromarketing book Buyology , takes a decidedly consumerist point of view in showing how brands influence and sometimes even control our lives. Lindstrom, who has spent much of his business life advising companies how to build stronger brands, is in a unique position to show readers how well the process can work.
Lindstrom makes the case that branding begins in the womb — sounds and tastes the mother experiences are shared by the growing baby and can dramatically affect preferences and behavior after birth. He describes a candy company that distributed samples to pregnant women apparently with no nefarious plan for prenatal brandwashing and was surprised to find that the resulting children showed a strong preference for the flavor of that candy. The branding assault commences in full once infants start experiencing the world around them.
It may not be a surprise by 36 months American kids can recognize a hundred brand logos. And, of course, any American parent can attest to the power brands like McDonalds wield over children. Showing the potency of the biggest burger brand, kids even found carrots tastier when they were served with the McDonalds logo. Brandwashed is at its best when Lindstrom uses his extensive client experience and list of contacts to provide a peek into corporate branding efforts.
Focus groups of women were assembled, dabbed with the fragrance, and asked to close their eyes and tell a story. The fragrance was then further refined by taking female subjects into a dark maze of rooms where they could experience variations of the scent in complete isolation.
More focus group testing ensued, and Euphoria was launched with an ad campaign built around the same emotions observed in the testing process. The fragrance became a top seller. While the Euphoria story is presented as a straightforward if very sophisticated and complex example of building a product around customer emotions, most of the book focuses on what Lindstrom sees as manipulation of consumer perceptions. Lindstrom explains why you walk past masses of fresh flowers, a burbling water feature, and chalk-on-slate prices.
All of these are freshness cues, designed to convince consumers that the store is filled with products rushed to the store from the farm. Whole Foods also presents displays like fresh fish, heads and all, resting on a bed of ice.
In fact, the display was one piece, manufactured to look like individual boxes! Lindstrom thinks most elements of store design are intended to alter consumer behavior in some way. The ever-present misters over produce? Both techniques are very similar to those of Whole Foods. Lindstrom makes the point that many food-related companies deliberately appeal to our brains by offering foods containing substances known to be addictive: fat, sugar, caffeine, and even the flavor-enhancer MSG.
Fast food chains earn the bulk of their revenue from these types of products, even though they may carry a few healthy offerings. In fact, those salads actually sell more fries — see Dietary Decoys. Energy drinks offer mainly addictive ingredients: high concentrations of sugar and caffeine. But is it wrong for a burglar alarm company to picture a home break-in in their commercials, or for stores to stock up on emergency supplies and prominently display them in advance of a possible major storm?
Readers may agree with Lindstrom on some points and disagree on others. Nevertheless, all of the examples are illustrative of fear-based marketing. If you have a negative opinion of corporations in general and advertising in particular, Brandwashed will definitely feed your paranoia. And, of course, some branding efforts and advertising may be unfairly manipulative. But, I think, sometimes products are simply created to meet consumer demand.
You WANT to play games that are difficult to tear yourself away from, even after hours of play. Think about the mobile app Foursquare, for example — people earn badges, become mayors of locations, and so on, all of which can lead to a near-addictive obsession with using the product.
Still, I think many marketers and other business people will read this book and interpret some of the data points in a different way. Companies try to develop products that consumers want. Long before neuromarketing, they used product tests, focus groups, and many other conventional market research techniques to try to create products that consumers really liked, and would keep buying.
They developed ad campaigns, using the same kinds of tools, to craft messages that people would pay attention to. Is this manipulation, or giving consumers what they want? One thing I really like about the book is that for just about all of the points he makes, Lindstrom provides references to relevant research or additional reading.
Readers who may question the conclusions he draws the data can always go back to the source and see if they agree. Lindstrom is a smart guy, and I think in most cases people who dig deeper will find merit in his analysis.
Brandwashed is a must read not just for marketers, but for all readers who want to understand how they can be manipulated by clever marketing. Marketing enthusiasts will find the book impossible to put down, and, whether the author intends it or not, will find new ways to improve the effectiveness of their efforts. Like the marketers he describes, Lindstrom has created a book that will grab your brain and keep you hooked until you finish it.
He is the primary author at Neuromarketing , contributes at Forbes , and hosts the Brainfluence Podcast. Learn more at RogerDooley. Can Twitter Make You Skinny? Is Your Brand Evil? Sensory Marketing for Intangibles. Ugh- why do I react so negatively to this topic? Meh- like the smell of burning hair or rubber. Another book to read. I hope you are getting a little cut of the action. My action comes when Brainfluence goes on sale, Page.
