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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filled with a-ha moments that taught me I'm not as immune to marketing as I thought
I like to think I'm not easily influenced by marketing. I shop used a lot, I don't have a lot of brand loyalty---like many people, I like to think I'd see through brand marketing and corporate tricks. But this book showed me I certainly don't always do so.

I love Whole Foods, but after this read, I'm not going to look at them in quite the same way! I found...
Published on July 29, 2011 by Suzanne Amara

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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Book that Uses the Same Tricks It Purports to Reveal
As with many other reviewers, I was alerted to this book after hearing an NPR interview with the author and found his message well worth following up. After reading Brandwashed, however, it seems that Martin Lindstrom is a persuasive speaker but his focus is totally on marketing--himself and his books.

Instead of recognizing that marketing is a legitimate part...
Published on January 20, 2012 by H. Laack


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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Book that Uses the Same Tricks It Purports to Reveal, January 20, 2012
This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
As with many other reviewers, I was alerted to this book after hearing an NPR interview with the author and found his message well worth following up. After reading Brandwashed, however, it seems that Martin Lindstrom is a persuasive speaker but his focus is totally on marketing--himself and his books.

Instead of recognizing that marketing is a legitimate part of business, Lindstrom too often goes for sensational, breathless prose--ending up sounding like a National Enquirer headline writer instead of someone conveying really new and important information. Our culture *is* too often driven by excessive consumerism, but he sometimes seems to want to "pick on" specific brands he doesn't like rather than sort out acceptable advertising from tricks and gimmicks.

The book reads too often like a marketing piece. Too often he says we'll learn "later" about some great secret he has for us, but this just sounds like one of those junk mail packages selling a book that has all the secrets to health if we just send in 29.95 plus shipping and handling. Then there was his self-promotion, cloying in the way that he seemed to be the only one to see the simple solutions that would save their products. Did you know that it was Lindstrom who, all by himself, helped a soft drink company find exactly the right a*snap* for the sound of opening a soft drink can so that "to this day whenever the sound is played at sponsored events, the manufacturer witnesses an instantaneous uptick in sales." Really? Really? Can we see some clear and verified data?

And speaking of data: the notes section was another disappointment--sources were internet addresses for magazine and newspaper articles, not scientific journals. Worse, much of the "research" he talked about was not sourced at all, and the small size of the groups he referenced in his own work showed it to be more anecdotal evidence than anything that could be characterized as scientific findings. An egregious example of one of these "research" studies was said to reveal that the "average" age of apples in our produce departments is fourteen months. Such an outlandish claim (easily refuted with minimal internet digging) was not footnoted or provided with the basis for the comment.

Another problem with his own research was using fMRI as an almost universal basis of authority. Lindstrom never notes that there remains a great deal of controversy about how much confidence can yet be placed in this tool; instead his comments seem designed to make any study using fMRI somehow even *more* scientific.

In an extended discussion about hand sanitizers and related products, he cites a Lysol comment that says "following proper hygiene routines can help prevent the spread of illness." However, says Lindstrom, this would seem to indicate " their product is the key to good hygiene--and in turn instrumental in staying healthy. Only they can't say that because, well, it would be a lie; in fact, hand sanitizers have not been found, by the CDC or anyone else, to be effective in fighting airborne disease." (page 30)

Here's the problem; airborne disease is not what hand sanitizers are purporting to address and the CDC *does* cite the effectiveness of hand washing in fighting much illness. ("Did you know that the very simple activity of frequent handwashing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention?" from the CDC's own site, <...> )

Sadly, it appears that Lindstrom the marketer has done his own "distorting" of the facts, just as his subtitle accuses other marketers. Finding these overt misrepresentations brings under suspicion much of the rest of his material.

I do not disagree with the premise that companies are using tricks and manipulation to push us into inappropriate buying decisions, and there is a need for people to be aware of what they are subjected to on a daily basis. However, this is not the book to get clear information on the problems in marketing today.

