Book Review: Brandwashed

Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy

By Martin Lindstrom

Reviewed by Kevin Price, Publisher and Editor in Chief, US Daily Review

Cynical consumers have long felt that major companies have been using “tricks” to persuade people in their decision making.  Martin Lindstrom attempts to prove that this is the case and to quantify the impact. 

In the book, Lindstrom:

  • Explores “how marketers are targeting younger and younger children, exploiting findings that show babies recognize brands by eighteen months and can hear and remember ad jingles from the womb.”  Upon reviewing the book, much of this is doubtful.  Much of his information is anecdotial and suspect, in my opinon and he is quick to jump to conclusions. 
  • In addition, Lindstom seeks to discover “how companies hijack information from our Facebook profiles, cell phones, and computer history to secretly mine our digital data for the most intimate details of our private lives so they can target our vulnerabilities.”  I think some of my push against the book is this precise language.  I was looking for an honest discovery weighing the effectiveness of advertising and a balanced view on its pros and cons.  Instea,d the author clearly has an agenda and tries to promote it on every page.
  • Other areas he explores is the work of entertainment personalities, such as Justin Bieber and his effort to target and pursue a young audience, and much more.

No serious student of business is going to question the ability of advertising to persuade.  If it was not effective, companies would not invest in it.  As someone who has worked in media for two decades — as both a radio personality and now a publisher (US Daily Review), I certainly hope advertising serves my clients well.  Dr. Thomas Sowell’s book, Knowledge and Decisions actually cites some of the virtues of advertising and marketing by its ability to easily make information available to consumers they might not be able to find themselves.  Thus, advertising might actually enhance the value of goods and services.

I really enjoyed Lindstrom’s book, Buyology, but was not as persuaded by his latest effort.  I think it is because the first seemed far more committed to expanding knowledge, while his latest work has more of an agenda.  However, Lindstrom brings a great deal of credibility to his work.  He is chairman and founder of Buyology, Inc., was named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009 by Time magazine; and he is considered one of the world’s best known marketers.  He advises top executives and their companies such as McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, and Microsoft.

If you can get past the agendas, you will find plenty of information and it is worth the read.  But when you proceed with it, I suggest caution.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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