Be sure to clear your reading shelf to make room for that one! Time to do some clearing out. I read his last book Buyology and thought it was awesome — my favorite chapter was how ritual shapes our lives. Without having read the book it is very difficult to say something meaningful about it. I think both consumers and marketers will find interesting insights in Brandwashed , Kees. Suggest you borrow a copy if you begrudge Lindstrom a dollar or two in royalties and see what you think.
Another good book that deal with the issue of how our brains respond to brand communications would be The Advertised Mind by Eric dePlessis, and of course Antonio Damasio has things to say about the topic too. Apologies if I have insulted anyone but life is too short and time to precious to waste on rubbish! I guess the NYTimes has a soft spot for neuromarketing.
A few years ago there was a controversy over another piece about fMRI and political marketing. One thing this controversy underscores is the need for some good published research on neuromarketing techniques. Some hard data would go a long way to erasing the whiff of pseudoscience that seems to attach itself to neuromarketing studies. Fantastic piece James. I personally see Lindstrom as just another snake-oil salesman with little regard for the complexity of both neuroscience and branding.
British, and I think the central metaphor in that post is a bit strange. I think his frustration is the same one you mention, that Lindstrom is not afraid to make bold claims but is afraid to publish his work. It also comes at a tough time for the neuroscience community in general. As this post outlines. Thanks for that link, James.
Sounds like even legitimate neuroscientists are being taken to task for being too quick to publish startling findings that might not hold up under rigorous statistical analysis. Brilliant website you have here Roger.
Hi Roger, thanks for a thoughtful review of the book, which was also good enough to stir up a lively debate. Will I buy the book? But I will encourage my pregnant wife to eat her vegetables! I learn a lot that way! If you want to find out what is done and why it is done without all the breathless prose, attend a few classes. At least when I was in B-school, the marketing classes I took were less practical and more theoretical. By illustrating even well-known techniques for influence and persuasion with current, real-world examples and putting the content into a highly readable biz book, Lindstrom brings the knowledge to a much broader audience than the typical consumer behavior prof will ever reach.
If you want a book that pushes the limits a bit farther in terms of theory, Mark, try The Branded Mind by Erik du Plessis — not a breezy read, but it will get you thinking! Leave A Reply Cancel Reply. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom Book Review: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom Like a surgeon exposing the nasty underbelly of medical malpractice, Martin Lindstrom, branding expert and author of the neuromarketing book Buyology , takes a decidedly consumerist point of view in showing how brands influence and sometimes even control our lives.
The Right Juice Brandwashed is at its best when Lindstrom uses his extensive client experience and list of contacts to provide a peek into corporate branding efforts.
Games Stores Play While the Euphoria story is presented as a straightforward if very sophisticated and complex example of building a product around customer emotions, most of the book focuses on what Lindstrom sees as manipulation of consumer perceptions. Pssst… Want a Hit of Fat and Sugar? Are Companies Manipulating or Meeting Demand? Roger Dooley posts comments. You might also like More from author. Prev Next. Roger Dooley Twitter: rogerdooley says 9 years ago.
Page Schorer says 9 years ago. Aman Basanti Age of Marketing says 9 years ago. Kees van Duyn says 9 years ago. Which books in the space have you found most useful, Kees? Thanks for stopping by.
Like a surgeon exposing the nasty underbelly of medical malpractice, Martin Lindstrom, branding expert and author of the neuromarketing book Buyology , takes a decidedly consumerist point of view in showing how brands influence and sometimes even control our lives. Lindstrom, who has spent much of his business life advising companies how to build stronger brands, is in a unique position to show readers how well the process can work. Lindstrom makes the case that branding begins in the womb — sounds and tastes the mother experiences are shared by the growing baby and can dramatically affect preferences and behavior after birth. He describes a candy company that distributed samples to pregnant women apparently with no nefarious plan for prenatal brandwashing and was surprised to find that the resulting children showed a strong preference for the flavor of that candy.
Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom: A Book Review
And the sensationalism irks me. Manipulation or common sense? Is it shocking that nostalgia sells or that word of mouth is the most persuasive mode of marketing communication? Surely not. Consumers are well aware of these marketing techniques — and they buy because those products and services willingly fulfil emotional as well as functional needs. The book positions the full range of accepted and acceptable marketing and communications techniques as unacceptable.
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