Include index. Consumer behavior. Brand choice—Psychological aspects. Marketing— Psychological aspects. L I once traveled to a half dozen or so Middle Eastern war zones, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the hope of nding 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.
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 lm, 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 e orts to nance my lm 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 is the Information Age, right? 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.
In one scene, I asked consumer advocate Ralph Nader where I should go to avoid all marketing and advertising entreaties. It was a depressing moment. I rst met Martin when he agreed to appear in my lm. 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 ne line between what he knows and how else to put it?
If you catch my drift. 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. 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.
In the course of these pages, Martin also rolls out a TV reality show called The Morgensons, where he implants a real-life family inside a Southern California neighborhood to test whether word-of-mouth recommendations work. Well, guess what. Only, in this case, it happens to be true: Brandwashed and Martin Lindstrom will blow your mind.
Read on and see for yourself. Its adherents believe a society quite simply consume too much stuff 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. So last year I decided I would go on a brand detox—a consumer fast of sorts. More speci cally I decided that I would not buy any new brands for one solid year. I would allow myself to continue to use the possessions I already owned—my clothes, my cell phone, and so on.
Well, in my line of work I look at life through a particular lens: one that sees virtually everything on earth—from the cell phones and computers we use to the watches and clothes we wear to the movies we watch and books we read to the foods we eat to the celebrities and sports teams we worship—as a brand. A form of ID. A statement to the world about who we are or who we wish to be. Nevertheless, I was determined to try to prove that it was possible to resist all the temptations our consumer culture throws at us.
Yes, I knew this would be a challenge, especially for a guy who is on the road over three hundred nights a year. It would mean no more Pepsi. No more Fiji water. No more glasses of good French wine. That new album I was hearing such good things about?
Forget about it. No dice. How else did my lifestyle have to change? I traded my electric toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste for tiny travel ones the airlines o er for free, and I started using the other freebies that airlines and hotels provided. Some habits I had to give up completely. Sometimes, in countries where eating the local cuisine can be dodgy, I bring along packs of ramen noodles. Well, sorry, but no ramen. As any traveler knows, the air gets dry on long plane ights and in hotel rooms, so I typically use a face moisturizer by Clarins.
Not anymore. I often pop a vitamin C if I feel a head cold in the wings. But given my insane travel schedule, I knew I had to allow myself some exceptions, so before I kicked o my detox, I rst set a few ground rules. As I said, I could still use the things I already owned. For the rst few months I did quite well, if I may say so myself.
In some respects, not buying anything new came as a relief. Have you ever tried shopping at the grocery store and not buying a single brand? I enjoy buying gifts for friends or stocking up on chocolate. At the time of my detox, the world was struggling through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression— one precipitated in part by out-of-control consumer spending.
Yet knowing that so many people felt this way, companies and advertisers were doing everything in their power to get us to open our wallets. From London to Singapore to Dubai to New York, fantastic sales and bargains and special o ers were everywhere; it seemed every store window was a sea of signs for 50 percent o this or two for the price of one of that screaming my name.
Each time I walked down the street, I seemed to be assaulted by posters and billboards for some sexy new fragrance or shiny new brand of wristwatch—on sale, of course. But I took the high ground. Then there were the frustrating times a friend would tell me about a fascinating article or novel that had just come out.
Under normal circumstances, I would have hunted down the thing. Instead, I made up one lame excuse after another. I feared my friends secretly thought I was being a tightwad, that my brand detox was just an excuse to be cheap. But I stuck with it anyway. I was determined to prove that with a little discipline and willpower, I could inure myself to all the persuasive marketeering, advertising, and branding that surrounded me. Then, six months into it, it all came tumbling down. The fact that my brand fast lasted only six months, and the fact that a person who should have known better got punked by his own profession, says a whole lot about just how shrewd companies are at engineering desire.
So does what happened to me immediately after I toppled o the wagon. If I Fell My relapse took place in Cyprus. The night it happened, I was scheduled to give a keynote presentation. But when my plane touched down at the airport, I discovered the airline had misplaced my suitcase. It was gone.
It was an important presentation, and they were paying me well and expecting a good crowd. I admit it, I freaked out. It was the only color the store had. As they say in certain twelve-step programs, one drink is too much, and a thousand is too few. I went a little nuts. Twenty-four hours later, I was debarking in Milan, Italy, the fashion capital of the world. Fantastic handcrafted stu , too! You could have sold me roadkill so long as it had a label and a logo on it.
