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on 4 January 2009
buyology presents a few interesting insights, but mostly the narrative is marred by the authors irrelevant and boastful ego trip. Also - I find the book lacking in nuance. E.g. Lindstrom often reports that X has an effect on Y - but not how big an effect, and alternative explanations are not given much thought nor space.

Mostly the book fails because it does not tell us why we react in certain ways. In that respect the book simply shows us that brainscanning can tell us which advertising schemes works. But brainscanning can't tell us in advance how or why this works and that does not. Also the book lacks a discussion of how the brainscanning set-up is different from real-world advertising. E.g. It's all fine that mirror-neurons get credit for the ipod fad, but why only the ipod? Why not all other products?

A better book, with focus on the brain, would be A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives. Also The Political Brain: How We Make Up Our Minds Without Using Our Heads is highly reccommended.
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on 26 December 2008
This is a pretty lightweight book, and self-indulgent as well.

Most people will learn very little of interest that they probably don't already know. The possible exception to this is facts about the author himself, which are sprinkled throughout the text. Did you know he has an "extremely young, boyish-looking face"? Or that he has "raked-back blond hair"? Do you care?

So anyway, what I have learned is that we don't remember most of the advertisments we see; and we mostly buy stuff for irrational, unconscious or emotional reasons. And by scanning people's brains, you can see how different parts respond to brands and logos. This gives you a bit of insight into hard-to-explain human behaviour, such as smokers who smoke heavily despite the dire health warnings on cigarette packets.

Other amazing things I've learned include the fact that the smell of coffee makes you want to drink coffee.

As far as the book itself goes, Lindstrom fails to produce a decent narrative - it's just a jumble of loosely-connected facts, heaps and heaps of padding, repetition and irrelevant personal details. Plus I spotted a couple of dubious-looking "facts" which I easily found to be incorrect with a quick search of the web.

And as for the author himself - well, after a while he just comes across as egotistical, if not mildy delusional. He's just puffing up a few fairly obvious bits of science into a book he can use to promote his own personal brand.

Oh, and he claims to be responsible for egg yolks being bright yellow. I kid you not.
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on 24 January 2010
Like other bona fide readers of this book, I found it a strange mixture: it does have some interesting insights. But these are overshadowed by the vanity of the author. As well as a shocking sloppiness about facts: for example, one of the two scientific techniques used in the research that supposedly underpins this books is "S.S.T." What does SST actually stand for? Good question - in some parts of the book (e.g. the index) he says it stands for "Solid State Typography". Elsewhere is the book he says it stands for "Solid State Topography". (e.g. page 208). If he can't get even that right, it's difficult to trust him elsewhere.

Speaking of trust. I can't help notice that reviews on this site for this book fall into two camps: reviews like mine, which say the book is "okay but". There there are THIRTY reviews which give it a 5. All these reviews appear to be by reviewers who have reviewed no other book, and give this work one paragraph reviews that verge on the ecstatic: "Mind Blowing!" "Oh what a book!" "Perfectly written". I'm sorry, and I don't wish to offend anyone, but I find it difficult to believe that all these reviews are genuine.

If you're interested in the subject, worth buying -- but be prepared to skip the bits about what a genius the author is, and treat the book with caution -- as well as some of the reviews about it you can read here.
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on 6 December 2008
This book talks about research which has been carried out to determine what makes us buy things. Paco Underhill wrote "Why we Buy" but his approach has been to study people in supermarkets and understand behaviour that way. This book uses the latest in technology - eg MRI - to assess reactions to things. So there is a kind of bizarre fascination in reading how we really do not understand why we react to things in a particular way - it is all determined by the subconscious. Some very interesting findings are presented. My problem is that reading this book is a bit like going on a treasure hunt. There are some wonderful grains of genius, but there is a lot of fluff around it. I got the impression that this author was padding it out so that he could produce a decent length book and make a lot of money. He repeats himself a lot and engages in a lot of "Did you think X? Well, the next chapter will show you how wrong you were" or "I thought Y, and I set out to prove it". OK, I can see the author is some kind of genius, but this book really should provide more for your money than a few interesting facts dressed up in a long and rambling tale.

If you're interested in marketing then by all means buy this book but be prepared to be bored at least half of the time.
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on 3 October 2010
Let me begin by quoting a few phrases from this book:

"I'm a global branding expert....if you look around, chances are pretty good you'll find my branding fingerprints all over your house or apartment"

"My globe-hopping experience gives me a helicopter view of probable future consumer and advertising trends"

"At 38, I stand about five feet eight inches [with] an extremely young, boyish-looking face"

"I only spend 60 days at home"

I could go on and on and on. Put simply, this is the WORST book I've ever read. I'm a scientist who has moved into marketing/branding/communications and the more I read this book, the angrier I became. Let's take the "science" in this book - so called neruomarketing. Here was an opportunity for the author to take this subject by the horns and really help us understand what makes consumers make the choices they do, given (or despite) all the marketing thrown at them. Instead, we are presented with barely any scientific facts or any clarity/descriptions into the experiments undertaken. The author then goes onto make sweeping generalizations and hypotheses - none of which are based on the "experiments" but more on anecdotal evidence collected from his experiences of travelling around the world. Statistical validity and significance aren't an issue for this guy. Ultimately, it comes down to "you need an fMRI machine to understand consumer behaviour because market research doesn't work". Given that these machines cost tens of millions of pounds, I'll take my chances with market research, thanks.