Even Lindstrom's last chapter, the one that really says the most about our buying decision processes--is unsurprising in our keeping-up-with-the-Joneses culture. An attractive, upper middle class, popular and successful, suburban family is enlisted to talk up brands. If there is a neighborhood barbecue, Dad talks about his great new grill. The kids praise their athletic shoes and Mom runs on and on about clothing, accessories and all kinds of items for the home. Result? Their neighbors often buy what has been "advertised"to them by their friends. Wow, we didn't know that people are influenced by their peers?

I don't want to be judgmental about the family (although I really wondered about a neighborhood where women might actually sit around and spend so very much time just on "stuff"), but it seems as though much of the "manipulation" we endure is really self-inflicted. Sadly, Brandwashed never discusses how we might best address our own proclivities that allow us to be manipulated, another gap that drops this book to only one star.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caveat emptor: entertaining overall with some real value, but all may not be as it seems, August 24, 2011
This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
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First, I'm very interested in marketing and have long been conscious of the manipulative tricks played by advertisers in their efforts to take our money. I'm no specialist by any means, but this isn't my first book about the phenomenon. I came to it expecting perhaps one or two revelations (and I did get that), but primarily interested in how this particular marketer was going to approach the question. While I think he came at it honestly, there were times that I found the information he presented dubious in conclusion, perhaps at times because he didn't question the sources himself.

I see that an earlier reviewer (C. MacPhail) has already made reference to this and has a few examples with which I agree. There were several others that struck me was I was reading, but none more starkly than in Chapter 5 (p. 122 of the advance version I have) where he discusses a study in which women were given what looked to be designer sunglasses and asked to take a math test, self-graded on the honor system, in which they received cash awards. The women who were told that the designer sunglasses were fake were more likely to cheat on grading their tests and take more money. The author of the study he reports on concluded from this that "wearing counterfeit glasses...undermines our internal sense of authenticity. 'Faking it' makes us feel like phonies and cheaters on the inside."

Or, perhaps, people who think they have been given something truly valuable feel an obligation to the giver that makes it more difficult to cheat them out of money. Or maybe their internal "greed" quotient is satisfied and they don't need cash on top of swag. That being given a single counterfeit item makes cheaters of people is only one possible conclusion here, and either the researchers or Lindstrom aren't considering/presenting other possibilities.

Many parts of the book were interesting, certainly, and the book is overall pretty well written. It was this example and others like it throughout the book that made me wonder if I was getting the whole story...or if the message was being polished and glossed, like some of the products described, to make it seem more cohesive and informed than it really is.

If not for this element, I would probably have given the book four stars. Overall, I did enjoy it, even though I found some of the author's own work morally dubious. (Hiring people to shill products to their friends doesn't really speak highly of the payor or the payee. I guess the marketing world hasn't created much by way of an ethics code governing human subject research.) But that element is a pretty major detractor. While there was much in the book that I felt probably could safely be taken on face value, the ones that I thought could not left me uncertain overall.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filled with a-ha moments that taught me I'm not as immune to marketing as I thought, July 29, 2011
This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
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I like to think I'm not easily influenced by marketing. I shop used a lot, I don't have a lot of brand loyalty---like many people, I like to think I'd see through brand marketing and corporate tricks. But this book showed me I certainly don't always do so.

I love Whole Foods, but after this read, I'm not going to look at them in quite the same way! I found out how they use little tricks like putting veggies in rustic looking boxes to seem as if they are straight from the farm, putting prices on "chalkboards" which actually are preprinted, putting food on ice when it doesn't need to be, to make it look more appealing----even little things like putting their main door to the right, because people that walk counterclockwise through a store spend more---weird! Even the fact that I always like the music they have playing is a result of marketing---they know what their customers like, and play that.

