Book Review: Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy


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Studies show "it takes as little as 2.5 seconds to make a purchasing decision." Companies today know they have less than 2 seconds to catch your eye, lure you in and make you a customer - hook line and sinker. In Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, author and marketing guru Martin Lindstrom takes us on a behind the scenes look at what sells and why we are lambs to the slaughter when it comes to buying "stuff." Lindstrom dispels myths like how, for example, sex may grab our attention, but it doesn't sell. Using one of the largest neuromarketing studies, Lindstrom attempts to look past what we say and figure out why we do what we do and how our brain responds to all of the incoming stimuli.Buy-ology, while it does talk about the uses of neuromarketing, is mostly just a large volume of anecdotes of different marketing techniques employed over the years — both the winning, the losing and the surprising. Other tidbits include: your other senses — smell, sound, touch — are more effective at getting you to buy than something just plain sight and how as one marketing trick after another is outlawed, marketing companies just become more tricky to get around laws and get their products out.

How is Neuromarketing Used?

Linstrom takes the study of "buy-ology" one step further by using neuromarketing (using an fMRI to analyze brain responses to different marketing stimuli, or in other words, "the subconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires that drive the purchasing decisions we make each and every day of our lives) to look at how people perceive sounds in marketing, smells, and even why cigarette ads and particularly warnings, actually make people want to smoke more. If you think this sounds a little creepy, you're not alone, and several groups are already petitioning congress to end neuromarketing because they feel it will "subjugate the mind and use it for commercial gain."

In each chapter, Lindstom shows how neuromarketing studies are used to really pinpoint motivations behind buyers. For example, everyone may buy a phone and use a particular ring tone, but sales are quickly declining because under closer inspection of consumers' brains the ring tone gives people feelings of fear and anxiety. Or game shows that people write on surveys they hate, but actually their brain signals that they are actually intrigued by it, thus telling producers they may have a hit on their hands. Other categories like subliminal messaging, superstitions, religion, sex, and how to use product placement most effectively are all discussed.

Can We Use Neuromarketing to Advance Green?

Could these techniques be used to win people over to using green strategies? Its possible they already have. In one chapter, Lindstrom discusses the idea of mirror neurons and argues that just seeing what other people have, makes you want to imitate them, be part of a group. It could be argued that the plethora of canvas bags, aside from a quick marketing tool, could also be an example of mirror neurons at work. The more we see the masses using them, the more we want to join the bandwagon.

Buy-ology is a quick read and interesting for those on both sides of the aisle - consumers and marketers/branders. Most of the examples given show that decisions we make are based on many subconscious factors and we have almost no control over them. After reading into mareketing tricks, will we be any more prepared to fight off the "buy me" temptations, particularly as we head into the holiday season? On the other hand, with holiday sales predictions due to a hurting economy, what is a brand or small business to do? Can Buy-ology help them get around some of the obvious sales tactics to choose tactics that will actually work?

Can We Outsmart Marketing?

After reading the book, its hard to tell whether you've just been given the key to marketing secrets or whether you were somehow a guinea pig in a larger marketing experiment. Is it possible to get around all of this marketing and live a simpler life and only buy what you need? Well, its not easy, but some groups are testing this experiment in buy-nothing. Knowing is half the battle. The other half is how you're going to live under a rock in order to not be subjugated to the millions of "ads" we see on tv, smell as we walk through a mall, hear every time someone's cell phone goes off or even dream about while we sleep.

Knowing that marketing is not going away, as consumers looking to have a smaller environmental footprint we have to prepare to live in,

"A world in which you face the onslaught of advertising with a better understanding of what drives and motivates you, what attracts and repels you, what gets under your skin. A world in which you are not a slave to the mysterious workings of your subconscious, nor a puppet of the marketers and companies that seek to control it. A world in which before rushing out ot buy that new vanilla-scented skin cream or that shampoo with the mysterious X-factor or that pack of Marlboros that your rational mind knows will deposit fat globules into your lungs, you will pause. Because that is that is a world in which we, the consumers, can escape all the tricks and traps that companies use to seduce us to their products and get us to buy and take back our rational minds."

You can find Buy-ology on Amazon.com and on Lindstrom's website. It retails for $24.95. Or, if you're above marketing campaigns, you can also check it out at your local library. For more on Martin Lindstrom, you can find him online.

More on Green Marketing
Think Before You Fall for Cause-Related Marketing
Hope + Glory? Why is Green Marketing the Way Forward?
Green Marketing: Mind the Gap
Green Branding and Marketing: Who's Out in Front?
Seth Godin on Green Marketing

Tags: Books | Buy Nothing | Consumerism | Education

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