The book is also full of marketing claptrap - helicopter view??? Come on, how much padding and bull do we need in a book? It suggests the author doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. Indeed, anytime he remotely touches an interesting subject, we're off down another tangent on how the world is based around him. Chapters go off down strange routes and take you around in circles. It would be a little easier to read if the padding made sense, but it doesn't.

And this is the worst aspect of the book. Every paragraph has to be related back to the author - I've never read such egotistical crap in my life. Basically, the world revolves around Lindstrom. He's the branding king because he flies around the world.

I would recommend anyone interested in branding, marketing and/or the science behind marketing should avoid this book. The author spends too long talking about himself and this book reveals nothing new.

Utter, utter waste of money. I'm not even going to give the book away. I'm going to recycle it and re-use the Earth's precious resources.

I agree with another reviewer and would question the validity of those people that have awarded this book 5 stars - they don't seem to have reviewed anything else.
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On one level this is about advertising and persuasion through neuromarketing. World class branding guru Martin Lindstrom commissioned a couple of top researchers, Dr. Gemma Calvert using fMRI technology, and Professor Richard Silberstein using SST technology, to look inside the heads of consumers to see why we buy what we buy. Lindstrom, who makes a living advising international corporations on what works and what doesn't work in advertizing and marketing, was led to this approach because of an unshakable unease within the corporate world about the effectiveness of their research and advertising methods, an unease due primarily to the fact that "80 percent of all product launches fail in the first three months." (p. 167, and Chapter 1)

What he found out is that people themselves often do not know which commercials or advertisements are effective, and so asking them is a waste of time and money. To put it bluntly, we often do not know why we buy what we buy. There are subconscious factors at work that go directly to various brain centers and modules governing fear, greed, sex, power, status, etc. that not only override our conscious, rational minds, but actually operate independent of our consciousness. Lindstrom writes, "...most of our buying decisions aren't remotely conscious. Our brain makes the decision and most of the time we aren't aware of it." (p. 199)

On another level "Buyology" goes beyond advertizing and persuasion. On this level Lindstrom's book is about corporations and perhaps ultimately our governments going directly into the minds of consumers and citizens to exercise control over people in order to get them to do what they want them to do. In a sense this amounts to a postmodernist fusion of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and Vance Packard's "The Hidden Persuaders."

Unlike Huxley and Packard, however, Lindstrom is optimistic about where this research will lead. He argues that if we have "a better understanding of what drives and motivates" us, "what attracts and repels," we "can escape all the tricks and traps that companies use to seduce us...and get us to buy and [we will therefore be able to] take back our rational minds." (pp. 204-205).

I have my misgivings. I see neuromarketing being used to package political candidates to appeal to our limbic systems and ultimately being used to stifle unpopular views and behaviors contrary to what the power structure desires. Lindstrom is aware of this trend and writes, "I predict that the 2008 American presidential showdown will be the last-ever election to be governed by traditional surveys, and that by 2012, neuroscience will begin to dominate all election predictions." (p. 30) This is after recalling on the previous page that the famous 1964 "Daisy" ad showing "a young girl frolicking with a daisy as a nuclear explosion detonates" and "the September 11 imagery" in 2004 "triggered a noticeable, across-the-board increase in activity in voters' amygdalas." The amygdala "governs, among other things, fear, anxiety, and dread." The unmistakable conclusion is that fear helped Lyndon Baines Johnson and George W. Bush win elections.

One of the reasons I am not as optimistic as Lindstrom stems from one of the striking discoveries in the book, namely that smokers are not deterred in the slightest from having horrific words and pictures on their packs of cigarettes. Instead those words and images merely serve to remind them of what it is they want: to light up! (see especially page 82). Consequently we might know that a candidate is using fear or hate to get inside our heads and persuade us to vote for him but still be unable to vote otherwise. In fact, what usually happens when we do something for a reptilian brain inspired reason is that we use our rational minds merely to justify the behavior.

Some interesting conclusions that Lindstrom came to after evaluating the research:

Product placement doesn't work. The product needs to be tied to the entertainment vehicle itself in some way. He shows this by comparing how little Ford got for its ads on TV's "American Idol" compared to what Coca -Cola got. See Chapter 2: "This Must Be the Place: Product Placement, American Idol, and Ford's Multimillion-Dollar Mistake." No he wasn't talking about the Edsel. That's another story.

Sex may get your attention, but it doesn't sell, in fact it distracts--unless of course the ad promises more sex for you! If the advertiser can persuade you that buying the product is going to make you sexier, then it works.

