Buyology: Summary and Review


Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom

See all 300+ book summaries and reviews



This was assigned reading for my undergrad marketing course. I read it in one sitting at the school bookstore, then put it back before buying it, and typed up these notes so I didn’t have to pay for overpriced textbooks 😉 Posting this review online almost got me kicked out of class, but now that I’ve graduated I can freely post this to my website. (Hint: it’s not a good book, you shouldn’t read it unless it’s required to get a degree)

Instead, you should just read The Elephant in the Brain



  • Buyology is the subconscious thoughts, feelings and desires that drive the purchasing decisions we make daily, driven by neuromarketing
  • By better understanding our customer’s brain we can have more control
  • Two branches of traditional marketing are qualitative and quantitative and neuromarketing is where they overlap

Chapter 1: A Rush of Blood to the Head

  • Despite the warnings given to smokers, they still smoke… why?
  • Based on research cigarette warnings stimulate an area of the smokers brain called the nucleus accumbency or the craving spot; the labels including warnings activate the nucleus accumbency, encouraging people to light up
  • People don’t lie in questionnaires but their answers can be different than what their brains believes
  • 85 percent of the time our brains are on autopilot as our unconscious minds are better at interpreting our behavior than our conscious minds
  • Putting microemotions into words is impossible so the true reactions and emotions in the nanosecond lapse before conscious thinking are much more accurate. If marketers want the truth thy must look into our brain.
  • Emotions are in the way of in which our brains encode things of value and a brand that engages us emotionally
  • Research was based in USA, Japan, Germany, China and England

Chapter 2: This Must Be the Place

  • There are so many ads that we have become blind to them
  • Do viewers remember logos they saw during a show?… nope
  • We have no memory of brands that don’t play an integral part in the storyline of a program
  • Brands that play an integral part in the narrative of a program are more memorable and weaken the ability to remember the other brands
  • Product must make sense in the narrative to make it memorable
  • We don’t remember TV commercials today’s fast changing media has caused us to establish a filtering system in our brains
  • Lack of originality by the advertisers, imitate each other Ex. Cars in the mountains

Chapter 3: I’ll Have What She’s Having

  • Mirror neurons account for many of the things we do
  • If we see someone doing something, our brains react as if we were actually performing these activities ourselves, as if seeing and doing are the same
  • Schadenfreude is when we take pleasure in someone else’s bad luck
  • Mirror neurons are responsible for human empathy
  • We are attracted to people who smile, and we also want to remember their names; people who smile make us smile
  • We remember the people who are kind to us
  • Concept of imitation is a huge factor in why we buy the things we do
    • Seeing a product over and over again can make it more satisfying
    • Ex. Models wearing clothes in fashion magazines—I want to look like that
  • Dopamine is one of the brain’s pleasure chemicals, driving many purchase decisions (Excitement and pleasure in the short run and when dopamine wears off, you regret your purchase)
  • Buying makes us happier in the short term because of dopamine
  • We calculate purchases based on how the purchase might bring us social status; status is liked with reproductive success

Chapter 4: I Can’t See Clearly Now

  • Subliminal messages are defined as visual, auditory or any other sensory messages that register below our level of conscious perception and can be detected only b the subconscious mind
  • Most subliminal messages are selling sex
  • Unconscious emotions occured when a minute emotional change had taken place without the subjects being aware of either the stimulus that caused it or any shift in their emotional states
  • Smiling faces can subconsciously get people to buy more
  • Subliminal advertising has little to do with the product itself but lies in our own brains
  • Smokers are found to have more activity in the reward and craving centers in the brain when subjects viewed subliminal images than when they viewed the obvious images
  • Direct emotional relationships between the qualities subjects associated with Formula 1 and NASCAR as they are subliminally transformed to the cigarette brands
  • Subliminal advertising works because companies don’t show logos and people are not aware they are viewing advertisements so they let their guard down

Chapter 5: Do You Believe in Magic

  • Rituals help us form emotional connections with brands and products making them memorable
  • Rapid change brings uncertainty and the more unpredictable the world becomes, the more we desire a sense of control over our lives
    • We adopt superstitious behavior and rituals to help us
  • Some rituals are proven to be beneficial to our mental and physical well being
    • Predictable routines have greater effect on emotional health
      • In families with stronger rituals, adolescents reported a stronger sense of self, couples reported happier marriages and children had greater interaction with their grandparents
  • Most of us perform a common, predictable series of rituals from the moment we get up in the morning to when we go to sleep
    • Preparing for battle
    • Feasting
    • Sexing up
    • Protecting yourself from the future
  • All rituals help us feel as if we are gaining control
  • In Asian cultures, the unluckiest possible number is four so in hotels there are no fourth or forty fourth floors
  • Eight is a lucky number in Asia which is why the Summer Olympics in Beijing was started in 8/08/08 at 8:08:08 pm
    • Premiums for lucky phone numbers
  • Kit Kats are lucky as they are close to “Kitto Katsu” or win without fail
  • Rituals and superstitions are part of the sporting world
    • Olympic games: opening and closing ceremonies, flame etc.
  • We want stability and familiarity and product rituals give us an illusion of comfort and belonging
  • Rituals help us differentiate one brand from another giving us loyalty to one brand
  • Habits cause people to keep the same brands as we don’t want to tamper with our “implicit memory”
  • Food rituals include how we eat Oreo cookies, how Subway makes their sandwiches, Cold Stone Creamery serving ice cream to a song, McDonalds serving their Big Macs etc.
  • Brand obsession has a lot to do with rituals and superstitious behavior: both involve habitual, repeated actions that have little or no logical basis and both stem from the need for a sense of control in an overwhelming world
  • People collect everything from Barbie dolls to shoes
  • If children experience social difficulties in school, studies show they are more likely to become preoccupied with collecting as it gives children a sense of mastery, completion and control and raises self esteem and elevates their status
  • Something about collecting makes us feel safe and secure