The extent to which we have no privacy on the internet was brought alive to me by this book also. It explained something weird that happened to me just this week. My brother-in-law, who lives upstairs from me, got a catalog in the mail from a handbag company. He wouldn't know a handbag if it hit him in the face, but the particular brand was one I like, although can't afford. I have, however, browsed their web site and bought some used bags on ebay. Now that I know that such internet activity can be tracked by I.P. address, it all made sense---our internet for the house is in his name, and they decided he'd be a prime buyer. Wow. Scary.

The author has worked with many companies to hook in buyers. I'm not quite sure why he is giving away their secrets now, but I like it that is he! Take the time to also read the acknowledgments at the end of this book. I felt they gave away a few more secrets---that the book was ghostwritten, that the idea for the book didn't come from the author himself, and that he sneaked in a lot of brand names in the book and acknowledgments, and he had educated me enough in the course of the book to wonder if he was paid for this!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Games They Play, August 12, 2011
By 
Spudman (Pasadena, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
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I expected to be shaking my head at all of the shenanigans companies use to trick us. Instead I was shaking my head while thinking, "Is that all there is?" Maybe it's because I used to teach a short propaganda unit in public school and already know about the trickery, deceipt, and dishonesty used by marketers.

A new wrinkle today is the digital information gathering done via our internet use and those ubiquitous store discount cards. Everytime we make an electronic purchase our information is gathered to become part of our shopping history that`s shared liberally. Recently I typed "potato chips" in a Facebook message and within a few minutes I noticed potato chip ads on the side of my profile page. Creepy stuff.

For the most part Brandwashed is an interesting book, though I learned nothing startling, no insider revelations for me. The reader "learns" about marketing tactics that may or may not be considered trickery, like celebrity endorsements. Chapters detailing example after example of sellers using fear tactics, glowing generalities (empty words with positive connotations), sex appeal, or doctor endorsements contain nothing new. These gimmicks have been used for years.

The author uses a little bit of subliminal suggestion and marketing skills himself with frequent references to his previous book "Buyology, and even suggests that the reader should pick up an e-book copy of that book.

In the last chapter we learn about an elaborate experiment in which a family is "planted" in an upscale neighborhood to see if their friends and neighbors can be influenced by the brand recommendations of this attractive planted family. If you've ever bought something because of a friend's recommendation, then you understand the silliness of this expensive experiment and the obvious conclusions.

I was a little disappointed not to find more about subliminal suggestion, number games, or packaging tricks in "Brandwashed." I like the trick of calling a product new, with the only thing "new" being a smaller package with less product.

Though torn between giving three or four stars, I'm rating this book four stars and forgiving the handful of gaffes in this uncorrected proof.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More about building Lindstrom's brand than building on Buyology, September 30, 2011
By 
Mark P. McDonald (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
If you did not know that marketing plays on your fears, uses sex to sell, and is basically trying to manipulate you into buying things, then this book explains how all of that works. If you already knew that, then reading this book is all about the author and his participation in that process.

Martin Lindstrom's Brandwashed reveals the ways in which marketers' influence of values and buying decisions. Brandwashed concentrates on describing the various marketing tactics and situations that taken together provide a compendium of consumer based marketing tools and techniques with a superficial discussion of social media.

This book is not a follow-on to Buy ology. It is a restatement of mainstream marketing tools and techniques. Lindstrom's goal is to expose manipulate marketing messages based on our fears, dreams, self-image etc. Lindstrom is a leading market strategist and therefore a leading practitioner of this manipulation and uses this book as a statement of his experience, importance and how clever he is.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommended reading for people who want to understand the current state of the practice and companies that are practicing these techniques. Marketing professionals who are already aware of these techniques may pick up some interesting stories but the book reflects industry practice more than industry innovation.

Readers looking for insight into social media marketing will be disappointed as there are brief mentions of social media marketing techniques, but not enough to say that it is a book about social media and marketing, so they will need to look elsewhere for that topic.

