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Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy Hardcover – September 20, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Foreword by Morgan Spurlock

From the bestselling author of Buyology comes a shocking insider’s look at how today’s global giants conspire to obscure the truth and manipulate our minds, all in service of  persuading us to buy.

Marketing visionary Martin Lindstrom has been on the front lines of the branding wars for over twenty years.  Here, he turns the spotlight on his own industry, drawing on all he has witnessed behind closed doors, exposing for the first time the full extent of the psychological tricks and traps that companies devise to win our hard-earned dollars.
Picking up from where Vance Packard's bestselling classic, The Hidden Persuaders, left off more than half-a-century ago, Lindstrom reveals:
   • New findings that reveal how advertisers and marketers intentionally target children at an alarmingly young age – starting when they are still in the womb!
   • Shocking results of an fMRI study which uncovered what heterosexual men really think about when they see sexually provocative advertising (hint: it isn’t their girlfriends).
   • How marketers and retailers stoke the flames of public panic and capitalize on paranoia over global contagions, extreme weather events, and food contamination scares.
   • The first ever neuroscientific evidence proving how addicted we all are to our iPhones and our Blackberry’s (and the shocking reality of cell phone addiction - it can be harder to shake than addictions to drugs and alcohol).
   • How companies of all stripes are secretly mining our digital footprints to uncover some of the most intimate details of our private lives, then using that information to target us with ads and offers ‘perfectly tailored’ to our psychological profiles.
   • How certain companies, like the maker of one popular lip balm, purposely adjust their formulas in order to make their products chemically addictive.   
   • What a 3-month long guerilla marketing experiment, conducted specifically for this book, tells us about the most powerful hidden persuader of them all.
   • And much, much more. 
 This searing expose introduces a new class of tricks, techniques, and seductions – the Hidden Persuaders of the 21st century- and shows why they are more insidious and pervasive than ever. 

Amazon Exclusive: Steven D. Levitt Reviews BrandWashed

Steven D. Levitt is the best-selling author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics and a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. He is a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of forty.

Why do we always grab for the-second-newspaper-from-the-top of a stack of newspapers? When we talk on our cell phones why do most of us walk in a slowly decreasing circle? Do you know that "Competitive Altruism"--e.g. keeping up with that neighbor of ours who also owns a spiffy Prius--usually lies behind our decision to buy a bagful of organic apples and shut off the sprinkler?

The strange ways in which we consumers walk, talk, and whip out our wallets underscore BrandWashed, Martin Lindstrom's fascinating, entertaining, occasionally shocking expose of the drivers advertisers and marketers use to make us buy. I consider Martin a kindred spirit. He enjoys nothing more than uncovering the hidden incentives behind all kinds of human behavior and social phenomena, and the differences between how we say we act versus how we actually act (in econo-speak, we call this declared preferences versus revealed preferences).

Marketing and advertising are smarty-pants industries. They know a whole lot about us. A global marketing guru for such companies as Pepsico, Disney, McDonald's, and Microsoft, Martin takes us backstage to expose the ruses and tricks companies and marketers use to get us to spend mad money. Such as nostalgia, fear, peer pressure, celebrity, and the inclusion of magical ingredients and elixirs that promise to banish all human worry and make you look sixteen forever--well, at least until you die. Last but never least, there's sex. I promise you'll get a kick out of reading who the real audience for pretty-boy teen singers is, how men really respond to male-underwear ads, and the drunken research Unilever commissioned before the company rolled out its randy TV ads for Axe deodorant and body spray.

I've read the first chapter of dozens of business books over the last five years; rarely do I make it any further. Indeed, I've only read two business books from cover to cover in that time period: Buyology and BrandWashed. It is no coincidence that Martin Lindstrom is the author of both of those books. Simply put, Martin Lindstrom is the most innovative and creative marketer on the planet. BrandWashed is smart, thought-provoking, and laugh out loud funny. It's even better than Buyology, if that is possible. --Steven D. Levitt


"I've only read two business books from cover to cover in the last five years: Buyology and Brandwashed. It is no coincidence that Martin Lindstrom is the author of both of those books.  Brandwashed is smart, thought-provoking, and laugh out loud funny."  
-Steven Levitt, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and bestselling author of Freakonomics

-“If you buy products, you need to read this book. It's really that simple.”
 - Tom Rath, New York Times Bestselling author of StrengthFinder 2.0 and How Full is Your Bucket

"If you want to learn to cut through marketers' phoney health and wellness claims and make smarter decisions  -  about both your body and your money - you need to read this eye-opening book."
-Dr Oz, bestselling author of YOU: The Owner's Manual health series.

“Parents of small children who read this book will cringe (while lunging for the power button on the computer). Savvy marketers will take notes.”

"A fascinating read. ...Given just how marketing-saturated our culture has gotten, Lindstrom's book argues convincingly that no one should view himself or herself as a rational actor. It's worth thinking about the next time you walk out of Best Buy in a daze, having no idea what the heck you just spent $600 on.
-The Boston Globe.

“I am fascinated and empowered by Martin’s work, both as a business woman and as an individual consumer trying to buy smarter! Martin has changed the way I view brands and consumer behaviors. Very enlightening!"
-Tyra Banks

"A crucial bridge between the unconscious mind, the brand that's marketing to you, and the impulse to buy...it's a wake-up call that you can't afford to ignore!"
-- Jean Chatzky, bestselling author of Money 911, Financial Editor NBC Today
“I can’t think of a better tour guide to take us into the black box that is brand marketing. I’ll never look at my favorite brands the same way again!”
 - Bill Tancer, bestselling author of Click: What Millions do Online and Why it Matters.
“Martin Lindstrom makes the point that marketing today is about connecting with the consumers emotionally in order for them to participate in the brand. Surely he received some of his inspiration from Priceline.com and “the negotiator.” I found his book insightful and informative.”
-- William Shatner


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; First Edition edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385531737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385531733
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Laack VINE VOICE on January 20, 2012
Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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