Chapter 6: Say a Little Prayer

  • Nun study done in 2006 was to find out more about how the brain experiences religious feelings or beliefs
    • When reliving religious experiences the nuns exhibited neural activity in their caudate nucleus in the brain producing joy, serenity, self awareness and love as well as the insula which relates to feelings associated with connections to the divine
  • There is no single “God Spot” in the brain as there are different patterns of activity when thinking about religion and when thinking about others
  • People are willing to pay sums large and small for things like dirt and water that they believe have religious or spiritual significance so spirituality and branding are intimately linked
  • Every leading religion has ten common pillars underlying its foundation: a sense of belonging, a clear vision, power over enemies, sensory appeal, story telling, grandeur, evangelism, symbols, mystery and rituals
    • Similar to brands because the sense of belonging is a profound influence on our behavior (Weight Watches, Super Bowl, concerts etc.)
  • Both brands and religions have clear visions and strive to exert power over their enemies (Coke vs Pepsi, Visa vs MasterCard etc.)
  • Both brands and religions have sensory appeal as the ambiance in a church or temple is similar everywhere
  • Religion includes story telling including singing, fasting, kneeling, meditating, praying which let us participate in the stories
    • Brands have stories connected to them (Disney)
  • Religions celebrate a sense of grandeur
    • No building in Rome is allowed to be higher than St. Peter’s Cathedral
      • Luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada or Apple all have notions of grandeur
  • Notion of evangelism- by invitation only
    • Gmail, American Express
    • Every religion makes you feel honored to be apart of it
  • Symbols in religion are recognizable such as the cross, a dove, an angel etc.
  • Mystery is a powerful force in religion
    • Unknown can be just as powerful as the known
      • Coca-Cola is a mystery with its secret formula
      • Unilever with the X9 Factor
  • Apple as a religion
    • Steve Jobs threw out his computer, so did everyone else by will
  • Strong brands are smashable because these are the brands that tend to be stronger and more emotionally engaging
    • Smashable brands are brands with products that can be recognized without the brand logo on them
  • Strong brands bring greater activity in many areas of the brain involved with memory, emotion, decision making and meaning than weak brands did
  • When people viewed images associated with the strong brands, their brains registered the exact same patterns of activity as they did when they viewed religious images
  • Both strong and weak brands are far more powerful than the sports imagery such a sports stars, in stimulating the memory storage and decision making regions of the brain
  • Sports stars activated the part of our brains associated with our sense of reward in a way that was similar to the patterns of arousal prompted by religious icons proving the feelings of reward associated with a victory were similar to the arousals of a church sermon or prayer
  • The emotions we experience when we are exposed to brands are similar to the emotions generated by religious symbols

Chapter 7: Why Did I Choose You?

  • There are subconscious conversations that go on in our heads every time we choose one product over another
  • We rely on instant shortcuts our brains have created to help us make buying decisions
  • Real rationale behind choices was built on a lifetime of associations, some positive and others negative, you weren’t consciously aware of
  • When we make decisions about what to buy, our brain summons and scans incredible amounts of memories, facts and emotions and puts them in a rapid response
  • Brain shortcuts are known as a somatic marker
    • Antonio Damasio describes it as a kind of bookmark or shortcut in our brains
    • Made by past experiences of reward and punishment the markers connect an experience or emotion with a specific reaction
    • We relate these to our instincts, although, of course they are not
  • Somatic markers are made daily
    • The more somatic markers we have, the more buying decisions we can make
    • Without somatic markers we cannot make decisions at all
  • Companies and advertisers work to create these markers in our brains
    • TV commercials- your brand preference has little to do with the products but instead with the somatic markers the brand has created
    • There are many unrelated bookmarks deliberately forging certain associations
    • Ex. Michelin: Michelin man, Michelin Guides, safety for your child passengers, study, reliable, high quality, top of the line, European experience etc.
  • Easy and cheap to create a somatic marker in a consumer’s brain
    • Create a surprising or shocking association between two wildly disparate things
    • Ex. Tom Dickson Blendtec Blender- Will it blend?- Blended an iPhone - Made people think about the product
  • Somatic markers are hard to erase
  • Painting a bank pink allows customers to associate banks with the comfort and security of a child’s piggy bank
  • Somatic markers can be made through humor or fear
    • Fear is used for every brand category, directly or indirectly
      • Depression, diet pills, gym memberships (prevent fat), creams and ointments (prevent aging), and even computer software (computers crashing)
      • Colgate toothpaste- emerging scientific research associating gum disease with heart disease, diabetes and stroke
      • Johnston’s No More Tears Baby Shampoo
      • ADD resulted in millions of parents buying their children drugs
        • Fear travels faster than anything else
  • Somatic markers rooted in sensory experiences