Readers looking for a follow-up to Lindstrom's book Buy ology will find that the book is not mentioned until page 185. The book builds on, but it is definitely not a follow-up to Buy ology.

ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK

Brandwashed is divided into three parts. The first two chapters outline the overall approach to modern marketing and how it shapes buyer values and motivations that start from before birth. These two chapters are helpful and in fact provide much of the information you will learn from Brandwashed.

The next part of the book concentrates on how marketers use fear, addiction, sex, peer pressure, nostalgia, celebrity and health. Each of these chapters concentrates on the rational behind marketing messages along these dimensions, examples of how they work and Lindstrom's thoughts on why they work. The chapters quickly run together since they follow a similar structure and cover techniques we already know.

The final part of the book is two chapters: one on data based marketing and Lindstrom's experiment in direct peer marketing (The Morgenson). The last chapter of the book is the most interesting in concept and idea. It represents an interesting idea and insight that unfortunately is underdeveloped, as it appears to be an appendix to the book. It should have been the first chapter and illustrative basis for the book. As its written, it appears hurried, at a summary level and comes at a time when the reader is looking to finish the book more than restart their thinking about what they have just read.

STRENGTHS

The book provides an informative and insightful discussion of common marketing tools and techniques. Lindstrom covers the breadth of different ways that marketers seek to influence our buying habits.

Each technique is supported with Lindstrom naming names where he can, mostly referring to publically available information. Often he hints at insider knowledge that he alludes to, but does not divulge that information which is unfortunate.

The discussion is marketing centric, which is a strength, but much of what Lindstrom discusses is also a function of distribution and merchandizing. It would have been great to get more information about these aspects of marketing as that is what gets the product into the field and into our hands.

The book concentrates on marketing messages, tools and techniques aimed at middle class, middle aged, and boomers in the United States. This is good as this is a prime audience, but it is not the only audience.

CHALLENGES

Lindstrom seeks to build his own brand by bringing you into this secret club. In Brandwashed he is trying to get on your side by taking a conspiratorial tone in his discussion of marketing tools, tricks and techniques. This is ok, once you know it is going on, but if you start thinking `this guy is really smart and it is great that he is letting us see the inside of creepy corporate marketing' then think again.

Lindstrom mentions through out the book that he is an expert who has been hired by leading companies using these techniques. This should be a strength unfortunately Lindstrom frequently teases by saying "sorry I cannot say who" which is a cop out.

Lindstrom is largely silent on the issue of social media and the creation of community based marketing. This is surprising given Lindstrom's frequent reminder that his a leader in this area. If you are reading this book to understand social marketing, you should look elsewhere.

Lindstrom clearly has a strong dislike for two companies Whole Foods and foursquare, the location based social media company. Throughout the book he goes on to point out the contradictions of both of these companies is accurate, but the tone seems out of balance.

Overall, if you have not read about marketing techniques in a long time, then Brandwashed is helpful. However, if you are looking for a book about social media marketing, this is not it.

I would hope that readers of this review will judge it on explaining the two star rating rather than just reacting to the fact that I did not find the book a good follow-on to Buy-ology.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Simplistic, Sometimes Informative, October 7, 2011
This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
Author Lindstrom contends that research shows that a majority of our brand and product preferences are set by age seven; his own observations suggest that it even occurs earlier, around age 4 - 5. Some manufacturers try to manipulate our preferences before we're even born - unfortunately, the 'evidence' cited is unable to identify whether having eg. similar music preferences to one's mother is due to genetic or environmental effects. In fact, that alternative isn't even considered, which helps explain why 80% of new products fail within three months of introduction despite the expenditure of $15+ billion/year in market research.

Continuing, readers 'learn' that '75% of spontaneous food purchases can be traced to a nagging child' (influenced by ads or prior use), and that 'parents influence the preferences of their children' - both incredibly obvious. Regardless, despite my mother continually feeding me milk, bacon, and shredded wheat cereal on a regular basis, I hated all three and eventually convinced her to stop giving them to me; I suspect there are many others with similar stories.