The New Generation of Hidden Persuaders When I was rst approached to write this book as a follow-up to my previous book, Buyology, the world was still digging out from economic free fall. Did anyone really want to read a book about brands and products, I wondered, at a time when the vast majority of our wallets and handbags were either empty or zippered shut?
Then it struck me: could there actually be a better time to write a book exposing how companies trick, seduce, and persuade us into buying more unnecessary stuff? It was shocking. It was groundbreaking. It was controversial. Nearly six decades later, businesses, marketers, advertisers, and retailers have gotten far craftier, savvier, and more sinister. Today, thanks to all the sophisticated new tools and technologies they have at their disposal and all the new research in the elds of consumer behavior, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience, companies know more about what makes us tick than Vance Packard ever could have imagined.
They scan our brains and uncover our deepest subconscious fears, dreams, vulnerabilities, and desires. They mine the digital footprints we leave behind each time we swipe a loyalty card at the drugstore, charge something with a credit card, or view a product online, and then they use that information to target us with o ers tailored to our unique psychological pro les. They know more than they ever have before about what inspires us, scares us, soothes us, seduces us.
What alleviates our guilt or makes us feel less alone, more connected to the scattered human tribe. What makes us feel more con dent, more beloved, more secure, more nostalgic, more spiritually ful lled. And they know far more about how to use all this information to obscure the truth, manipulate our minds, and persuade us to buy.
The inspiration for it was the David Duchovny and Demi Moore movie The Joneses, about a picture-perfect family that moves into a suburban neighborhood. Intrigued by this premise, I decided to stage my own reality television show, The Morgensons.
The questions going in were: How powerfully can word of mouth in uence our buying habits? Can simply seeing another person drink a certain type of beer, apply a certain line of mascara, spray a certain brand of perfume, type on a certain make of computer, or use the latest environmentally conscious product persuade us to do the same?
After all, enough is enough. Many of the patients at the center su er from dementia or from amnesia caused by brain traumas resulting from car, motorcycle, skiing, and other accidents. Some are comatose. Many are alert but can no longer speak. Where did he grow up? In the country? In the city? What were the smells of his childhood? What were his youthful passions, his hobbies? His favorite foods and drinks? What smells might be most familiar? Then they design fragrances to trigger those memories.
CEW worked with one former cosmetics company executive who had su ered a serious stroke. When probed by doctors, he remembered almost nothing about his past. Yet once the CEW team placed the smell of strawberry under his nose, the patient began speaking haltingly about his youth. What this goes to show is that certain associations and memories from our childhoods are resilient enough to survive even the most debilitating of brain traumas.
After all, if a childhood love for the smell of strawberry can survive a serious stroke, the preference must be pretty deeply ingrained, right? Studies have indeed shown that a majority of our brand and product preferences and in some cases the values that they represent are pretty rmly embedded in us by the age of seven.
Much earlier. Born to Buy When I was very young, my parents loved the sound of bossa nova. Stan Getz. Astrud Gilberto. There was one long, dreary winter when they played bossa nova practically nonstop. Only thing is, my mother was seven months pregnant with me that winter.
When the mother frequently listens to music, the fetus will learn to recognize and prefer that same music compared to other music. And on my iPod. In and of itself, this seems pretty harmless, even kind of sweet. But when you think about how many tunes, sounds, and jingles are linked to brands and products, this all starts to seem a whole lot more sinister. And there is indeed evidence to indicate that hearing tunes and jingles in the womb favorably disposes us to those jingles—and possibly the brands with which they are associated—later on.
So if, for example, the mother heard a catchy jingle every day while pregnant and the mother had a pleasant or relaxing response to the jingle, the fetus, and later the newborn, could have a conditioned response to that sound pattern and attend to it di erently than other unfamiliar sounds. Shrewd marketers have begun to cook up all kinds of ways to capitalize on this.
So the shopping mall chain began experimenting with the unconscious power of smells and sounds. Then it infused the fragrance of cherry across areas of the mall where one could buy food and beverages. The mall executives were hoping this would boost sales among pregnant mothers which it did. A year or so into the sensory experiment, the chain began to be inundated by letters from mothers attesting to the spellbinding e ect the shopping center had on their now newborns.
Turns out the moment they entered the mall, their babies calmed down. As a result, a whole new generation of Asian consumers were drawn—subconsciously, of course—to that shopping mall. You Are What Mom Eats Pregnant women the world over know that what they consume has a profound e ect on their unborn child. The typical mother-to-be kicks o the pregnancy diet the moment the doctor gives her the joyous news.
