The book Brandwashed is the smartest marketing book ever written because of the vast research Martin Lindstrom does on the topic. His first book [Buy-ology] was groundbreaking for what it uncovered about the sacred topic of marketing. I really think everyone should read it. Take the quiz to see if you’ve been Brandwashed. I’ve listed some highlights from the book to show you how much you’ll learn.
Marketers start working on us at a very young age
Two decades ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that:
“nearly all America’s six-year-olds could identify Joe Camel, who was just as familiar to them as Mickey Mouse.” [Page 18]
“Recent studies have shown that by the time they are 36 months old, American children recognize an average of 100 brand logos.” -Dr. Allen Kanner, child psychologist at the Wright Institute in Berkley, California. [Page 18]
“63 preschoolers were asked to taste pairs of five completely identical foods: hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French Fries, milk and carrots. The first set was wrapped in plain old logo-free packaging. The second pair was packaged in a McDonalds wrapper. By a long shot, the children rated the tastes of the foods and drinks higher if they believed they were from McDonald’s. This even went for the carrots.” [Page 19]
One of the most effective marketing strategies is exploiting fear
Gaining popularity in the 1920’s this style of advertising follows a formula;
“a) pinpoint a problem, perhaps one consumers didn’t even know they had; b) exacerbate anxiety around the problem; c) sell the cure.” [Page 36]
“Picture this: You’re a single, twenty-something, female in a skimpy t-shirt and sweats ready to workout at home when you hear suspicious noises coming from outside. Or you’re a teenage girl home alone at night, convinced you hear the sound of keys jingling in the downstairs lock. Or you’re a mother preparing dinner while your kids play in the yard, and you’ve failed to notice the suspicious looking fellow lurking near the garage.” [Page 37]
These are all scenes from widely viewed commercials for Brink’s Home Security aired in 2008. Many observers and and consumer advocates decried them as sensationalistic, salacious, and sexist.
“Thanks to this unabashed fearmongering, alarm sales rose by an unprecidented 10 percent in a single year, a year during which crime rates actually decreased.” [Page 37]
Fear in advertising works.
How are we being fooled in grocery stores? In more ways than you think
“For years now supermarkets have been sprinkling select vegetables with regular dew drops of water – a trend that came out of Denmark. Why? Like ice displays, those sprinkler-like drops serve as a symbolic, albeit a bogus one, of freshness and purity. (Ironically, that same dewy mist makes the vegetables rot more quickly than they would otherwise.)” [Page 48]
Do you think the color of a banana will influence you to buy?
“Sales records show that bananas with pantone color 13-0858 (otherwise known as Vibrant Yellow) are less likely to sell than bananas with pantone color 12-0752 (also called Buttercup), which is one grade warmer, visually, and seems to imply riper, fresher fruit. Companies like Dole plant their crops under conditions most ideal to creating the right “color”. And as for apples? Believe it or not, my research found that while it may look fresh, the average apple you see in the supermarket is actually fourteen months old.” [Page 50]
Ever wondered why Aquafresh toothpaste has three colors?
“In one experiment, I asked two groups of consumers to try two different versions of the toothpaste (Aquafresh)-one regular version and one that had been dyed just one color. Sure enough, the group using the paste with three colors not only reported that the toothpaste worked 73 percent better, they even claimed they believed that their teeth looked whiter.” [Page 51]
Are High Caloric Foods like cocaine and heroin to your brain?
“According to a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in a way that is nearly identical to cocaine and heroin. When two researchers from Florida’s Scripps Research Institute fed rats high-fat-content foods, including cheesecake, candy bars, and even bacon, every single one of the foods activated a release of dopamine, just as the drugs do. The most unsettling finding of all? When the researchers compared the brains of the junk-food-addicted rats to the brains of rats hooked on heroin and cocaine, they found that the addictive effects of the junk food actually lasted seven times longer. While it took only two days for the depleted dopamine receptors in rats addicted to cocaine and heroin to return to baseline levels, it took two weeks for the obese rats to return to their normal dopamine levels.” [Page 67]
Is Lip-Balm addictive?
According to Dr. W. Steven Pray, Bernhardt Professor at the College of Pharmacy at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Carmex has been using certain ingredients in it’s lip-balm for years without coming clean about what they are actually doing.
“Lip-balm contain phenol and salicylic acid, a substance that is generally used to eat away at dead tissue like corns, calluses, and warts. Phenol, Dr. Pray told me, is a deadening agent that litterally anesthetizes our lips, at which point the salicylic acid begins eating away at living tissue, namely our lips.” [Page 70]
I used to think I was addicted to lip-chap, until I stopped using it, and haven’t ever since. Now it all makes sense.
Why was the Axe deodorant spray campaign so successful?
In the preliminary research, Unilever (Creators of Axe) conducted an extensive online survey of 12,000 boys and men, ages 15 to 50, from the US, UK, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and Japan. They really wanted to get an understanding of what men think about sex. The findings? The number one fantasy among men is:
“A boy or a man in lounging in a hot tub or spa. He’s surrounded by three of four naked women. A corked bottle of champagne stands nearby, with is foam bubbling over into the hot tub.” The conclusion they came to was that men like to feel irresistible to several sexy women. [Page 82]
Now think of every first Axe commercial, if you recall, most involved multiple young women falling for the guy using the Axe spray. Axe was playing on our number one fantasy.
