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Speed Review: Brandwashed

Speed Review: Brandwashed

Speed Review: Brandwashed

Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy

by Martin Lindstrom

Marketing visionary Martin Lindstrom has been on the front lines of the branding wars for over twenty years. Here, he turns the spotlight on his own industry, drawing on all he has witnessed behind closed doors, exposing for the first time the full extent of the psychological tricks and traps that companies devise to win our hard-earned dollars. This searing exposé introduces a new class of tricks, techniques, and seductions — the Hidden Persuaders of the 21st century- and shows why they are more insidious and pervasive than ever.


How to Push Your Buyer's Buttons

In his previous book, Buyology, marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom explored the psychology of branding, especially the unconscious actions and reactions that play a large role in the purchasing choices consumers make. Using fMRI technology, which can observe what the brain is doing while a person is engaged in an activity, Lindstrom showed, for example, that the brains of Marlboro smokers react to a picture of a cowboy and instantaneously crave a cigarette.

In his new book, Brandwashed, Lindstrom seems to move to the opposite team on the marketing playing field. While Buyology told companies how to use psychology to market effectively to prospects and customers, Brandwashed is, in essence, an effort to tell prospects and customers how not to fall for psychology-based marketing. The unequivocal subtitle of the book is "Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy." Building on his 20 years in the industry, Lindstrom describes a litany of sly and slightly subversive techniques and strategies that push us, as consumers, psychologically to buy a company’s products.

Techniques That Make Us Buy

Here are just some of the examples:

Baby Powder in the Shopping Mall. An Asian shopping mall chain theorized that pregnant women spend a lot of time shopping. Lindstrom writes that it deliberately introduced smells and sounds that would entice pregnant women to return to the stores. "It sprayed Johnson & Johnson baby powder in every area of the mall where clothing was sold," he writes. "Then it infused the fragrance of cherry across areas of the mall where one could buy food and beverages. Then it started playing soothing music from the era when these women were born." Sales to pregnant women rose significantly, as hoped for. But the mall chain later learned a surprising fact, Lindstrom reports: Babies of those pregnant women would be calmer and more content whenever they entered the mall. This suggests that even in the womb, you can be reached by marketing.

Germs and "Assembling." Perhaps the one overriding feeling of new mothers, writes Lindstrom, is the fear of not being a good mother. Most new mothers don’t feel that they are doing everything they can to keep their babies healthy, safe and happy. Companies have learned to cash in on this fear and paranoia, selling everything from home sanitizers, baby gates and cabinet locks to $300 digital color video baby monitors, safety thermometers and faucet covers for bath time.

Most moms also feel guilty for not having the time to make home-cooked meals for their families, writes Lindstrom, which is why marketers came up with the "finishing touch" idea: Make food products that just require moms to add a finishing touch. For example, Pillsbury makes roll-out pizza dough (basically its crescent roll dough with a new name), and Ragu makes pizza sauce (basically its tomato sauce with a new name). Roll out the dough, pour the sauce, add the cheese, and you’ve made home-made pizza. "In the real world they may call it ‘cooking,’ but behind the scenes, marketers dub creating a meal of any kind ‘assembling,’" Lindstrom notes.

The Good Old Days. Numerous psychology experiments show that humans are hardwired to be nostalgic, Lindstrom writes. We are also concerned about time flying by. That is why most marketers know (and the rest of us don’t) that mentioning "time" in an advertisement increases the chance that people will buy that product. Thus, carefully chosen boomer generation music plays overhead in stores that attract people over 35. And Whole Foods leaves a stack of cardboard boxes filled with cantaloupes (a closer look reveals that the "stack" is actually one big box made to look like a stack of boxes) out in the open, recalling a simpler time when fruit came fresh-picked from the farm. And it doesn’t even matter if most of today’s shoppers have never actually been near a farm.

Where Psychology Meets Branding

Brandwashed is packed with revealing insights into the psychology of buyers, and the creativity of companies and their marketers to cash in on those psychological drivers. Lindstrom hasn’t written a shocking exposé — we’ve always known that advertisers are trying to push our buttons to make us buy. With this entertaining book, however, we now know how.

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