Chapter 8- A Sense of Wonder

  • Our visual sense is far from our most powerful in seducing our interest in getting us to buy
  • We are more visually over stimulated than ever before
    • The more stimulated we are, the harder it is to capture our attention
  • Smell and sound are more potent than anyone would imagine
  • Sound and smell can be stronger than sight
  • Logo is everything
  • Visual images are far more effective and memorable when they are coupled with another sense like sound or smell
  • Dr. Calvery and her team exposed 20 subjects to images and fragrances of 4 well known brands
    • First images and fragrances were presented individually and then at the same time
    • Volunteers could control the onset of images and fragrances and rate the appeal of what they were viewing and smelling on a nine-point scale (unpleasant to pleasant)
    • For the most part when images and fragrances were presented individually they were equally pleasant to look at as to smell (equally seduced by the sight of a product by its scent)
    • When they were presented at the same time the image fragrance combinations were more appealing than either the image or the fragrance alone
    • If the sight and smell of a product are congruous- a perfect collaboration between the eyes and the nose, it is a much more effective way to market
  • When we see and smell something at the same time various regions of our brains light up in concert including the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, a region associated with our perception of something as pleasant or likeable
  • Brain responds unfavorably to the incongruous combinations
  • When a pleasant fragrance matches up with an equally appealing and congruous visual image we not only perceive it as more pleasant but we also remember it but if the two are incongruous, we forget about it
  • Odor activates many of the exact same brain regions as the sight of a product—even the sight of a logo
  • Mirror neurons
    • If you smell a whiff of a product, you’ll visualize it
    • Sound too can evoke equally powerful visual images
  • Johnstons & Johnstons Baby Powder- childhood memories
  • Smell is the most primal, deeply rooted scent
    • When we smell something the odor receptors go to our limbic system controlling our emotions, memories and sense of well being so our cut response is instantaneous
  • Fast food restaurants pump a spray through the vents that smells like just cooked bacon and cheeseburgers as do supermarkets in Northern Europe with freshly baked bread
  • Store managers put just baked bread and the bakeries at the front so that you will get hungry and pick up food you hadn’t planned on buying
  • No one is aware of the influence of scents on their behavior
  • Britain’s Royal Mail allows a scent to be released when you open an envelope
  • Hyatt Park Vendome and the original Hyatt chains have suffused their rooms and lobbies with their own signature fragrances
  • “Got Milk?” campaign had to be scrapped 26 hours later when commuters explained that the smell of chocolate chips and cookie batter was triggering allergic reactions
  • Play-Doh and Johnson & Johnson have lost their original smell because they have played around with their fragrances so much
  • Paco Underhill who wrote Why We Buy describes the importance of touching clothing before we buy it
  • We generally like our gadgets to be small, compact and lightweight
    • We conclude the tinier and lighter our digital camera or tape recorder is the more intricate and cutting edge the technology
    • Some companies argue the heavier a product, the better its quality
    • Feel plays an important role in whether we decide to buy a product
  • Colors can be powerful in connecting us emotionally to a brand
  • Heart rates went up when women saw the colour blue of a Tiffany’s box
    • They didn’t even see the logo
  • Colour changes can make a huge difference
    • Green ketchup in 2001 customers bought more than 10 million bottles in the first 7 months on the market
    • Apples different colour iMacs
    • Colored ads hold customers’ attention for 2 seconds or more whereas black and white images hold interest for less than a second
  • Colour increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent
  • When people make subconscious judgment about a person, environment or product within 90 seconds between 62 and 90 percent of the assessment is based on colour alone
  • Sound branding has been around since the 1950s
    • General Electric- 3 chime sound
      • Kellogg- one of a kind crunch
    • Tick of iPod wheel
    • Sounds associated with McDonalds
      • A jingle
  • Classical music deters vandalism, loitering and even crime in Canadian parks, parking lots and subways
  • In a wine store a customer is 3-4 more times more likely to select a bottle of wine associated with the music playing overhead than one they didn’t
    • Customers were not aware of what they were listening to
  • A&E proved the power of sound in advertising by erecting a sonic billboard in NYC to promote a paranormal themed television series
    • People talked and watched it
  • Sound triggers strong associations and emotions and can exert a powerful influence on behavior
  • Nokia’s ringtone- taken on viral quality
    • Does the Nokia ring make a brand more or less attractive
    • When sounds and images were presented simultaneously they were perceived more favorably and left more of an impression than the sound or image presented alone
    • Customer’s attention is increased when they hear a signature tune while seeing a highly recognizable image or logo
    • When a branded theme tune and a well-known logo are paired together we prefer the brand and remember it better
  • 3-4 brands did well when sound and vision were combined in a congruent way according to fMRI results
    • Emotionally engaged and long term memory
  • Nokia had failed the sound test
    • Negative emotive response to Nokia’s famous ring to the point that just hearing the sound suppressed the enthusiasts feeling our volunteers’ brains showed for the sight of Nokia’s phones alone
      • After hearing the ring subject indicated a greater preference for the unrelated images than for images of the Nokia phones
    • Ring tone was killing the brand
    • People had grown to fear, resent and hate the ringtone
    • Brains connected the overfamiliar sound with intrusion, disruption and annoyance
  • fMRI has shown us that fragrance can make us see, sound can make us taste and sight can help us imagine sound taste and touch