What do kids think about ‘brands’
According to the Journal of Consumer Research at age 11 or 12 kids begin to develop a deeper understanding of the complex meaning of products and brands. This is also the time when their self esteem begins to drop. Kids have the tendency to try and “fit in” by buying the popular brands. The conclusion they came to?
“the less confidence or self-esteem they [kids] had, the more they seemed to be dependent on brands.” [Page 122]
Or, the larger the logo we wear, the less self-esteem we have.
“According to a poll of 112,000 teenagers in thirty countries, just under half of all teenagers factor in the brand when making purchase decisions, with Nike, Lacoste, Adidas, Sony, and Apple being the most popular among the boys, and Zara, H&M, and Roxy among the girls. Just under half of all teens said if there was no visible branding, they wouldn’t buy an item of clothing.” [Page 122]
What do our purchases say about us?
Using credit card data to understand purchasing habits is just the beginning of what retailers are doing to understand how we buy. Brandwashed really opens your eyes as to what retailers, banks, and credit card companies know about us.
“Capturing data on point-of-sale transactions from nearly three thousand stores in six countries, Walmart maintains a 7.5 tera byte Teradata warehouse, a database many times the size of the federal government’s.” [Page 209]
In 2002 a Canadian Tire executive analyzed credit card data from the previous year and found out that;
“people who bought carbon monoxide monitors practically never missed payments, and neither did people who bought those little soft pads that keep furniture legs from scratching up your floor. They also found that people who bought cheap, no-name automotive oil were much more likely to miss a credit card payment than people who got the expensive, brand-name stuff, and that if a person bought a chrome-skull car accessory, he was pretty likely to miss his bill eventually.” [Page 210]
The credit card companies know a lot more than we think about our purchasing patterns and what our future purchase intent may be. This is very valuable information and we’re naive to think retailers aren’t using it to their advantage.
Does background music in a store influence our purchases?
Muzak: carefully and deliberately selected music that plays in the background of grocery stores, department stores, restaurants and more. Muzak is heard by one hundred million people per day.
“According to Douglas Rushkoff, author of Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say, in U.S. department stores, customers exposed to Muzak with a slow tempo shop 18 percent longer and make 17 percent more purchases, and in grocery stores, shoppers make a whopping 38 percent more purchases when slow Muzak is overhead. On the Other hand, says Rushkoff, fast-food restaurants play Muzak with more beats per minute “to increase the rate at which a person chews.” Thus, they get us out of there sooner and can serve more customers and earn money.” [Page: 222]
The Most Fascinating $3 million Social Experiment Ever Conducted
“The results proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that marketers, advertisers, and big business have nothing at all compared to the influence we consumers have on one another.”
Brandwashed concludes the book with the chapter “I’ll have What Mrs. Morgenson is Having: The Most Powerful Hidden Persuader of Them All: Us”. A $3 million social experiment never attempted before. Moving a family into a gated community in the heart of Laguna beach (one of the most affluent and expensive communities in California) to determine the effects that word-of-mouth have on purchasing decisions. Not only tracking who the parents are associating with, but also tracking the Morgenson’s three boys (ages sixteen, fourteen, and twelve) and how they influence their social circle.
Their house was outfitted with thirty-five video cameras (seventeen were hidden from view) and twenty-five microphones keeping track of every move the Morgenson’s made. Martin Lindstrom was determined to understand how social circles impact our purchase decisions.
How did they track purchasing behavior? Lindstrom used a company called ChatThreads. They specialize in capturing data on how, when, and where consumers notice specific brands in their day-to-day lives, then analyzing how these encounters impact buying behavior.
“After watching the hundreds of hours of footage, I could come to only one conclusion: whether it’s shoes, jewelry, barbecue tools, or sports equipment, there’s nothing quite do persuasive as observing someone we respect or admire using a brand or product.”
“The Morgensons’ friends actually ended up buying an average per person of three brands recommended by the Morgensons. More amazing still? Once the reality show wrapped, Eric, Gina, and their boys continued using and buying six out of the ten brands they’d spent the last month touting.” [Page: 248]
What really surprised Lindstrom though, was that once it was all over, and they told these friends that they were actually part of a social experiment and that Mortgensons were actively trying to get them to buy certain brands, no one cared.
“Finally, I was surprised that when we told Eric and Gina’s friends and acquaintances that the whole thing was a hoax, and a reality show, no one was angry or upset or cared even slightly that they had been duped.”
“It was okay, they said. If the Morgensons told us a brand was good, it was totally okay. “But what if the brands the Morgensons recommended weren’t ones they liked?” I asked. The answer? Even if the Morgensons recommended brands they disliked, I’d still buy them.”
“Roughly one third of the Morgensons’ friends began promoting and even flaunting these same brands to their friends and acquaintances. (It even reached a point when several of Gina’s friends came home raving at such length about the brands the Morgensons had recommended, the location producer suspected he was the victim of a setup.”
Even more surprising is that of everyone involved, no one at all thought that this experiment was unethical or wrong.
One of the most fascinating marketing books I have ever read, Lindstrom leaves us with this powerful comment:
“Brands of the future simply must be transparent and live up to their promises. Trust me (and you marketers out there take note), any brand that doesn’t will be instantly and painfully exposed and reviled. That, in the end, is what this book is all about.” [Page: 252]