Next we learn that 'fear' sells, though sometimes what you buy doesn't help - eg. hand sanitizers advertised to combat the threat of flu, despite its instead being transmitted by tiny inhaled droplets. So readers get 25 pages of various fears marketers play on to boost sales, despite that also being obvious to any adult.

Estimates of the proportion of people addicted to shopping range from 6 to 9%; the boost in self-esteem from interacting with store personnel is part of the rewards experienced from shopping. Lindstrom sees brand obsession as a subset of shopping addiction - eg. Starbucks, Miley Cyrus, sports team fanatics. Advertising and packaging cues are used to take advantage of this. Duh -

The rationale for the effectiveness of A&F's use of scantily-clad male models is discussed - Lindstrom offers a homo-erotic interpretation, I prefer the explanation that customers like to imagine themselves looking as good as the models. The next 'insight' is that marketers look for ways to entice both tweens/teens and their parents ('wallet-carriers') - again, hardly on the level of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Lindstrom dances all around the topic of sex - men don't like women's products (eg. liquid soap, facials) but they're starting to, they're more numbers oriented, but maybe not so much.

Much of the material reminds me of experts' thoughts about Apple's very successful stores - some (eg. Penney's) believe their secret lies in innovative leadership; I contend it simply is a matter of being stocked with Apple's highly admired products. In other words, Penney's unsuccessful former management would look like geniuses if they'd instead set up and run Apple stores, while the original Apple store management will look like dunces when they take over at Penney's.

Some researchers have found that it takes only 5% of 'informed individuals' following a pattern to influence the direction of up to 200 people. Lindstrom's conclusion - we look to others to inform the decisions we make. So, how does a marketer start a fad? The author suggests arranging viral YouTube videos, creating fake customer reviews (who would have guessed!), Amazon's 'Customers Who Bought This . . . '. Lindstrom also suggests that getting a 'hit' is as simple as giving the hundred more popular kids in a locale free versions of a game - eg. we have no free will. Or, produce something parents/adults will disapprove of - this purportedly creates a 90% chance that teens will like the involved product.

Lindstrom contends Asians are the most influenced by brands - part of their collectivist need to fit in. Russia boasts about 3,000 different vodka brands and 5,000 flavors.

Nostalgia marketing is a big attractor. Celebrity endorsements - makes us think of ourselves as similar, and are more likely to be remembered. Environmentalism is a helpful ploy because it assuages our conscience for other non-benevolent acts, and is a status symbol.

Data mining sources include Google searches, GPS tracking on cell phones, loyalty cards, credit cards, Amazon searches, etc. Slow Muzak makes one walk slower and buy more in a supermarket.

The current 'Gold Standard' for predicting movie hits is having movie fans buy/sell virtual shares in new films, using Hollywood Dollars at the Hollywood Stock Exchange. This method is also not being used to predict political campaign outcomes.

Facebook has 700 million active users (beginning of 2011), half log on at least once/day, and 100 million click the 'Like' button/day.

Overall, there's just not much here. Further, Lindstrom's main tool (fMRI imaging of the brain that measures the differing flow of oxygenated blood). Some researchers have concluded that a large proportion of fMRI studies utilize spurious and biased statistical processes, creating the appearance of unrealistically high correlations between assessments of individual emotional reactions and associated brain region activation. Does leave one wondering about a society in which branding and marketing have achieved such high status - isn't there something better we can do with that talent?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining reading...but hardly a no-holds-barred tell all..., August 5, 2011
This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
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In "Brandwashed", Martin Lindstrom offers a survey of the modern advertising landscape and tactics used to hook consumers on products. While it's interesting and entertaining enough, Lindstrom also describes long experience as an advertising insider; more than once he pulls punches and doesn't name all the names (perhaps not to anger his former clients that he may wish to work with in the future).