Chapter 9: And the Answer is… Neuromarketing and Predicting the Future

  • Product “flops” included the Segway PT in 2001, the UK product, the Sinclair CS and 1985’s New Coke
  • Tobacco products such as R.J Reynolds smokeless tobacco known as “Premier”
  • Companies are bad at predicting how their consumers will respond to a product
    • How we say we feel about a product can never predict how we behave, market research is unreliable and can mislead a company
  • Would Quizmania be as popular in America as it was in the UK
    • 24 hours before each viewer in the experiment had a DVD of programs in question
    • Watched both shows and slept on it to minimize the novelty effect
    • Each volunteer filled out a questionnaire and then researchers would look at their brain with the SST studies to see if they matched
  • Based on the results, the brain’s responses were consistent with how the two shows had actually done even though questionnaire responses were not
  • Quizmania based on the questionnaires was a terrible show that no one liked but based on the SST results people liked it
    • Brains more engaged
  • If neuromarketing had been around a decade or two ago companies would have foreseen that products would fail, have halted production and saved millions of dollars
  • As neuromarketing becomes more popular and in demand it will become cheaper, easier and more available to companies than ever before

Chapter 10: Let’s Spend the Night Together- Sex in Advertising

  • Today people are nearly naked selling products, especially compared to before
  • Roughly 1/5th of all advertising uses overt sexual content to sell its products
  • Everyone’s using them, not just clothing stores but also restaurants, airlines etc.
  • Its everywhere TV, commercials, magazines, retail spaces, Internet, on your bus, your local deli etc.
  • Based on a study the subjects who had been shown sexually suggestive advertisements were not able to recall the names of the brands and products better than the subjects who had viewed the neurotic ads
    • Sex doesn’t sell anything other than itself
  • Sexually suggestive material blinds people to see other information on the ad, even the name of the product
  • Only 9.8% of men viewing ads with sexual content were able to remember the correct brand or product in question compared with 20% of the men who had seen the nonsexual clones
    • Same for women
  • Brooke Sheilds in 1980 was 15 when she modeled for Calvin Klein increasing jeans sales to 2 million pairs a month
    • Public outrage
    • All the controversy seemed to increase sales causing Kleins to control almost 70% of the jeans market at retailers
    • 1995 Klein released many provocative TV commercials resembling port videos from the 1970s arousing the American public and causing the government to get involved and the ads to be pulled
    • Allowed free publicity
  • Many brands use this advertising now including American Apparel, Abercrombie & Fitchetc.
    • Sex is powerful but many cases it is the attention that can be more effective than the suggestive content itself
    • Sex and controversy are links
    • Controversy can be the more potent factor
  • If sex doesn’t sell, extreme beauty or celebrity can be
  • We remember beauty
  • For women, the more wholesome, natural un-made-up and clothed models are, the more positive the women’s reactions
  • Twice as many people are likely to buy an advertised product of images of love than if it showed images to sex
  • Beauty doesn’t always sell because we consumers are far more likely to identify with people who look more like us and less beauty
  • Hottest trends in commercials today is consumer generated advertising-advertising that allows every day people to participate in the campaign
  • Average looking people seem to be more inviting as though welcoming us to the brand
  • We respond more favorably to real or ordinary people because we want authenticity
  • We think of supermodels as not telling a story but acting in one
  • Sex and beauty don’t really sell products but they capture our mirror neurons allowing us to imagine ourselves as being equally cool, attractive and desirable
  • Pictures appear to be targeted at gays or the opposite sex but they are less about sexual attraction than about visions of ones ideal selves
  • More than 3/4th of all pairs of male underwear are bought by women for men
  • Mirror neuron effects can backfire- picture of anorexic woman on a billboard, Isabelle Caro, made anorexics want to emulate her
  • Sex in advertising is all about wish fulfillment about planting dreams inside consumers’ brains
  • Sex in advertising is gong to increase across the globe getting edgier, more extreme me etc.
  • Sex is more accessible than its ever been
    • Everything is a mouse click away
  • Advertisers will be forced to fight for our attention by upping the ante with more and more overt sexuality
  • Sex in advertising will go underground eventually
    • Sneaker and subtler
    • Future of sex ads will be to kick start a journey in our own heads
  • Let your brain take over

