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“BUY*OLOGY: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom via [USA Today]

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‘Buyology’ offers a peek inside
buyers’ heads

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We BuyBuyology:
Truth and Lies About Why We Buy
by Martin
Lindstrom

Buy new: $10.20 / Used from:
$9.10
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By Seth Brown, Special for USA
TODAY

Picture a mad scientist in his
laboratory, cackling with glee as he tries to unlock the secrets of the
human mind. Now, consider the unsettling possibility that the scientist
may be on to something.

Marketing expert Martin Lindstrom is that
scientist, caught up in the excitement of research in his new book, Buyology.
Lindstrom first became aware of neurological marketing research
through a Forbes magazine article, “In Search of the Buy
Button.”

The article discussed a lab in England, where a
neuroscientist teamed with a market researcher to scan the brainwaves of
subjects watching commercials. Lindstrom was thrilled that unbiased
access to the consumer brain was finally available.

A difficulty of standard marketing research,
Lindstrom says, is that people will not — or cannot — provide accurate
information about their mental states.

When asked why they prefer a brand of soft drink,
or how a warning label affects them, most people cannot give a straight
answer. This, Lindstrom says, is the great advantage of brain waves.

“They don’t waver, hold back, equivocate, cave in
to peer pressure, conceal their vanity, or say what they think the
person across the table wants to hear. … Neuroimaging could uncover
truths that a half-century of market research, focus groups and opinion
polling couldn’t come close to accomplishing.”

Two technologies were used in Lindstrom’s
studies: SST (Steady State Topography) and fMRI (functional Magnetic
Resonance Imaging). In a series of tests spanning three years and more
than 2,000 subjects, he concluded:

  • Warning labels on cigarettes don’t work. They
    stimulate activity in the part of a smoker’s brain linked to cravings.
  • Traditional advertisements no longer create lasting
    impressions.
    By age 66, most people with a TV will have seen
    nearly 2 million commercials. That makes it hard for an ad to increase a
    viewer’s memory of a brand, despite the millions spent.
  • Product placement only works when fully integrated. It
    works when Coke-bottle-shaped furniture is part of the set design on American
    Idol
    , for example, or when Reese’s Pieces candy was used for bait
    in the movie E.T. However, when a product is not integrated,
    such as FedEx packages appearing in the background of Casino Royale,
    there is no measurable effect with regard to viewer recollection of
    brand.
  • Sex sells itself. Viewers of sexually suggestive
    ads did pay attention, but more to the sex than the ad. In one study,
    fewer than 1-in-10 men who saw a sexually suggestive ad could recall the
    product, while twice as many remembered the product in non-sexually
    suggestive ads.
  • Successful branding functions like religion. Simple
    rituals, such as putting a lime wedge in a Corona or slowly pouring a
    Guinness, give the brand added cachet. Brands attract zealous followers —
    “I’m a Mac; I’m a PC.” Scans using fMRI technology showed that some
    viewers had the same neurological response to strong brands that they
    did to religious iconography.
  • Subliminal advertising can be highly effective. When
    watching an advertisement, viewers automatically raise their guard
    against its message. With subliminal advertisements, viewers’ guards are
    down, so their responses are more direct.
  • Marketing isn’t restricted to the visual. Many
    companies use smells to sell products. Fast-food restaurants and
    supermarket bakeries use artificial fresh-cooked food smells. Sounds
    also effect buying. A study showed shoppers purchased French or German
    wine depending on which nationality’s music was playing on store
    speakers.

Lindstrom’s research should be of interest to any
company launching a new product or brand. “Eight out of 10 products
launched in the United States are destined to fail,” Lindstrom writes.
“Roughly 21,000 new brands are introduced worldwide per year, yet
history tells us that more than 90% of them are gone from the shelf a
year later.”

It’s likely that the information in this book
will be used in future marketing campaigns, so even if you aren’t in the
marketing business, it’s a worthwhile read as a measure of
self-awareness and self-defense.

Seth Brown is a freelance writer and the
author of Rhode Island Curiosities. His website is
http://www.RisingPun.com


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