Who Controls What You Buy?

BUS_brandwashed“Who controls what you buy?” may seem like an easy question. But master marketer Martin Lindstrom provides an answer that spans over 200 pages in his second book, Brandwashed.

At first glance, of course I control what I buy. I see it in the store, put in my basket and pay for it with my own money.

Brandwashed says that’s garbage because marketers have thought long and hard about what makes us want to buy in the first place. He gives examples of how brands use our natural psychological wirings to manipulate us into thinking that we need to buy their products.

It’s all one big conspiracy to get you to buy. And just when you stop believing him, he pulls out the oodles and oodles of market research paid for by brands. Lindstrom knows this because he did the research. I was especially impressed by Axe’s efforts to find out who would be the target audience for their trademark douchebag spray. Of course, it wasn’t always known as a spray for 14-year-old boys but that’s part of the story.

BRAND_axI’d be interested in hear what he has to say about Abercrombie & Fitch’s strategy of revealing their strategy. As consumers, we’re comfortable buying into a lifestyle semi-consciously but does it work when it’s not so subtle? It’s as if Rolex were to put out an ad that read “Rich people wear our watches.” Every ad implies this but it’s never the tagline.

Brandwashed was a little hard to get into. I like my non-fiction to read like fiction where there’s a storyline that ties everything together. Brandwashed jumps around a lot and revisits previous concepts at unlikely times. However, the research tidbits are gold for anyone that buys or sells stuff. Because for those that have watched The Devil Wears Prada, it’s not just stuff.

See the following ads from a recent issue of Vogue. Do you think they manipulate us as consumers?

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Taking Care of Business

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You’ll notice that Broken Penguins mainly reviews fiction and that’s because I love fiction. There’s nothing like burying yourself in someone else’s world and letting it consume you for the day. But I do sometimes make time for some business books.

Okay, sharing time: I work in PR and I love it. I’ve been working in this field for four years and I’ve already learned A LOT. But what’s fantastic about PR is that there’s no time to be bored — there’s always plenty more to learn. And hence, a lot of business reading.

So here’s what’s on my list:

BUS_brandwashedBrandwashed by Martin Lindstrom
If you are interested in marketing, branding or psychology, you must hear Martin Lindstrom speak. He does a lot of unique research into how people are influenced by brands and some of his findings are pretty shocking. He is a quirky, quirky man and that translates into fantastic presentations.

The Virtual Self by Nora Young
I received a copy of The Virtual Self after seeing Young speak at a Third Tuesday Event. Young looks at how we’re tracking and sharing our own behaviour online — and why we keep doing things like telling the world how many pounds we’ve lost and how many pages we’ve read.

BUS_spunkSpunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik
Writing gurus always point you to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. While The Elements of Style focuses on fussy grammar and composition, Spunk and Bite is all about writing to captivate your audience. How teachable is this skill?

The Loyalty Leap by Bryan Pearson
Pearson is supposedly the guru of repeat customers. He looks at data, lots of it, and helps companies bring back happy customers. Hey, maybe he can even help me bring you back to Broken Penguins…

Photo credits: junryou-na-kokoro.deviantart.com

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