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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criticism at its best, 19 Dec 2009
By 
Peter Buckley "peter15115" (Dyfed, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hidden Persuaders, The (Paperback)
Vance Packard was a ground-breaking social critic best known for `The Hidden Persuaders', which detailed how behavioural scientists recruited by the American advertising industry were increasingly using psychological techniques to increase sales. Motivational Research aimed to discover the reasons people bought one brand over another, fuelled purchasing `crazes', and generally spent in a seemingly non-logical or irrational way, revealing much about themselves to the observant analyst. Our subconscious attitudes, they discovered, are far from being the entire explanation of our buying behaviour, but manipulating them went a long way to help companies overcome hostility to their products.
Since this information has increasingly been traded, in order to persuade us to buy any number of goods, often in a manner cynically eroding individuality, Packard believed consumers should develop a `recognition reflex', to protect against the merchandising manipulators, or persuaders, because ultimately assuming that Commerce is merely supplying what we, the consumer, demands, is outmoded and simplistic.
Packard believes we are far more cautious about religion and politics, even though both can use alarmingly similar techniques to manipulate. Interestingly, many see the world as comprising these three elements; namely Religion, Politics and Commerce.
Most of us would like to think of ourselves as shrewd, careful, hard-headed consumers, highly individual, informed and enlightened. Ironically, this very image, by appealing to our vanities, is the one most favoured by the agencies persuading us to buy their products, from cars, insurance, foodstuffs, tobacco, clothing and cosmetics (specific products focused on in this book).
In another context, manipulation of our children's minds would trigger a storm of protest, but parents are now familiarly harassed by children into buying heavily advertised brands, starting with relatively low-cost items - fast-food, cereals, toys, but as children grow, advertisers pitch for increasingly expensive items - cars, computers, mobile phones, etc.
Do we only buy goods with our cash? One advertising executive thinks not. He used the example of a 25 cent bar of soap and a $2.50 jar of skin cream. "Why are women so willing to pay for beauty products? soap only promises cleanliness. The skin cream however, promises beauty, youth, success. Women are buying a promise. Cosmetic manufacturers are not selling skin cream, but hope." We no longer buy fruit and vegetables, we buy health and vitality. We do not buy cars, but prestige, not holidays, but travel experiences.
A writer quoted by Packard stated, `We are now confronted with the problem (to commerce), of permitting the average American person to feel moral even when he is spending not saving, taking two vacations a year, and buying a second or third car (not to mention increasing personal debt). How then to give people the sanction or justification to enjoy it, and demonstrate that a hedonistic lifestyle is moral not immoral. This permission... must be one of the central themes of advertising.' Reminded me of Gordon Gecko's motto `Greed is good' in `Wall Street'.
Many of the points made in this book are familiar to us, for example, criticism of tobacco advertising and sponsoring. When this book was published, in 1957, these were revelations. The original message still remains powerful. Packard believed the fundamental threat was to our rights of privacy and choice. Fifty years on is that not even more relevant? As the man said, "I prefer by my own free will not to be logical or rational if I so choose. I do not prefer my spending to be manipulated." I suspect the most sinister manipulation is carried out without any conscious knowledge on our part at all.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone dubious about consumerism should read this book!, 11 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Hidden Persuaders (Hardcover)
Anyone dubious about consumerism should read this and anyone who supports it cannot morally justify it in light of this staggering book. Packard wrote a meticulously researched, highly readable and shocking account of how the subconcious minds of the American public have been manipulated by the use of psychological testing to sell them mass produced good from the 50s onwards. This book needed to be written and is an unsettling and often sickening account of the lengths to which advertisers have gone to pursuade consumers to buy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book, 21 Dec 2009
This review is from: Hidden Persuaders, The (Paperback)
I can't remember where I got the recommendation to buy this book but I know it had something to do with Mad Men, and I was interested to read more about the advertising industry and the history of same. It is a really good book, so grab it if you are at all interested in this subject, because it often goes out of stock, but always seems to remain in print so that speaks volumes about the quality of the book itself even after all this time. Very enjoyable and suprising read about how people can be manipulated into buying just about anything.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A groundbreaking book on marketing and consumerism., 12 April 2007
This review is from: The Hidden Persuaders (Hardcover)
A popular phrase entitled 'We have ways to make you think' is fully exemplified in this book written half a century ago. Fast forward to today and we discover that these theories form the crux of Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP) the 3 most important words in Marketing. With a more Politically Correct (PC) society, many of these perceptions have been dispelled but have given rise to others with the rise of the Web and E Marketing. A groundbreaking book on marketing and consumerism.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading, 9 Sep 2013
By 
Bob Barr "Bob" (Lymm, Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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It is staggering that a book published in 1957 should remain so relevant, vibrant and important over 5 decades later. This is the story of how the consumer society was created by motivating the public to desire, consume and replace what they probably don't need and didn't know that they wanted. All the techniques described continue to be used to manipulate the public and drive an economy based on consumption, built in obsolescence and fad.

This should be essential reading for all young people in secondary school. However, unfortunately, the power of the persuaders is so great and our will, mine included, so weak that even knowing we are being manipulated for other's profit we continue to fall for it over and over again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 10 Aug 2013
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written many years ago but still valid today you can't trust advertisers to tell the complete truth a very good read if a little dry
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4.0 out of 5 stars A piece of our history that explains our present, 5 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Hidden Persuaders, The (Paperback)
It is of essential importance to know our recent past to understand our society and its means of control. This book is an introduction to the strategies used in the society of consumerism. An easy read worth the time and money invested.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting, 30 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Hidden Persuaders, The (Paperback)
this book is highly interesting and really makes you think about advertising and the way it influences the mind. A very good read for anyone who wants to avoid being tricked and manipulated by advertisers who are only after your money. Yes it is a little outdated but most of it still applies to today's world. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 25 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Hidden Persuaders, The (Paperback)
Marvellous.

A classic (first published in 1957) about the advertising industry and the use of psychology to create a consumer society. Fascinating as a history book, and an input into an understanding of the consumer culture we still live in.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Oldie but goodie, 18 Aug 2011
By 
Mr. Robert P. Green (BOLTON UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hidden Persuaders, The (Paperback)
Vance Packard's book changed the way I thought about marketing, I first read it in the early sixties and it was a revelation.I as a younger man harboured the delusion that business was a profit motivated but benign undertaking that provided us with the goods and services we needed.We have been drawn into consumerism by many influences but marketing has been the chief offender.This book lays the foundations of understanding the processes which have drawn us into the "must have" society
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Hidden Persuaders, The
Hidden Persuaders, The by Vance Packard (Paperback - 10 Oct 2007)
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