From now on, no more pinot grigio at dinner. If she snuck a cigarette every now and then, well, those days are over. It turned out that the baby rats whose mothers had consumed all that junk food were 95 percent more likely to overeat than those whose mothers had eaten rat chow alone and they later grew up to become 25 percent fatter than the other little fellows.
And the rst contact with the outside world are those smells we associate with our mothers. How many foods are successful because we are primed at a young age? I think the first four years are instrumental. Well, to give one example, Kopiko—a popular, successful Philippine candy brand that can be found in even the smallest mom-and-pop store in any Philippine town, has gured out a way to win over the taste buds of the unborn.
During one visit to Manila, I discovered that Kopiko distributors were apparently supplying pediatricians and doctors with Kopiko candies to give away to pregnant mothers in the maternity wards. Intrigued as to why, I dug a little deeper. Turns out this may have not just been about treating soon-to-be moms to a tasty snack.
Around that time, Kopiko had been preparing to roll out a new product: co ee that happened to taste just like those candies. Interestingly, the second that the Kopiko co ee did hit the shelves, its success was phenomenal—particularly among children. Yes, kids, who would normally never go within a mile of the stu , turned out to love the taste of Kopiko co ee.
Today, a mere four years into its existence, Kopiko coffee is the third-largest brand in the Philippines. James Bond, the pop group Abba I hereby apologize. And the fact is, thirty- ve years later, the brands I loved as a child still in uence my tastes and buying choices. For one thing, I always unconsciously dress like James Bond all in black and wear a Rolex watch.
I could never quite gure out why, until a few years ago, when it struck me that every single painting in my house was made up of yellow, red, blue, black, and white—exactly those ve basic LEGO colors I was so obsessed with as a kid. All right, I confess it, I still listen to Abba every now and again.
In my defense, I am Scandinavian. It gets worse. By the age of three months, 40 percent of all infants are watching screen media regularly,10 and by the time these same children are two, the number rises to 90 percent. According to Dr.
Scarier still, babies are able to actually request brands by name as soon as they can speak. By age ten, a Nickelodeon study found, the average child has committed anywhere between three hundred and four hundred brands to memory. They are actually beginning to form preferences for them.
The rst set was wrapped in plain old logo-free packaging. If I have it, everyone wants to come to my house and play. For one, they allow marketers to circumvent the regulations on advertising junk food on television. For another, they spread virally—as kids play or share these games with their friends, they unwittingly become guerrilla brand ambassadors.
In short, they employ not just one but several powerful yet hidden persuaders. Which is why makers of so many distinctly adult products are targeting their ads and marketing to inappropriately young customers. Well, puberty means products—razors, shaving cream, face wash, acne gel, deodorant, makeup, and more. And you better believe companies are taking advantage of that fact. Inside, your eleven-year-old daughter will nd an assortment of feminine hygiene products, including a heating pad to alleviate cramps.
As bloggers on Babble. How is that okay for second graders? And how do you create a lifelong drinker? So how do companies get their products talked about among the Miley Cyrus set? One technique is hiring the Girls Intelligence Agency, which recruits a stable of forty thousand girls from across the United States to act as guerrilla marketers. The agency gives these girls exclusive o ers for products, events, and free online fashion consultations and then sends them into the world to talk up the products to their friends and classmates.
Though gures vary from company to company, my research shows larger and larger portions of marketing budgets are being devoted to brandwashing the next generation of male customers at as young an age as possible. The upstart company Stinky Stink courts the tween boy set with a new body spray that mimics the distinctly adolescent scents of snowboard wax, rubber on skateboard wheels, the pine of skateboards themselves, and even the smell of a new PlayStation 3 or Wii gaming machine.
A month later, a second identical entreaty comes. Then another. Would you believe even gas companies and car manufacturers are starting to target kids? Even Starbucks has acknowledged that the younger set is a big part of its demographic. As James U. And one out of two mothers will buy a food simply because her child requests it.
To trigger desire in a child is to trigger desire in the whole family. At the same time, the persuasion also works in the other direction; parents are directly and indirectly responsible for in uencing the lifelong tastes and preferences of their children. The short answer is both. The child who observes his parents buying bottle after bottle of the stu grows up believing Tropicana is the only orange juice in the universe.