In short, we learn that advertisers do the following to us:
Try to hook us early, appeal to our fears, set their hooks deep to create demand for products and services, use sex in appealing to us, engage us in peer pressure, tie into our fond memories, use celebrity to sell stuff, promise to make us prettier or happier, relentlessly mine and catalog our consumer data, and try desperately to have the "right" people market via word of mouth.

I doubt there's anything in here that educated consumers (or those who have taken a marketing class) will find new. For everybody else, it's a few hours of easy reading that is hardly the "searing expose" promised in the product description.
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vital Message, Bad Delivery, August 18, 2011
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This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
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I wanted to give it 5 stars.

Its message is correct and vital: Marketers try to manipulate us early and often. They generally succeed. They're very determined and very smart, while most of us are too busy to notice. Or too insecure or naive.

How does Lindstrom convince us of this in 255 pages? With an avalanche of examples, too many of which are overblown or supported by "scientific claims" that are questionable or unnecessary to his point (examples below).

It's an odd feeling to agree with the author while being so turned off by his delivery. As if a "conspiracy theory" guy is straining to convince you that the earth is round, not flat.

To be fair, Lindstrom has a ton of experience with marketing people, and he covers brand management's many facets: Early indoctrination, fear, sexuality, peers, habits, nostalgia, 5 senses, celebrity, data mining, etc.

Yes, we should all stop and notice how marketing folks manipulate us 24x7. If we stop swallowing it all, our lives could be simpler, saner, and less debt ridden.

The message of this book is correct and vital, but the delivery is hard to swallow.

- - - High Points - - -

"Companies have been selling hope in one way, shape, or form for the past hundred years.... Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon...was quoted as saying 'In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore, we sell hope...'" (page 203)

"So yes, while companies and marketers have all kinds of sneaky ways of tricking us into buying their products, at the end of the day we're not just being brandwashed by companies...we're also being brandwashed by one another. page 250)

- - - Low Points - - -

"Fear mongering is also a tactic favored by big-box retailers like Wal-Mart.... [they] adjust their inventory to capitalize on the anxiety generated by the predictions of hurricanes, fires, ice storms.... this can be a genuine public service...but it's also true that even if there's a remote possibility of extreme weather, these retailers are lightening quick to erect huge front-of-store displays of...bottled water, power generators, shovels, mosquito nets...pulling in a tidy profit in the process." (page 30)

[So Wal-Mart is fear mongering because some storms come through weaker than predicted??]

"Moreover, many of these jars and containers are deliberately engineered so that when we unscrew that marmalade at home, we'll hear that comforting "smack" sound, further reassurance that what we've bought is fresh, clean, and safe -- never mind that the smacking sound was created and patented in a sound lab to manipulate us into believing that the marmalade was flown in from Edinburgh just this morning." (page 45)

[Oh really? The vacuum seal on preserves is a ploy that has no sanitary purpose? The sound verification tells us nothing?]

"When two researchers...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." (page 64)

[A lot of Lindstrom's examples are all dressed up in science, including fMRI brain scans. But most of them boil down to common sense: Companies make stuff that's yummy and pleasurable so we'll like it and buy more. Our brains know how to appreciate yummy stuff and crave more. duh!!]
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The American Consumer: Gullible or Just Plain Stupid?, August 10, 2011
This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
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I was a little leery about reading BRANDWASHED, because I knew it would probably make me realize how sneaky, subliminal marketing schemes had more control over my purchasing decisions than I did. After reading the book, I have wistfully come to the conclusion that the war between my own common sense vs. being victimized by savvy marketers was a draw. With BRANDWASHED, Martin Lindstrom dishes the dirt on the tactics companies (big and small) use to peddle their goods on the hapless consumer. While many of the revelations regarding these tactics are no big secret, I found it somewhat amazing as to how far companies will go to exploit consumers for the all mighty dollar. In the end, I was left wondering whether all of us were THAT gullible ... or just plain stupid.

