Book Review: Buyology: by Martin Lindstrom

Posted on April 18, 2011

Why we reach for the things we do.

Why do we buy the name brand cereal instead of the generic? Who made out better advertising during American Idol: Coke or Ford? Does sex sell?

You will find the answers to these questions and so much more, after going through Buyology. Wouldn’t it be great to slice someone’s brain open and figure out exactly what they were thinking when they see certain products? Well guess what? Martin Lindstrom did something about as close as we’re ever going to get to that. He scans people’s brains with fMRI’s under certain circumstances.

You know what’s the crazy thing? He probably didn’t have to. He is THE go-to guy on branding in the world. But he wanted more. So he got a bunch of companies to sponsor him when he scanned the consumers of 4 different nations, to figure out what their relationship is with the products that line our shelves.

It turns out that advertising is not really about repetition. It’s about context; it’s about helping to tell the story, rather than sticking your logo wherever you can. Take for example the Pepsi refresh project. Instead of dropping $20 million on Superbowl ads, they started a social media campaign where they would fund the most popular causes. In the end, more votes were cast for projects than were cast in the 2008 presidential election. It was an outrageous success. Why? Because Pepsi made something happen.

I won’t say that Lindstrom turns the world upside down, but his findings definitely challenged conventional wisdom. Does sex sell? Yes and no. Find out why.

The deepest question, in my opinion is: What is the link between religion and branding?

This is a must-read for anyone that does any form of advertising. You don’t have to take the whole thing to heart, but at the very least you have to appreciate its message.

More important, though, is that every consumer should read this. We should all know what weird synapses are firing when we pick out a certain shampoo.

My favorite part? The chapter where he discusses warning labels on cigarettes. You know what doesn’t work? Warning labels on cigarettes. In fact, smokers light up more when they are reminded about how they are dying from the inside. They even say that they are smoking less because of the messages. But the reality is the opposite. Weird.

Trust me. Your library or locally owned and operated bookstore will have this. It’s not often you can take a guided trip through your brain, and this one might turn you into a rational consumer. Go figure.


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