Are You Brandwashed? Read This Review of Martin Lindstrom’s Newest Book

Martin Lindstrom (@MartinLindstrom) holds a special place in my heart.  I reviewed Lindstrom’s book Buyology here on Small Business Trends and he was the first author to write and thank me for reviewing his book.  He and I exchanged an email or two, but I hadn’t heard much from him until I received a review copy of his latest book, Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.

Like Buyology, Brandwashed gives you a peek behind the scenes of brands and campaigns.  It explains why we are so attracted and even addicted to brands.

Lindstrom Falls Off the Brand-Wagon

The book begins with Lindstrom’s personal experiment of going into “brand detox” where he vowed not to purchase any new brands for a year.  He stopped buying gifts, books and a variety of other products for the better part of six months.

He might have been successful were it not for a lost suitcase in Cyprus when he was forced to give a keynote speech wearing an “I (heart) Cyprus” T-shirt.  After that, Lindstrom says, he would have bought anything that had a label and a logo on it.  Quite simply, Martin Lindstrom had been brandwashed.

Are We Addicted to Brands or Experiences or Both?

If you liked Buyology you’ll like Brandwashed. These two books go together and deal with  the same intriguing topic: how our brains work and how marketers use what they know about human behavior and experience to influence our decisions.

Brandwashed will take you on a journey from your first experiences of brands to other behavior influencers like fear, celebrity, fame and nostalgia.  Chapter by chapter Lindstrom shows us that brands are really nothing more than emotional triggers.  As humans, we are wired to have experiences and attach meaning to them.  The smells, sounds and tastes that we live in become triggers for emotions and preferences that marketers use to influence our purchasing decisions.

Early in the book Lindstrom talks about a shopping mall in Asia where owners noticed that expectant mothers spent a lot of time shopping.  So they set the stage by infusing the stores with baby powder smells, the food areas with cherry smells and playing soft music throughout.  Later, they received letters from many mothers who noticed that their babies calmed down every time they came to the shopping mall.

In another example, companies hired an organization called the Girls Intelligence Agency to recruit girls to give slumber parties where they share all kinds of brands as free gifts.  Boys aren’t immune to the influence of brands; companies like Gillette create “Welcome to Adulthood” packs filled with products aimed at adolescents, and companies like Stinky Stink create products that smell like the boys’ favorite experiences such as snowboard wax or even a Playstation 3 video game machine!

Why you should read Brandwashed

In Brandwashed, Lindstrom continues to share backdoor branding habits, and that’s what makes it so much fun to read.  Even though I’m aware that companies go to incredible lengths to influence our purchases, I was blown away by just how creative they got.

Marketers and business owners will benefit from the plethora of stories and secrets that Lindstrom shares.  The challenge for most of us will be to create ways to use this information in a way that endears us to our customers, as well as alert us to the fact that most marketers are playing to our weakness.

For example, in the “I Can’t Quit You” chapter, Lindstrom reveals that market executives at Coca Cola have a confidential model for how many bubbles they should feature in their print ads to generate a “craving” response.  This may sound absurd to you, but mega brands whose profitability hinges on mere percentage points wouldn’t be studying this if it didn’t work.  It made me realize that most of us don’t understand human motivation and how to apply those triggers to our own products and services.

You may not get any revolutionary ideas from Brandwashed. But you will get enough entertaining and educational tidbits to make you the life of any networking event or cocktail party.


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

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