Buyology by Martin Lindstrom examines the mental processes underlying our purchasing decisions. Since what we say we want and what our brains say we want are often at odds, this study will demonstrate the ineffectiveness of methods currently used in market research, such as questionnaires.
Instead, marketers should turn to neuromarketing, which is marketing that takes into account data obtained with state-of-the-art neuroimaging equipment to develop effective campaigns.
You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book summary will tell you everything about this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.
At the end of this book summary, I’ll also tell you the best way to get rich by reading and writing.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Lesson 1: Marketers are getting smarter and more effective at using our natural human reaction to fear to get us to buy their products.
Manipulating our mirror neurons or deeply embedded somatic markers is sophisticated, but it is also relatively safe. However, this is not true of all forms of advertising, some of which play on our worst fears to increase sales.
Marketing based on fear can be very effective. When we feel anxious or overwhelmed, we look for safe havens and rewarding activities – like making a purchase – to feel better and trigger a wave of feel-good dopamine. We get a dopamine boost when we shop, which tempts us to buy more.
One way to increase sales of underwear or shaving cream is to play on our fears of dying alone and then promise ourselves that we will get rid of those fears immediately.
Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous 1964 “Daisy” commercial, in which a child joyfully plays with daisies just before a nuclear explosion erupts behind him, is a striking example of this principle in action. There is a direct correlation between Johnson’s election and the averting of nuclear annihilation.
Political strategist Tom Freedman recently studied the effect of this commercial by examining the amygdala, the brain region responsible for processing fear, as voters watched the commercial. What did you find? Activity levels in the amygdala increased significantly. So, of course, Johnson ended up getting elected.
In addition, the absence of fear-based somatic markers may be associated with the purchase of certain products. Examples include diet pills and computer security software, which link the absence of their products with negative consequences to persuade us to buy them.
Johnson & Johnson’s No More Tears Baby Shampoo, for example, has become famous for its claim that it can prevent the unpleasant experience of having your eyes burn while bathing. Moreover, no parent would intentionally cause eye injuries to their child.
Lesson 2: Subliminal advertising is often used in the business world to influence consumer behavior.
Since 1957, when the first subliminal advertising was used in a shocking study, there has been widespread paranoia about subliminal messages, which is the use of visual, auditory, or other sensory messages that are picked up only by our subconscious. Although the study was debunked as a hoax, the National Association of Broadcasters nevertheless enacted a ban on subliminal advertising.
However, if we consider anything that increases the likelihood of a purchase to be subliminal messages, then it is clear that this form of advertising is still very much alive today.
Think of the pleasant aroma of freshly baked cookies wafting from the kitchen of the house you are visiting, the smell of a fresh car as you take a test drive, or the soothing sounds of Gershwin’s piano rolls in the background as you search for a new suit. All of these sensory experiences trigger conscious and unconscious responses.
Philip Morris, the parent company of Marlboro cigarettes, reportedly pays bars to subtly incorporate the Marlboro brand into the design of the establishment via color schemes, ashtrays and other symbols.
The question remains, however, whether or not these subliminal messages are effective. Neuromarketing studies show that they do. Willingness to pay can even be influenced by the fleeting impact of positive or negative emotions, according to a recent experiment.
Subjects were asked to pour themselves a drink and assign a value to it after seeing one of two faces. Subjects who saw the smiling faces poured significantly more and were willing to pay twice as much as those who saw the grumpy faces.
These results suggest that something as simple as a friendly greeting from a salesperson can have a significant impact on sales.
Lesson 3: Sales are surprisingly boosted by disclaimers and health warnings.
No longer do doctors advocate for a specific brand of cigarettes to their patients. Instead, they’ll be met with health warnings that range from truthful to graphic whenever a smoker walks into a convenience store to stock up on cigarettes. Despite all of this information, it is estimated that around 15 billion cigarettes are sold every day around the world.
When considering this, one must wonder if the disclaimers are effective.
In a nutshell, the answer is no. Cigarette warning labels appear to have no effect on reducing smokers’ urges to light up. Volunteers in one study were shown pictures of cigarette warning labels and then asked to rate how much they wanted to smoke afterward. Despite the volunteers’ best efforts, brain scans showed that the warnings had no effect on their cravings.
As a matter of fact, the very presence of cautionary labels is counterproductive. Rather than simply repelling people, the same study found that cigarette warnings stimulated the brain’s “craving spot,” or nucleus accumbens.
The author and his team of researchers conducted a similar experiment, this time showing an especially revolting anti-smoking advertisement to a group of volunteers.
The commercial depicts a seemingly friendly group of people sitting together and smoking cigarettes, but instead of smoke, the cigarettes are releasing globs of greenish fat. The fat drips down onto the table, the floor, and the people sitting at it, but nobody seems to care.
There’s no denying that smoking raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are both bad for your health. Surprisingly, however, this vile advertisement did not cause smokers to give up their harmful habit. The pleasant company of these talkative individuals instead drew their attention, and they became even more eager to light up.
Therefore, cigarette health disclaimers encourage smoking rather than discouraging it.
Lesson 4: Brands that secure the respect and devotion of their customers use tactics adopted from the world’s greatest religions.
How are the Catholic Church and Coca-Cola similar? The answer may come as a surprise: they use many of the same tactics to build and maintain the loyalty of their customers.
One reason is that brands associated with rituals that approximate religion are more memorable because they evoke positive associations.
Take the Oreo cookie, for example. While others prefer to dunk the entire cookie in a glass of milk, some people like to break it open and lick the filling out of the center. The Oreo is as much a ritual as a cookie, because everyone has their own way of eating it.
In addition, powerful brands, like major religions, proclaim a unique mission that sets them apart from the competition. For example, “Solutions for a Small Planet” is the company’s stated mission IBM. Bang & Olufsen, on the other hand, prides itself on having “the courage to continually challenge the ordinary in search of surprising, enduring experiences.”
Much like the “us versus them” mentality promoted by many religions to build loyalty among fans, brands are doing the same. Whether it’s Coke and Pepsi or Visa and Mastercard, successful brands create their niches by standing out from the crowd. This approach may be divisive, but it works to attract die-hard fans and secure our loyalty.
Much like the logos of different religions, brands also use iconography in the form of logos. Take, for example, the “swoosh” and “golden arches” of Nike and McDonald’s. These logos evoke strong emotional responses from consumers, much like the religious connotations we associate with images of angels and crowns of thorns.
The way our brains respond to such messages, for example, is similar for strong brands and religious references. In one neuromarketing study, for example, it was found that the brain activity of volunteers was virtually identical when they viewed images of religious symbols and strong brands such as iPods, Harley-Davidson, and Ferrari. So it seems that the way we think about a strong brand is very similar to the way we think about our religious beliefs.
Buyology Book Review
Buyology is a great book I’d like to recommend to anyone who is interested in marketing. If you spend some time digesting the ideas, it might make a positive impact on your career and business.
Since most of our purchasing decisions are made unconsciously, we are often not even able to evaluate them accurately. Marketers need to use neuromarketing research techniques to look into the minds of customers to gain insights into their motivations and thought processes.
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