BRANDWASHED: Tricks Companies Use To Manipulate Our Minds And Persuade Us To Buy by MARTIN LINDSTROM

So many tricks are played on us (the consumers) by so many brands, companies and stores that it’s mind-blowing. On one hand the tricks companies, brands and stores use to sell to us make us feel good about what we buy, so they empower us. But on the other hand, did we really wanted to buy what we bought, or even more troublesome, did we really needed to buy what we bought? In the book you will read, that companies start targeting you even before you are born through the senses of your mother. Later as a child you are targeted by cartoons and cartoon characters, jingles, peer pressure and so on. Research also showed that if you start to use a certain brand at a younger age you are more likely of using it longer as you grow up. In the book you will also read how stores are set up to give you a feeling of fresh food, or a certain vibe with which you wish to identify yourself with. You will also find examples of how they use hope, fear and other emotions to push your buy buttons. Where we buy, what we buy, listen to and so on is our ID of who we are, and companies know that. That is why they (companies) constantly observe and study us (consumers) and our buying habits with the help of loyalty programs, in cooperation with banks and credit card companies (especially in the USA). Remember that the only goal a brand or a company has is to get the biggest share of your wallet as it possibly can get. Do not get me wrong, they are not evil or bad, they are just doing their job – to get your money. It’s our (the consumers) job to educate ourselves how they are after it and not to fall for every “trick in the book”. I encourage you to read and learn about how we are being marketed and sold to, and let’s make them work for our money.

My notes from the book:

  • Everything we use, watch and listen is a form of ID. A statement to the world about who we are or who we wish to become.
  • Most of our adult tastes and preferences (food, drink, clothes, shoes, cosmetics,…) are actually rooted in our early childhood. Studies have shown that a majority of our brand and product preferences are pretty firmly embedded in us by the age of seven.
  • With smell, patients who lost their memories because of injury can recall them.
  • Smell is the most powerful, the most primitive, the most directly hard-wired sense in our brain.
  • When the mother frequently listens to music, the fetus will learn to recognize and prefer that same music compared to other music. The fetus will build the same musical taste with his/her mother automatically, since all the hormones of the mother are shared by the fetus.
  • The minute we’re born, we may already be biologically programmed to like the sounds and music we were exposed to in utero.
  • Pregnancy is among the most primal, emotional periods in women’s lives. Between the hormonal changes and the nervous anticipation of bringing another life into the world they are most vulnerable to suggestion.
  • Companies of all stripes know full well that advertisements also begin to shape children’s lasting preferences at an alarmingly young age and that the younger we are when we begin using a product, the more likely we are to keep using it for the rest of our lives.
  • Children can be a marketing tool in and of themselves, thanks to their “pester power” – their ability to influence their parents’ purhcases. One of two mothers will buy a food simply because her child requests it. To Trigger a desire in a child is to trigger a desire in the whole family.
  • Nostalgia is one of the most powerful hidden persuader around, and it’s being used in all kinds of ways to brandwash us.
  • Fear brings humans together. It has a perverse yet delicious binding quality. It’s for this reason we love to spread fearful rumours.
  • Our brains are hardwired to fear potential threats.
  • Fear is far more potent than our facility for reason.
  • Fear of failure drives consumers far more than the promise of success.
  • Sometimes advertisers prey on our fears of our worst selves by activating insecurities that we didn’t even know we had.
  • Fear mixed with a high level of blame, regret, guilt, or even a dare tends to translate emotion into action.
  • Studies have shown that women are more prone to fear and guilt than men are.
  • No one is more vulnerable to fear and guilt than mothers, particularly new mothers.
  • Once something is part of our routine, it becomes almost impossible to shake. – think about how you can make your product or service a part of your customers routine?
  • cravings may seem to come out of nowhere, in reality they are often triggered by some physical and emotional cues in our surroundings, whether we realize it or not.
  • Sounds are incredibly effective at triggering cravings. For example the sound of the sizzle of a frying steak, or the crackle and fizz of a beverage being poured into a glass filled with ice cubes.
  • According to a study published in nature neuroscience, high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in a way that is nearly identical to cocaine and heroin.
  • Near misses increase the desire to play the game. Win or lose, our brains just want to keep playing.
  • In general, women tend to be more easily persuaded by ads that are more romantic than sexual, ones that emphasize commitment, devotion and partnership.
  • Men respond to sexual innuendo and women in bikinis, especially when the ads or commercials have a heaping dose of adolescent humour.
  • When a typical women chooses a product 80% of the reason is emotional and only 20% is rational – this is why most advertising aimed at women tends to play to emotions, like nostalgia or fear, or envy.
  • An experiment conducted in 2008 by researchers at Leeds University suggests that humans flock like sheep and birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals (about 5% of the group) who appeared to have some idea of what they were doing / where they were going. The rest of the 95% of the group trail along without even being aware of it.
  • When you show people a pile of photos from a party, the first thing they do is pause and look at the pictures of themselves. The second thing they do is pause and look at the pictures of people surrounding them. Because once they have taken note of how they appear, they need to analyse how they appear compared with others. We as human being never assess ourselves, our behaviour or our decisions in vacuum – we assess them in relation to everyone else.
  • The most persuasive marketing messages aren’t magazine ads or TV commercials or billboards, but are the ones that come from or at least seem to come from our peers.
  • When it comes to the things we buy, what other people think matters a lot. Even when these people are complete strangers.
  • In the end what we buy really has little to do with what we want and more to do with what we think we should want.
  • Many of the great businesses of the next decade will be about making information about consumer behavior more visible.
  • Just mentioning time in an advertising campaign makes people more likely to buy a product.
  • We as consumers are seeking to activate and recreate taste memories from long ago, though we’re not always conscious of it.
  • Fame (of a person) is more powerful than beauty in persuading us to buy something.
  • People love to achieve top member status in organizations loyalty programs.
  • More choice often leaves consumers less satisfied and less likely to buy something. We are paralysed by the fear of making a wrong and expensive choice.
  • The fewer choices and selections we face, the more likely we are to pick up and buy something.
  • A study in 2009 in Emory University school of Medicine scientists led by Gregory Berns showed that receiving “expert” advice shuts down the areas of our brains that are responsible for decision-making processes, especially when the situation involves risk.
  • The brain relinquished responsibility when a trusted authority provides expertise.
  • Our brains are hardwired to connect dots and to make associations that sometimes aren’t even there.
  • Competitive altruism – people do socially responsible things not so much to do good but rather to show off and enhance their social reputation.
  • Given the turbulence of these times and the return to basics has inspired in many of us, that spiritual marketing has become a popular strategy for all kinds of brands.
  • Our brains are predisposed to believe in something – anything.
  • When you get the children to come back again and again the parents will follow.
  • Loyalty programmes exist for one simple and rather shifty purpose: to try to persuade you to buy more.
  • Human beings are naturally more inclined to move to the left (because it’s easier to reach out with our right arm to grab whatever it is we need), so a right-side entry way is a subtle yet effective way to ensure an anticlockwise shopping flow.
  • Most people who buy condoms in USA are in fact women. Except when they buy “extra-large” – those are definitely men. A very important fact for the condom industry – marketing needs to appeal more to women.
  • Our price sensitivity varies across the day, week, month and year. You are less price sensitive on vacation, than any other ordinary day.
  • The most powerful hidden persuader of them all are your very own friends and neighbours.
  • If you can get word-of-mouth influence behind your brand, that influence multiplies the power of your brand exponentially.
  • Today the most powerful force in marketing is not a corporation, it’s not a big budget marketing department, but are the people who are hyper connected, mouse-clicking consumers and their wide circles of virtual and real-life friends and acquaintances.
  • Brands of the future simply must be transparent and live up to their promises.

