The Best Quotes From “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy”


Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy is a revolutionary book that will teach you how corporations with infinite expertise and money market their products — whether you want to market to people or you’re a consumer wondering how you’re being manipulated into buying their products.

If you asked me whether I placed my room key on the bed, the sideboard, in the bathroom, or underneath the TV remote control, consciously, at least, I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea. Same goes for why I bought that iPod Nano, a Casio watch, a Starbucks Chai Latte, or a pair of Diesel jeans. No idea. I just did.

For example, does product placement really work? (The answer, I found out, is a qualified no.) How powerful are brand logos? (Fragrance and sound are more potent than any logo alone.) Does subliminal advertising still take place? (Yes, and it probably influenced what you picked up at the convenience store the other day.) Is our buying behavior affected by the world’s major religions? (You bet, and increasingly so.) What effect do disclaimers and health warnings have on us? (Read on.) Does sex in advertising work (not really) and how could it possibly get more explicit than it is now? (You just watch.)

What’s the secret of their product? What makes it stand out? Are there any stories or rituals or mysteries consumers associate with it? If not, can we root around and find some? Can the product somehow break through the two-dimensional barrier of advertising by appealing to senses the company hasn’t yet thought of? Smell, touch, sound? A gasp the cap makes when you unscrew it? A flirty pink straw? Is the advertising campaign edgy and funny and risk-taking, or is it as boring and forgettable as every other company’s?

But like it or not, all of us consistently engage in behavior for which we have no logical or clear-cut explanation. The more stress we’re under, the more frightened and insecure and uncertain we feel–and the more irrationally we tend to behave.

Under stress (or even when life is going along pretty well), people tend to say one thing while their behavior suggests something entirely different. Needless to say, this spells disaster for the field of market research, which relies on consumers being accurate and honest. But 85 percent of the time our brains are on autopilot. It’s not that we mean to lie–it’s just that our unconscious minds are a lot better at interpreting our behavior (including why we buy) than our conscious minds are.

In 1965 a typical consumer had a 34 percent recall of…ads. In 1990, that figure had fallen to 8 percent. A 2007 ACNielsen phone survey of one thousand consumers found that the average person could name a mere 2.21 commercials of those they had ever seen, ever, period. Today, if I ask most people what companies sponsored their favorite TV shows–say, Lost or House or The Office–their faces go blank.

It was, and is, a depressingly true-to-life example of what’s going on today in TV commercials. There’s no originality out there–it’s too risky. Uncreative companies are simply imitating other uncreative companies. In the end, everyone’s a loser because we as TV viewers can’t tell one brand from the next.

Over the years, neuromarketing research has found that consumers’ memory of a product, whether it’s deodorant, perfume, or a brand of tequila, is the most relevant, reliable measure of an ad’s effectiveness. It’s also linked with subjects’ future buying behavior. In other words, if we remember Mitchum Roll-On, Calvin Klein’s Euphoria, and Don Julio Anejo tequila, we’ll be far more likely to reach for them the next time we’re in a store or add them to our cart the next time we’re shopping online.

In short, the results revealed that we have no memory of brands that don’t play an integral part in the storyline of a program.

Just like Rizzolatti’s monkeys, when we watch someone do something, whether it’s scoring a penalty kick or playing a perfect arpeggio on a Steinway grand piano, our brains react as if we were actually performing these activities ourselves. In short, it’s as though seeing and doing are one and the same.

A hip-hugging, perfectly worn-in jeans, a simple summery white blouse, and a red bandanna stops you in your tracks. She looks great–slim, sexy, confident, relaxed, and appealing. Subconsciously, even though you’ve put on a few pounds, you think, I could look like that, too, if I just bought that outfit. I could be her. In those clothes, I, too, could have her freshness, her youthful nonchalance. At least that’s what your brain is telling you, whether you’re aware of it or not.

“We are sensitive to positive social signals,” Cabeza explained. “We want to remember people who were kind to us, in case we interact with them in the future.”

As we saw, video games like Guitar Hero 3, computer games such as “The Sims,” and virtual Web sites like Second Life also owe their popularity in large part to mirror neurons. Whether we’ve mastered a complicated riff on Guitar Hero, or purchased a shiny new Beamer on Second Life, our mirror neurons help us connect emotionally to these virtual realities. So even if we’re sitting in a dark, subterranean basement in front of a glowing screen, these games offer us a virtual means of experiencing the same rush of pleasure we would feel if we were living these fantasies and dreams in our actual lives.

In other words, the tobacco companies’ efforts to link “innocent images”–whether of the American West, purple silk, or sports cars–with smoking in our subconscious minds have paid off big time.

We interviewed fourteen prominent leaders from various religions around the world–including Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Islam–to find out what characteristics and qualities each of their faiths shared. What I discovered was that despite their differences, almost every leading religion has ten common pillars underlying its foundation: a sense of belonging, a clear vision, power over enemies, sensory appeal, storytelling, grandeur, evangelism, symbols, mystery, and rituals.

WHEN DR. CALVERT analyzed the fMRI data, she found that strong brands brought about greater activity in many areas of the brain involved in memory, emotion, decision-making, and meaning than weak brands did.

But the real rationale behind your choices was in fact built on a lifetime of associations–some positive, others negative–that you weren’t consciously aware of.

Today, we are more visually overstimulated than ever before. And in fact, studies have shown that the more stimulated we are, the harder it is to capture our attention.

Figures released in 2006 showed that when classical music was piped over loudspeakers in the London Underground, robberies dropped by 33 percent, assaults on staff by 25 percent, and vandalism of trains and stations by 37 percent.

In fact, as it turned out, only 9.8 percent of the men who had viewed the ads with the sexual content were able to remember the correct brand or product in question, compared to almost 20 percent of the men who had seen the nonsexual ones. And this effect was replicated in the women–only 10.85 percent remembered the correct brand or product featured in the sexual ads, whereas 22.3 percent recalled the brand or product in the ones with the neutral content.

So why do we often respond more favorably to “real” or “ordinary” people in print and TV ads? In large part, it’s tied to our desire for authenticity.

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