Buyology: A book review by Bob Morris

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy
Martin Lindstrom
Crown Business (2008)

Preliminary Conclusions About Neuromarketing

As Martin Lindstrom explains in the Introduction, he set out to understand “what’s going on in our brains that makes us chose one brand over another – what information passes through our brain’s filter and what information doesn’t — well that would be key to truly building brands of the future.” After completing a three-year, multimillion-dollar “journey” with 2,081 volunteers he enlisted (from America, England, Germany, Japan, and the Republic of China), he shares what are best viewed as preliminary conclusions about neuromarketing

In fact, as I read this book, I became convinced that whatever revelations (albeit preliminary) the research study might provide would have broader and deeper implications with regard to how most (if not all) people make decisions, not only about brands but also about questions to answer, problems to solve, opportunities to pursue, perils to avoid, etc. One of Lindstrom’s several objectives was (and is) to gain a better understanding of “our own seemingly irrational behavior – whether it’s why we buy a designer shirt or how we assess a job candidate”…or those who seek the presidency of the United States. Once we gain such an understanding, Lindstrom asserts, we actually gain [begin italics] more [end italics] control, not less, over the decision-making process.

Others have shared their reasons for holding this book in such high regard. Here are three of mine. First, Lindstrom immediately establishes and then sustains a personal rapport with his reader. He makes brilliant use of direct address but also of first-person plural pronouns that make the reader feel as if she or he was a companion during the “journey” to which Lindstrom refers. In fact, each reader completes her or his own journey also. The metaphor is especially apt, invoked for the last time when Lindstrom concludes his book: P.S. If you want to continue this journey into Buyology, log on to and step into a world – with its truth and lies – which we’ve just begun to explore.”

I also hold this book in high regard because all of its preliminary revelations, conclusions, observations, etc. are research-driven. I was impressed by the number of other studies he cites throughout his narrative. For example, in Chapter 5 (“Do You Believe in Magic? Ritual, Superstition, and Why We Buy”), he cites studies by the Journal of Family Psychology and BBDO Worldwide. They and other studies cited elsewhere in the book help to increase our understanding of the importance of rituals and superstitions to the decision-making process. Lindstrom cites several daily rituals to illustrate key points, then observes: “One thing is clear. Ritual and superstition can exert a potent influence on how and what we buy. After six years of studying product rituals and their effects on branding, it struck me: might religion – which is so steeped in familiar and comforting rituals of its own – play a way in why we buy as well?” On to the next chapter in which Lindstrom shares what he learned about similarities between religious and spiritual symbols and their commercial counterparts. In that chapter as in all others, preliminary revelations, conclusions, observations, etc. are research-driven.

My third reason is a personal one and thus may reveal more about me than it does about this book. Many years ago, I came upon Voltaire’s suggestion that we cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it. Since then, I have had what I hope is a healthy skepticism about absolutes as well as assertions based on limits such as “all” or “never.” I have tried very hard to develop what Hemingway once characterized as a “built-in, shock-proof crap detector”…especially if the crap in question is my own. Then I began to read this book and by the time I reached the fourth chapter, I realized that no matter what I may think I think and (especially) believe, I may not – in fact — know. On the contrary, subconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires may well determine most (if not all) of the decisions I make every day. So I now plan to re-read Lindstrom’s book after activating the aforementioned detector. What will I become aware of this time around that I missed previously? My own journey continues….


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  1. fwf online on January 19, 2017 at 8:44 am

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