The crazy part of the book is the ending, where Martin Lindstrom shares with us an experiment they made. It involved infiltrating a family into a community with intent to influence the communities spending / choice of brands. You can check out a short video about it and then decide if you want to read more about it in the book. Imagine companies contracting families to promote their products to their friends and family and paying them based on commission. What do you think, is it possible or not?

The book is full of great examples of how companies and brands try to get your attention, persuade you to buy their products and services. Some examples are almost unbelievable, but in the end if reading the book gives you at least 1% of an edge in business, it is a lot in the long run. With so many tips and tricks in the book you can stack up an advantage and get ahead, if not right now in the future. I recommend this book to every entrepreneur, marketer, sales person, and for sure to anyone that is interested in human behavior. By reading this book I have become even more alert of the tactics and tricks stores, companies and brands us to get my attention and persuade me to buy from them. I have become more alert to my actual needs and to the impulsive needs and wants that are triggered by marketing strategies / tricks. I’m not saying I don’t fall for them anymore more, of course I do, but I have started studying these tricks and myself and I find satisfaction when I discover which tricks influence me in what way. It’s like a game for me now. It’s fun when you start learning things about yourself and how you are influenced, and how to resist that influence.

You can find more about Martin Lindstrom on:





His Blog

A final thought… Who has the most influence about what you buy, YOU or the BRANDS you buy?

“In the factory we make cosmetics. In the drugstore we sell hope in a bottle” – Charles Revson (Founder of Revlon)

Feel free to comment about the book. I would also appreciate your input about the post and the blog. If you have any suggestions what you found good, what you would like to see different, which book should I review next or if you simply have any advice about the blog let me know.

Thank you for your time. I hope you have found this post helpful. Talk to you in the comment section.


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