Celebrity endorsements? "Well, evidence suggests that just as sex hijacks our attention away from the crucial information in an advertisement, so, too, can extreme beauty or celebrity." (p. 186)

Brand logos may not be important as the aurora surrounding them. Lindstrom shows how even a fish can become a brand and by becoming a brand be much more valuable than its nearly identical cousins. (See pages 200-203). He also shows how the colors and the atmosphere associated with a brand, such as the rugged Western outdoor-ness of the Marlboro brand, can be more effective in selling the product than the brand logo itself. Lindstrom concludes, "...when we brand things, our brains perceive them as more special and valuable than they actually are." (p. 203) To really bring home the significance of this, he reports that Dr. Calvert "discovered that when people viewed images associated with...strong brands...their brains registered the exact same patterns of activity as they did when they viewed...religious images." (p. 124)

All I can say is that neuromarketing may turn out to be a more powerful and more frightening tool than, say, bioengineering or replicating nanobots.
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on 21 September 2010
I really hated this book. I simply could not get beyond the arrogance of the man. It might have made a good New Yorker article (with a good sub-editor) but it is painful reading this material stretched to cover a whole book. In fact I gave up after a couple of chapters. I find it hard to say what I hated the most; probably his frenetic writing style - crammed full of hyperbole. And the 'bite-size' mini-chapters that assume we have the attention span of a gnat.

Oh - and Amazon if you are reading this - it seems that Lindstrom's marketing department are writing all the five star reviews. It's almost funny how similar they all are!

If you get further than me, I admire your patience
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on 29 February 2016
This is utterly fantastic. I am fascinated with the psychology behind buying, shopping and design of stores, and this book absolutely quenches my thirst for more knowledge on the subject. I've even managed to get my family to read this book, and they love it too!

It's great, easy to read and not too daunting like other text books can be on this matter. It is not theory based, rather written with the intent of educating everyone (rather than a tool for students).
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 March 2010
In fact - pretty much everything people, who have been involved more than superficially in branding and marketing think about how people buy, is confirmed as right by the book.

The idea of neuromarketing is definitely appealing and the process of supplanting relatively basic survey type attitudinal research with a version of the approaches the author suggests (fMRI / SSL) is definitely valid and much to be recommended. Some of the insights so derived at the beginning of the book are pretty interesting.

Unfortunately the author does not dwell on how to apply th methods or go into sufficient detail on that part but launches into several 'myth-busting' episodes, which show more the author's lack of knowledge of the state of knowledge in psychology and consumer behaviour than that readers have unfounded preconceptions.

The author confounds the problem by first claiming how all survey based attitudinal research is largely useless and then proceeds to use only this type of data for several of the chapters to prove points later on in the book (for instance on the selling power of sex). I am not per se disagreeing with the conclusion that sex does not sell but the way this conclusion was reached was relatively dubious.

At the end of the day this is more about being a promotional tool for the author as a guru and his consulting services than it is a real scholarly or deeply insightful book. In addition to some interesting parts early on, I see the main benefit of it as a tool for nudging some dinosaurs still present in marketing departments to start thinking in the right direction - i.e. towards using proven tools that actually work, rather than tools that have always been used 'around here'.

There are some aspects of the book, which are particularly galling and which made me lower my rating from an otherwise possible 3 to 2 stars. First of all, the author seems largely blissfully unaware of research efforts predating him. Looking at something as old as Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man a lot of the same principles were known even back in 1962 - not from neuromarketing, for sure, but from direct marketing, where response to campaign stimuli could be measured directly and easily even back then. A lot of biases and heuritics described herein can be read about in much more detail (and more correctly) in something like Choices, Values, and Frames. The list goes on and on. Ignoring all the preceding research, which shows the same points and with ample empyrical evidence to back it up and claiming that the author was the first one to join the scientific method and marketing is laughable and simply detracts from the author's credibility.

On top of that he often gets caught in his own gurudom to the extent where judgements are passed without any justification, just because he finds them intuitively appealing (examples such as the tyre industry one have demonstrably been proven in research to be wrong). And then there is the general level of sloppiness creeping in, unbefitting to a brand expert - Toyota Scion anyone? Energizer bunny being unique (how about the practically identical, down to the colour, Duracell bunny) and many others.
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on 5 July 2009
As a brand marketer who has lost confidence in traditional research methods I am very keen to find new methods that might offer just a little bit more truth in return for the vast sums of money spent in this area.

Although there are probably some real interesting nuggets in Martin's book, unfortunately his personality and attitude towards the results renders it painful to read. How many times must Martin tell us that his study is the 'largest and most important of its kind ever carried out'? Or refer to the importance of his personal contribution to the brands we see around us today? And what do we care of his youthful looks?!!!

I feel this book would have really benefitted if Martin had left out the continuous references to how wonderful he is. Or even more so if he'd taken the time to put himself in the fMRI machine to understand what it was that compelled him to make such references. If you're that confident of you own greatness, surely you don't need to tell anyone?
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