Based on his career as an ad executive and marketing consultant, Lindstrom is obviously conversant with the strategies companies use to steer consumers their way and Lindstrom's insider-knowledge arguably adds a degree of veracity to this book (a marketing scheme in-and-of itself that led to me read his book). He organizes BRANDWASHED into chapters that focus on broad, yet tantalizing, topics of consumer influence, such as sex, nostalgia and celebrity branding. Each chapter is subsequently broken down into more detailed sub-chapters that illustrate the various "schemes" used to manipulate or control the population's purchasing decisions ... and we are all targets. As stated earlier, a good portion of the marketing methods illustrated throughout the book are age-old and proven marketing strategies (such as throwing a famous face or name on a product to create a "Just like Mike" sentiment). Unfortunately, I found such detailing of the obvious to be a monotonous read at times (such as the cheesy, not-so-subtle sex angle AXE uses to steer insecure men to their products). Conversely, I found some aspects of BRANDWASHED to be both revealing and entertaining ... like the marketing efforts used to influence children ... in their mother's womb. There is such a wide range of marketing angles discussed; it is quite clear that no consumer is left untargeted.

Personally, the most informative chapter in the book involves the manner in which food products are pushed on the public and how in some cases, FDA rules allow companies to make relatively false claims directly on their products (a "0 trans-fat" label doesn't necessarily mean zero trans-fat at all) and in other cases, products not yet subjected to FDA rules are pretty much free to falsely advertise (hello, multi-billion dollar per year health supplement companies). I think this chapter had more impact in that, unlike the non-essential, superfluous products that dominate the book's contents, food is enormously important. It was at this point that I began wondering if we consumers were gullible or simply stupid as it allowed me to recall a George Carlin bit regarding predatory corporate marketing in the food industry: "they use words like `old fashioned' to generate images of great-grandma cooking over a stove ... you know ... in the old days, when Botulism was still considered a sauce." Carlin (hilariously, I might add) called the marketing bluff by using simple common sense and the entire bit could make anyone question their intelligence ... this chapter of BRANDWASHED (among others) had the same effect. The surge of commonly known junk food suddenly being marketed as "healthy" because the word "fiber" or "whole grain" has been added to the front of the box made me think how many times I had been duped into thinking I was making a healthy choice (even though no change in the taste should have been an obvious clue). This chapter taught me that FDA rules actually contributed to consumers making ignorant decisions by being so permissive with its guidelines and policies ... or imposing no guidelines at all (again, the supplement industry).

BRANDWASHED, for the most part, is interesting in that it doesn't shy away from divulging the names of the companies that utilize the various marketing strategies outlined. By actually naming the companies (in lieu of neutral labels like Company A or Brand X), the book delivers a much more personal punch in that most readers will easily identify being victims of these various marketing schemes as some point their lives. While I still hold George Carlin's hilarious and often vulgar take on the issue of sleazy corporate sales tactics as king, BRANDWASHED offers the same message (in a much less abrasive manner). I wouldn't be surprised if most readers finish the book asking the same "gullible vs. stupid" question, as I did.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat entertaining, but opinion seems to trump true facts, February 24, 2012
This review is from: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy (Hardcover)
Overall I was disappointed by Brandwashed. Lindstrom tries to bring you inside the world of marketing, but I'd say that most of the revelations he gives fall into two categories:

1. Things you already knew and probably actually appreciate (like when supermarkets use the information from your loyalty card to give you targeted coupons for products you actually like and buy regularly).
2. Things that are more of a conjecture than actual fact (like the thinking that marketers are manipulating the music, smells, and tastes that pregnant women experience in order to hook the unborn children on their products prior to birth!)

If you area really interested in this subject, there is a fundamental book on persuasion that was required reading when I was in college and should be your first introduction to persuasion and manipulation: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)

That's a much better book, and doesn't suffer from Lindstrom's problem of selling himself throughout the book as a marketing expert.
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