Chapter 11: Brand New Day- The Future of Marketing and Advertising

  • Based on neuroimaging we can understand better what really drives our behavior, our opinions, and our preferences
  • Most marketing, advertising and branding strategies are a guessing game as until now they have had to rely on luck and chance
  • Companies testing on the brain to determine their marketing techniques include Microsoft, Unilever, Mind Code, Christian Dior, etc.
  • Stanford researchers gave people the same wine with different prices
    • Expensive wine was more enjoyed
  • Some commercials scare viewers into buying their products
  • Traditional research methods only get a small part of the brain process that underlies the decision making process
  • Our national obsession with buying and consuming will escalate as marketers become better at targeting subconscious wishes and desires
  • When fear based advertising plays a role on our insecurities about ourselves it can be one of the most persuasive and memorable types of advertising
  • The more stress we are under and the more fearful we are the more we seek out solid foundations causing us to become more dependent on dopamine causing us to want more stuff
  • Everything will be branded in the future as our brain scan study has shown our brains are hardwired to bestow upon brands as a religious significance forging brand loyalties
  • When we brand things our brains perceive them as more special and valuable than they actually are
  • More companies will embrace the personal brands creating real characteristics in order to get more exposure and sell more on the shelf (Paris Hilton)

Chapter 12: Conclusion- Good Times, Bad Times

  • Condoms, burglar alarms, fire alarms, weapons, chocolates, toothpaste and other products to increase self preservation and satisfying primal urges are included in the aftermath of the Recession
  • The global economic collapse of 2008 was much more sudden than recessions of the past
  • World’s financial landmarks crashed an burned over night, causing the impact on us or our brains was so catastrophic it created an impression we won’t ever be able to erase
  • Recession created a big somatic marker linking money and spending to the sense of fear and uncertainty
    • Spending money=fear and anxiety
  • American consumers are investing in things that will prevent them from harm
    • Operating in survival form so fear becomes a major driver
  • Great Depression and the World War II era was the generation’s somatic marker
  • Recession woke us up to the fact that many of us were living beyond our means and taking too much for granted
  • In hard times stores slash prices, add incentives
  • Few of us can resist a sale as it sparks an urge in the consumer’s brains
  • Brains fire up at the words “going out of business” or discounts
  • In the short term all irresistible discounts allow us to buy more stuff we don’t need but at prices we wouldn’t be able to get regularly
  • Consumers assess the worth of a product by comparing to other items of different brands or models
    • Price is relative
  • Could consumers get so accustomed to being able to drive down prices that every store becomes an auction house?
  • Thanks to the recession we have become psychologically a society of bargain hunters; it’s a buyers market
  • Our need to fit in and to be accepted is almost as strong as our need for sex survival and chocolate
    • Buying high-end items in hard times looks weird, idiotic etc.
  • Our restrained spending habits will stick because we are going to find ourselves in a new retail environment when the economy recovers
  • The more choice you have the less money we spend
  • Until the economy recovers we will continue to be frugal by buying things more cheaply
  • When the recession eases and the stock market rises we will become more hesitant and insecure about spending than we are today


Brain simultaneously processes all information, and a lot gets removed as clutter. i.e. where you last put your room key

Subconscious thoughts feelings and desires that drive the purchasing decisions we make every day → Buyology

Commercial Alert - against neuromarketing b/c thinks it can be used to dissect human brains to attack it with propaganda → totalitarian regimes

Wrong. simply helps us decode what consumers are already thinking about when we get confronted by a brand/product.

Chapter 1

  • Brain needs fuel, harder the region of brain works, the more oxygenated blood it needs. fMRI tracks magnetic activity of haemoglobin.

Electroencephalograph (SST) - steady state typography, tracks brain waves in real time.

  • Test with smokers → health warning labels on cigarette boxes have little/no effect on smokers
  • Warning labels and pictures on cigarette packets actually stimulate brain part called nucleus accumbens (the craving spot)

  • Product placement doesn’t really work.
  • Brand logos are less powerful than fragrance and sound
  • Subliminal advertising still happens and is extremely prominent
  • Sex in advertising doesn’t actually work
  • Buying behaviour is affected by religion

Lindstrom = brand futurist = sum of his globe hopping experience gives him a bird’s eyeview of probable future consumumer and ad trends.

We like to think we’re rational animals, bu the more stress we’re under, the more frightened and insecure and uncertain = massive irrationality

EX. superstition. people saying one thing when they mean sth completely diff.

Companies most of the time don’t know how to engage us authentically vs. just attracting attention with a naked girl

What people say in surveys and focus groups for market research (quanti and quail) does not RELIABLY affect how they behave.

