Wednesday, August 31, 2011

notes on buy-ology by martin lindstrom

During the laid-back summer months that I was not involved with Tech's New Student Orientation, I was able to satisfy the bookworm in me. One of the best books I read this summer was Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom.

The other night I was reading through some of the notes I wrote while I was reading the book and tabbed important pages. I was quickly reminded of how much I enjoyed reading this book. Lindstrom truly delves into the subconscious mind of consumers-- and of the human population in general. He mentioned multiple times that his research and analysis were not solely for the benefit of marketers. He wanted consumers to understand why we tend to make decisions irrationally and how to avoid falling subject to subliminal marketing techniques.

First, I should start off by actually explaining what "buyology" is. Lindstrom defines this clever term as "the subconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires that drive the purchasing decisions we make each and every day of our lives (3)."

Lindstrom points out that "how we say we feel about a product can never truly predict how we behave (169)." This observation suggests that traditional marketing research techniques may not be sufficient in revealing consumer opinion about certain brands. Enter neuromarketing studies. These studies help the industry--as well as us, the consumers--understand our "unconscious minds control our behavior (11)."

Lindstrom also elaborates on the point that brands are more than attractive packaging and aesthetically pleasing design. Some brand associations are deeply rooted in our memories from years of exposure and continued loyalty to certain products.

Other cool topics in this book include...

The role of mirror neurons in our purchasing decisions. Mirror neurons are "neurons that fire when an action is being performed and when that same action is being observed (54)." How does this play into our purchasing decisions? When we see someone we admire-- or would like to identify ourselves with--with a certain product, we too would like to obtain said product. As Lindstrom says, "it's as though you've just bought an image, an attitude, or both (59)." In much simpler terms, monkey see, monkey do.

My personal favorite insight I gained is scientific PROOF that shopping does in fact make us happier. This, of course, is something I've always inherently known, but it's reassuring to have the evidence to justify my urge to buy that new pair of shoes. As found on page 63, "that does of happiness can be attributed to dopamine, the brain's flush of reward, pleasure and well-being. When we first decide to buy something, the brain cells that release dopamine secrete a burst of good feeling." So there IS such thing as retail therapy.

We can't make decisions without somatic markers. Somatic markers are "brain shortcuts" that are formed when the brain "scans incredible amounts of memories, facts, and emotions and squeezes them into a rapid response (130)." Many of our brand preferences stem from "somatic markers the brand has carefully created (133-4)." Often times our purchasing decisions seem rational, but instead they are many times irrational and subliminal.

"The current recession has created: one big somatic marker linking money and spending to the massive sense of fear and uncertainty that has wracked the world (208)." I think that this quote is pretty self-explanatory in terms of how somatic markers are created and acknowledged by our unconscious selves. We see the turmoil in the economy, and we note that frivolous spending is deemed irresponsible because of people's monetary standing. People of my generation will now have this somatic marker, or memory of a difficult experience, to refer to in future years, so hopefully unnecessary excessive spending will not be a problem...until the next generation comes around.

I hope that you are now intrigued and will go out and read this book. It is truly one of my favorites.

All quotes are from:

Lindstrom, Martin. (2010). Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. New York: Broadway Books.

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