Authors: Martin Lindstrom
Copyright © 2011 by Martin Lindstrom Company, Limited
All rights reserved.
Published by Crown Business,
an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
CROWN BUSINESS is a trademark and CROWN and the Rising Sun colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lindstrom, Martin, 1970–
Brandwashed : tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy / Martin Lindstrom.—1st ed.
1. Consumer behavior. 2. Consumers—Psychology. 3. Brand choice—Psychological aspects. 4. Marketing—Psychological aspects. 5. Neuromarketing. I. Title.
JACKET DESIGN BY EVAN GAFFNEY
Dorit, Tore, and Allan—
without you I would be nothing
ver the years, I’ve put myself in some of the most horrible situations and scenarios possible. I once traveled to a half dozen or so Middle Eastern war zones, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the hope of finding the exact coordinates of Osama bin Laden. I worked as a coal miner in West Virginia, and I spent nearly a month wearing a jumpsuit in a prison cell. I also wrote, directed, and starred in the movie
Super Size Me,
in which I gorged myself with McDonald’s hamburgers, French fries, and sodas until my body was bloated, my liver was pâté, and my cholesterol was just this side of death.
But can I just go on record as saying that nothing—not jail, not black coal dust, not the Afghanistan mountains, not the awful mirror image of my own McTorso—prepared me for the world of advertising and marketing?
My latest film,
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,
is a documentary about the insidious ways corporations manage to get their brands in our faces all the time—and incidentally, includes my own efforts to finance my film by precisely the same means. (In the end, I approached roughly six hundred brands in all. Most of them told me politely to get lost. In the end, twenty-two of them agreed to sponsor my movie.)
As is the case with all the movies I make, all I was looking for was a little honesty and transparency. This
the Information Age, right? Aren’t honesty and transparency supposed to be “the thing” right now?
My goal in making
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
was to make you, me, and everybody else in the world aware of the extent to which we are marketed to, and clubbed over the head with brands, just about every second of our lives. After all, you can’t even go into the men’s room at the mall without being obliged to pee on a urinal cake that’s advertising “Spiderman 6.” Nor can you escape the brand paradise that is your local shopping mall without climbing behind the wheel of your Toyota Scion LC, turning up the volume on the Keb’ Mo’ playing on your Apple iPod that connects to your car radio via a Griffin iTrip FM transmitter, and sliding your Dockers-enclosed leg and Nike Air Force 1 sneaker onto the gas, at which point you’re assailed by one highway billboard after another for Kenny Rogers Roasters, Taco Bell, KFC, Papa Gino’s, Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, Marriott Courtyard Residence, Shell Oil, and—are you getting some sense of why I wanted to make my movie? In one scene, I asked consumer advocate Ralph Nader where I should go to avoid all marketing and advertising entreaties. “To sleep,” he told me. It was a depressing moment.
Which brings me to Martin Lindstrom and the groundbreaking book you’re gripping in your hands.
I first met Martin when he agreed to appear in my film. I’d read his last book,
which explores the hot spots in our brains that compel humans to buy everything from Harley-Davidson motorbikes to Corona beers, and I thought he’d be an interesting, innovative person to talk to. As a global marketing guru who works with everyone from Coca-Cola to Disney to Microsoft, as well as a consumer who detests being manipulated by advertisers and corporations, Martin maintains a very fine line between what he knows and (how else to put it?) what he
knows. If you catch my drift.
Martin yanks back the curtains and serves up a page-turning exposé of how advertisers and companies make us feel we’ll be bereft, stupid, and social outcasts unless we buy that new model of iPad or that new brand of deodorant or that make of baby stroller
whose price is equal to the monthly rent of your average urban studio apartment. Just as I do in my documentary, he aims to expose all that goes on in the subterranean world of marketing and advertising. Only he has one distinct advantage. He’s a true insider. Martin takes us into conference rooms across the world. He talks to advertising and marketing executives and industry insiders. He teases out some fantastic war stories, including some of his own.
Along the way he shows us the most underhanded ploys and tricks that marketers use to get us to part with our money. Such as scaring the crap out of us; reminding us of wonderfully fuzzy days gone by (which actually never existed); using peer pressure so we’ll feel like wallflowers if we don’t do, or buy, what the rest of the world is doing, or buying; using sex to sell us everything from perfume to men’s underwear; paying celebrities a bajillion dollars to endorse bottled water, or just cross their skinny legs (clad in $300 jeans) in the front row of a fashion show; injecting what we eat and drink with this or that magical elixir that promises to give us a one-way ticket to Shangri-la and eternal life; and that’s not even the half of what you’ll learn inside
In the course of these pages, Martin also rolls out a TV reality show called
where he implants a real-life family inside a Southern California neighborhood to test whether word-of-mouth recommendations work. (It’s fascinating, and also pretty horrifying, to consider that that sweet young couple down the block could actually be paid marketing commandos.) With my film and his book, he and I share a goal: to let consumers—you and me—in on the game, so that we know when we’re being conned or manipulated, and can fight back, or at least duck for cover, that is, assuming there’s anyplace left to hide.
Now, because I’m all about transparency, you may very well be saying to yourself,
Hmm, Morgan seems to like this book a lot and he’s never struck me as a bullshitter, so it must be worth reading, right?
Well, guess what. You’ve just been hooked by not just one but several of the marketing ploys you’ll read about in this book.
Only, in this case, it happens to be true:
and Martin Lindstrom will blow your mind. Don’t just take my word for it. Read on and see for yourself.
n the UK, there’s an anticonsumerist movement called Enough. Its adherents believe that we as a society quite simply consume too much
and that our overconsuming culture is partly responsible for many of the social ills that plague our planet, from world poverty to environmental destruction to social alienation. Enough urges people to ask themselves, “How much is enough?” “How can we live more lightly, and with less?” and “How can we be less dependent on buying things to feel good about ourselves?”
I couldn’t agree more. I may be a professional marketer, but I’m a consumer, too. As someone who’s been on the front lines of the branding wars for over twenty years, I’ve spent countless hours behind closed doors with CEOs, advertising executives, and marketing mavens at some of the biggest companies in the world. So I’ve seen—and at times been profoundly disturbed by—the full range of psychological tricks and schemes companies and their shrewd marketers and advertisers have concocted to prey on our most deeply rooted fears, dreams, and desires, all in the service of persuading us to buy their brands and products.
Yes, I’ve been a part of it. No, I’m not always proud of it. I’ve been
part of some campaigns that I’m incredibly proud of. But I’ve also seen how far some marketing goes. Which is why, around the time I started writing this book—one in which I hope to pick up where Vance Packard’s 1957 classic,
, left off and expose the best-kept secrets of how today’s companies and their marketers are manipulating us—I decided that as a consumer, I’d quite simply had