EX. Pepsi-Cola Test

  • hand out two unmarked cup to random people one with pepsi, one with coke, statistic results showed that more than half preferred pepsi, but pepsi was still doing worse than coke.
  • Gladwell - PepsiCola Test is a “Central Location Test”
    • Difference b/w taking a sip in public is that people prefer high sugar content (pepsi) over lower one, but when drinking entire can, may be different

Read Montague study - fMRI test said people rationally liked pepsi, but when told the brand before drinking, diff part of brain said that they like coke (purely in response to the brand).

Our brain encodes things of value using EMOTION.

Short term immediate gratification vs. delayed rewards

  • Amazon vouchers $15 today or $20 tomorrow, limbic area of brain → choose $15.

Tom Freedman - test public response to campaign commercials to bush-kerry election = use fear. By 2012, all election campaigns will be decided using neuroscience

  • People responding to mini coopers as a cute “person”, and babies as “special”

Use volunteers from US, Germany, England, Japan, China.

Chapter 2: Product Placement, American Idol, Ford’s Multimillion Dollar Mistake

  • No originality in advertisements car commercials all the same. We will have watched 2million advertisements by the time we’re 66.
    • Product Integration: products that somehow play a role in TV, vs. normal advertisements. The two are becoming one.
    • Coca cola present 60% of the time that idol runs
  • We’ve been bombarded so often by product placement that there’s nothing special about it anymore - i.e. Transformers & Die Anotehr Day. What was effective before for Ray Bans etc, no longer works

  • Premise: consumers’ memory of an ad is the most effective in their buying decisions. Lindstrom experiment show people branded and unbranded logos then an episode of american idol, then the brands again, with an SST
  • Results: Branded logos placed in Idol INHIBITED memory/recall of the unbranded products. Coke inhibited Ford.
    • Difference: Coke was fully integrated into the show’s narrative. Forge powerful association b/w drink & emotions provoked by the show. Coke “brilliantly integrated and painstakingly affiliated itself with the dreams, aspirations, and starry-eyed fantasies of potential idols.

Chapter 3: Mirror Neurons at Work

  • Macaque Monkey rizolatti experiment: student licks ice cream, monkey copies student in their BRAIN. Only works for TARGETED gestures (i.e. not randomly walking across a room, need to be pointed).
  • Schadenfreude - taking pleasure in others’ bad luck
    • Bad things (electric shock) happening to bad people (cheaters in game), men feel happy, women still feel empathy
  • We imitate what’s right in front of us - guitar hero, GAP mannequin
  • We’re more likely to remember/remember names of smiling people
  • Vicarious Pleasure -
    • People deriving the same joy from watching someone open a wii box than they would if they opened it themselves
    • MN works in conjunction with drugs
  • We buy things that we thing brings us social status which links with reproductive success (evolutionary phenomenon?)
  • Abercrombie and Fitch
    • Models + smells + half naked people makes us become junkies and relapse every time we hit up a store

Chapter 4: Subliminal Messaging

  • messages that are too fast/unnoticeable/subtle for our conscious minds/perceptions to see.
  • Primes: 2 second homer simpson “woo-hoo’s” on Fox (visual drumbeats)
  • Bush - Bureauc-rats. Ford - He’s just not right with “african drums”
  • Smiling. starbucks. make you pay twice as much for a drink with no actual change in emotion
  • Marlboro paying bar venues to make ashtrays, couches, furnitures, the entire place reminiscent of the ESSENCE of marlboro, even without mentioning the name
  • Explicit cigarette health ads with fat oozing out of cigarette butts did nothing but to stimulate craving spots of brain to replicate the atmosphere of the smoking/lounge with mirror neurones
  • Calvert Experiment
    • Volunteers shown ferrari, sunset, cowboy, red shit, then shown actual marlboro logos
    • red shit yielded more cravings
  • because the subliminal images didn’t show visible logos, smokers weren’t consciously aware that they were vexing an AD & let their guard down.
  • Logos are not the be-all end-all king of advertising.

Chapter 5: Ritual & Superstition

Rituals help us form emotional connections with brands and products, help the things we buy become memorable.

  • Rituals & Superstitions: Not entirely rational actions and the belief that one can somehow manipulate the future by engaging in certain behaviours, in spite of the fact there’s no discernible causal relationship between that behaviour and its outcome.
  • The more unpredictable the world becomes, the more we grope for a sense of control over our lives.
  • Direct correlation between stress and magical belief.
  • Blue sweater belonging to serial killer

  • BBDO Study
  • Ritual 1: Preparing for battle - shaving, showering, reading paper.
  • Ritual 2: Feasting - eating out iwht others
  • Ritual 3: “Sex-ing up” - transforming ourselves to our best-looking most confident beings.
  • Ritual 4: Protecting from the future - turning off lights/electronics, setting alarms, locking doors

