“Buy-Ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy”

Following an unprecedented three-year study, costing in the area of seven million dollars, which deals with the experimentation of a notion that our subconscious brains play a much larger role in determining what we purchase in life than otherwise believed, Martin Lindstrom has written this book to reveal his findings.To some, his findings may be startling as they tend to change the way we previously thought about marketing, product-placement, advertising and the like.  Among the topics he tackled were questions like..’Does infusing sex-appeal into an ad really sell?’, or ‘Is it effective to make the product appear “Cool” in the ad?’Lindstrom, who was born in Denmark in 1970 and resides in Sydney,Australia  is the chief  ‘Branding-expert’ for a host of global corporations like Proctor & Gamble, Nestle`, Microsoft, the Walt Disney corporation, and the McDonald’s corporation, among many others.  According to the forward which was written by Paco Underhill, who is at once, an admirer and competitor, Mr. Lindstrom spends about 300 days per year on the road counselling his clients on how to best present their goods and/or services to their target markets.For the most part Lindstrom tells us that he had basically bought into the pre-existing notion that much of high-profile marketing amounted to trying to be in the right place at the right time with your product and “hope” that things break your way.  That luck was the overriding factor in whether or not something was going to sell big and become a phenomenon, or just fizzle into obscurity.  Indeed, it seems that companies would build into their business-models an ‘acceptable-losses’ ledger to take into account the fact that, though something seemed to be a good idea on the drawing board, it might not necessarily yield the results hoped for.Now though, Lindstrom was choosing to delve into a realm so strongly avoided in the industry..the blending of Science and Marketing.  He wondered what the possibilities might be if somehow we could understand what was going-on inside our minds when we encountered a TV commercial, or just what it was that gave us a certain ‘tingling’ sensation at the sight of a celebrity’s poster.  In otherwords, just how does the brain process these things?The basic outcome of his studies is a concept called Neuromarketing.  Though limited as a new science by the worlds’ still incomplete understanding of just exactly how the human brain works, it is assisted by the knowledge that science moves ever-closer to understanding       our unconscious mind.  In-turn, this book seeks to understand the many factors that impact our decisions to buy the things we buy.The author takes us through several case studies ranging from trials aimed at understanding the intricate nature of a smokers’ brain which brought together the different categories of smokers..the self-proclaimed ‘social’ smokers, the two-pack per day addicts, all the way through to the absolute ‘chain-smokers’ who light-up a new cigarette using the flame of the current one still in their mouths.  Other case studies presented in the book deal with superstitions and rituals.  Just about every kind of product is covered, from peanut-butter to shave cream..from feminine hygiene products to General Motors.Each of these case studies are presented in separate chapters throughout the book in such a manner so as to become “stories”, complete with centralized characters and twists and subplots.  This technique helps the reader to navigate through some admittedly complicated medical and scientific jargon and be able to still hold onto the main theme of the piece.Lindstrom is very conscious too, of being topical and up-to-date with his references, even evoking the names of Britney Spears and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline..showing his ‘hipness’ by refering to the latter as “K-Fed” (pg198) as he discussed a TV Ad campaign that Federline did for a fast-food chain.  The company had used one of Lindstroms’ clients, Nationwide Annuities, to hawk its’ wares and Lindstrom relates why the ad failed miserably.The book takes to task the traditional research methods like direct surveys of the public and asking them why they bought..or didn’t buy.. a certain product.  His contention is that most of us can’t really say “I bought that Louis Vuitton bag because it appealed to my sense of vanity…” (pg199)  Rather, he suggests, our brain makes the decision and most of the time we aren’t even aware of it.Throughout the book the reader is presented with data-results that seem to show the significant role that our subconscious plays in making choices in the things that we eventually buy and how that subsequently impacts the way products are marketed to us, the purchasing public.Lindstrom began the book just prior to the global recession, so it’s difficult to know what impact, if any, the mental stress many people feel themselves suffering through in todays’ economy is having on marketing these products.  Afterall, one can’t ‘buy’ if one hasn’t anything to buy with.The book is 205 pages, with an additional 35 pages of Appendix, Acknowledgments and Index.  It is very topical and has a good amount of humor, but should not be thought of as ‘bedtime’ material as it may tend to stimulate the thought processes a bit much when one might be looking for some solid rest.While a technical read to be sure, it does have a great flow to it that will appeal to the lay-person, as well as having an almost inside-information type feel to it.  Not sure who would go into the bookstore looking for such a topic though, other than maybe budding product inventors or people in that specific field of work.  For those types, it would seem that this book would be more of a ‘beginning’ to a new way of approaching their work rather than a expose` on how exactly to win over their customers, which when one really thinks about it, it is a good thing for us, the consumers.  For when the day comes that the marketers can know what our brains tell us before we ourselves know, they will surely relieve us of more money for useless goods than we already shell-out.