  • Rituals all have the illusion of gaining control
  • Cultural fears - four in chinese, the 13th in U.S. - self fulfilling prophecies - heart attack rates go up, car accidents, etc
    • Lucky chinese phone numbers, license plates with 8 on them
    • Japanese “kitto katsu” win without fail = kit kat bars = students eating one before every exam
  • Olympics running torch not started in athens but in berlin games.
  • OREO eating rituals, Bacardi & Coke
  • Collecting and obsession - Lindstrom’s Legoland

Chapter 6: Faith Religion & Brands

Irish people and Irish dirt

  • Every religion has 10 common pillars underlying its foundation: sense of belonging, clear vision, power over enemies, sensory appeal, storytelling, grandeur, evangelism, symbols, mystery, rituals.
    • very similar to qualities that our favourite brands have.
  • Using exclusivity as attraction - Gmail invite only, AMEX centurion black card - make people feel honoured to be part of the club
  • Symbols - livestrong bracelets. Mystery - coca cola formula hidden in some safe deposit box somewhere. Unilever’s X9 factor that doesn’t really exist in their shampoo (an employee just wrote it on for shits).

Religious brands are smashable - if you smashed it into a thousand pieces you would still know where it came from.

  • Calvert study - seeing images of strong brands lighted up the exact same areas of the brain that religious images did.
  • brands stimulate the brain more than sports imagery b/c sports little decision making involved

  • Overt use of religion in your brands is death - Lindstrom + lego + advent

Chapter 7: Why Did I Choose You? The Power of Somatic Markers

  • We rely on instant shortcuts developed by our brain in place of long process of deliberation to pick one brand over another, built upon a lifetime of associations
  • Over 50% of all shopping decisions are made spontaneously
  • Socrates - Whatever makes an impression upon our mind = wax, we will remember
  • SOMATIC MARKER - bookmark in the brain from an experience which leads us to make immediate associations between events and objects
    • i.e. burning hand on pot on stove, Audi + Germany
    • Michelin man fat + padding on tires
    • Andrex + puppy + toilet training + raising family + tissues
  • Advertisers try to create surprising an shocking associations between two wildly different things
    • Tom Dickson pulverizing an IPhone in a blender - Blendtec = so much better
    • Spiderman Urinals, Energizer bunny being unstoppably irritating
    • Pavorotti opera singer not being able to make Copenhagen sore throat - GaJol - If only Pavarotti had known about it
    • Bank painting everything pink = associate it with a piggy bank
  • Somatic markers are based on past experiences of reward and punishment = USE FEAR
    • i.e. not buying my product will make you less well off, less free, less happy
    • J&J baby shampoo - no more tears = fear of stinging red eyes. Colgate = links gingivitis to heart disease, buy me or you die
    • ADD diagnosis & fear of your child underperforming makes parents buy loads of drugs

Chapter 8: A Sense of Wonder, Selling to our Senses

  • Our eyes are one of the least effective senses to which companies try to appeal using advertising
  • Sensory Branding - combining sight with another sense = synergy, image and fragrance have to match.
  • If you smell a product, equally likely to picture it in your had as if you actually saw the thing/logo
  • Vanilla scent on women’s clothing, Vanilla flavoured coke,

  • Smell is the most primal sense & most deeply rooted b/c it was what our ancestors used to discern whether food was edible
  • Samsung stores in NYC smell like honeydew

  • Bacon-Cheeseburger-in-a-can
  • Putting bakeries right at supermarket entrance. Fresh baked goods smell makes you hungry, so hungry that you’ll abandon your shopping list and start picking up random shit and buying it

  • Home Depot = sawdust smell?
  • Fliers, magazines, increasingly adopt scents in their pages

  • J&J played around with fragrances too much they lost the original formulas to their baby powder. SF bus shelters with got milk + cookie/chocolate scent = allergic reactions

  • Touching clothes as a sensory test run
  • Weight of Bang & Olufsen remote controls analogous to performance = completely useless block of aluminum inside
  • Duracell shaping batteries like bullets = men feel like the battery is more powerful b/c feels like loading a gun


  • egg perceived quality from yellow hue of yolk. Farmers put vitamins & colouring into grain feed of hens to enhance yolk colour
  • Women presented with tiffany blue boxes heart rate went up 20%, associated it with marriage fertility and babies
  • Peptobismol pink, candied coloured imacs, mayo bottles shaped like a buddha = crap demand
  • Kellogg’s making the perfect “crunch sound”, chip companies, etc

SOUNDS - combine familiar tune with recognizable logo = magic

  • Nokia ring tone was killing the brand - somatic marker associating it with vacations interrupted, romantic evenings ruined by the annoying ringtone

Chapter 9: Neuromarketing & Predicting the Future

  • Segway PT hyped up by Jobs + websites to be replacement of all transportation methods. Despite hype, sold nothing.
  • Coors mineral water. Coke with coffee in it. Sinclair little wagon piece of shit, E.T. video game, R.J. Reynolds smokeless tobacco.
  • Empirical market research doesn’t really work in predicting the future. What we SAY we feel about a proposed product is rarely a prediction of how we’ll behave.
  • Mix between hangman and name that tune on amphetamines - Quizmania testing to see if it would be a viable product, also evaluating a “proven failure” show and a “proven success” show
    • Written responses were complete opposite of SST scan results
  • Lindstrom predicts that usage of traditional market research techniques - surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, will soon become obsolete, and companies, those that can afford it, will put more and more of their mkt rsch budgets into neuromarketing.

Chapter 10: Sex in Advertising

  • 1/5 of all advertising today uses overt sexual appeal. P Diddy & Mariah Carey’s fragrances,
  • Las Vegas Hard Rock Casino - Get ready to buck all night
  • Nikon Coolpix Camera - See Kate like you’ve never seen her before
  • Virgin Atlantic airlines on in-flight tv/movies entertainment - 9 inches of pure pleasure
  • UCL study - people shown sexually suggestive ads could remember products no better than ads that weren’t. - “sex does not sell anything but itself”. Sexual content sucks away attention from the actual content of the ad
  • CALVIN KLEIN - HUGE media backlash against sexual content from CBS, NBC. Controversy created huge news & more publicity “banned books become the must read phenomena of the year”. CK put ads up then immediately removed them as soon as the media started complaining about child pornography

  • Beauty and celebrities also hijacks attention and removes it from the actual product/brand
  • The more made up & naked the women in packaging are, the less interested female consumers become.
    • They relate more to models/people who look like the average person, and not someone who looks like a celebrity
  • CONSUMER GENERATED ADVERTISING - ads that allow everyday people to participate in the campaign - inviting fans in online communities to upload sample video ads - BMW Endras!! Ultimate Blogger!!!

  • Consumers have a desire for AUTHENTICITY & sheer ordinariness, to be able to rbelieve in what the company is selling. “super models are acting in a story, while normal people are telling it”
  • Dove’s “real beauty” campaign featured stories from real women

If sex doesn’t work, why is it still so prevalent?

  • MIRROR NEURONS - women seeing naked women in ads feel equally sexy….and reflects your ideal physical self
  • GILLETTE STRATEGY - almost all shavers/razors/underwear bought by women for men. Sexy ads reflects what women want to see in their men

EX where mirror neurones backfire - Nolita - campaign against anorexia, pic ad of 68 pound model, made anorexics want to IMMITATE her .

  • Using sex in advertising is about wish fulfillment, planting dreams inside consumers brains. Trend going forward = sex ad increase. Sex is more accessible today than it’s ever been. Eventually we’ll be so desensitized to sex that we won’t even notice it anymore, at which point advertisers will backtrack and start at the beginning - flirt, subtly hint, suggestive.

Chapter 11: Brand New Day - Future of Marketing and Advertisement

  • Historically all marketers and advertisersefforts have been a huge guessing game. Now it’s backed by science and they can get inside your head.
  • Subjects seeing LV and Gucci selling awful price → pleasure of anticipatory reward mixed w/ conflict of spending half their life savings.
    • Discounted prices = rewards skyrocket, conflict decreases
  • GM Robot and KFed fast food weren’t working b/c scared consumers = fight or flight mentality
  • Fear based advertising, when plays on insecurities about ourselves, not on generalized anxieties = most persuasive type of advertising.
    • The more we seek out solid foundations, the more we rely on dopamine, the more dopamine, the more we want to buy
  • Everything will be branded in the future
    • Seki saba fish going from “food for the poor” to a 600% price hike b/c government branded it for its taste. Creating rituals as to how specifically it can be hunted, how it was to be bought (no weighing allowed, only by visual evaluation)
  • When we brand things, they become more valuable than they actually are. e.g. rock from moon, rock from berlin wall, when in reality it’s just a rock on the road.
  • COmpanies will begin embracing the 24/7 HUMAN BRAND.

Chapter 12: Conclusion

  • Post recession, consumption is dictated by SELF PRESERVATION and satisfying primal urges
  • The sheer suddenness of the collapse = consumption will never revert back to the way it was before, and has created one giant somatic marker linking buying and consumption with the fear and uncertainty of 2008. As a result, in times of fear and stress, we preoccupy ourselves with taking care of the necessities first and nothing else.
    • Hyundai - if you buy a car, and your income drops in the next year, we’ll let you return it.
  • Will we ever recover?

1) SALES & DISCOUNTS - hoarding effect. It takes 7 years for a brand to recover after being discounted. As retail stores around the world have no real alternative to discounting, they’re conditioning our brains to EXPECT LOWER PRICES 2) ALL PRICES WILL BECOME NEGOTIABLE


  • We’ve become psychologically a society of bargain hunter and bargain expecters → the world is becoming a buyer’s market. When the stores stop discounting, we’ll find that we’re more reluctant than ever to buy anything.

  • High luxury expensive products are now sold to us with the option of hiding them in a discrete solid colour, logo-less bag. b/c frivolous spending is taboo. Our need to fit in is as strong as our need for sex, survival & chocolate
  • Economics recovery = firms invest more R&D = more selection of new products
    • The more choice we have, the less we spend.
← Back to Bookshelf