So when that kid goes with Mom to the grocery store, guess what brand of juice he or she will pester Mom to put in her cart? So Mom keeps buying Tropicana, and by the time that kid is older and doing her own grocery shopping, she just grabs that brand out of sheer habit. Marketers see to it that we subconsciously link the brand with warm memories of home and family, so that using that brand becomes a way to reconnect both with our past and with our loved ones. I have a friend who insists on using Crest toothpaste and Crest toothpaste only.
When I asked him why, he thought for a moment. Far from it. This is why so many brands are creating mini versions of their adult products for children and even infants in the hopes that the brand will stick. This is the calculus behind babyGap and J. I once conducted an experiment in which I handed a group of one-year-old children BlackBerrys—only to watch each one of them immediately swipe their fingers over it as though it were an Apple touch screen.
Both the World Health Organization and the U. Centers for Disease Control termed the outbreak a pandemic. Millions of people all over the world panicked, and although swine u never became the kind of global catastrophe the u did, it has been blamed for roughly fourteen thousand deaths.
Six years earlier, in , another potentially fatal u, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, caused a similar global panic. SARS originated in southern China but spread to infect citizens in roughly forty countries. By the time the virus was contained in , it was thought to be responsible for nearly eight hundred deaths— and people all over the world were going to heroic lengths to protect themselves and their children from exposure.
For doctors, CDC workers, and other health o cials, a well-publicized global contagion spells a nightmare scenario: stockpiling and administering gallons of vaccines, diagnosing and treating thousands of patients, and spending countless hours and dollars trying to allay widespread panic.
For a number of companies and marketers, however, it spells something entirely different: a golden opportunity. In short, our war on this unseen enemy—a terrorist cell of germs, so to speak—has become a global family affair. Turns out, though, that neither swine u nor SARS can be prevented by the use of antibacterial cleansing gels. Both viruses are spread via tiny droplets in the air that are sneezed or coughed by people who are already infected or, though this is far less common, by making contact with an infected surface, then rubbing your eyes or your nose.
Nevertheless, the idea of an unseen, potentially fatal contagion has driven us into nothing short of an antibacterial mania, one that has helped sales of Purell, the top- selling hand sanitizer, to jump by 50 percent2 and Clorox disinfecting wipes 23 percent since the panic. The advertisers and marketers at brands like Purell, Germ-X, Germ Out, and Lysol have worked extremely hard to make us believe that using their product is the only sure re way to stave o grave and deadly disease.
Well, rst they capitalized on the global panic during the swine u scare by releasing an onslaught of new products and redoubling their e orts to stress the importance of hygiene in staving o disease. Speci c CDC recommendations include keeping your hands clean by washing with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water may not be available. Why, hand sanitizer and bacterial wipes, among other useless items designed to give us the illusion of protection and safety.
None of these kits, some of which came with surgical masks and a light blue garment that looks uncannily like a hospital gown, were endorsed or distributed by the World Health Organization or any other health organization. But it was no coincidence that they were designed and packaged to have a decidedly clinical, medical feel. Even some of the food companies tossed their hat into the ring of paranoia.
Do you remember the delicious thrill you felt as a kid when you watched your rst horror movie —whether it was The Blair Witch Project or The Shining or The Exorcist? Your pulse probably raced, your heart likely beat wildly in your chest, and you may have found yourself involuntarily holding your breath as you waited for that ax-wielding killer to jump out of the shadows.
You were scared out of your mind, and you loved every minute of it. Fear raises our adrenaline, creating that primal, instinctual ght-or- ight response. It has a perverse yet delicious binding quality. Nothing travels as quickly as a frightening rumor—think of those ubiquitous urban legends about highway murder gangs and escaped convicts. Few connections run from the cortex to the amygdala, however.
That allows the amygdala to override the products of the logical, thoughtful cortex, but not vice versa. The respiratory response also decreases the blood supply to the brain, literally making a person unable to think clearly. In one hand a woman is holding up a toothbrush, in the other, a ripe tomato. But in fact something a little bit more subtle and sneaky was going on. After all, a prop resembling a bleeding gum calls to mind only one thing: a trip to the dentist.
What else could be more universally terrifying? So besides dentists and germs, what other kinds of fears do companies play on in marketing us their products? For one, the fear of failure. In a surprising study, researchers at the University of Bath, UK, found that the fear of failure drives consumers far more than the promise of success; the latter oddly tends to paralyze us, while the former spurs us on and pries open our wallets.
To our eyes, he looks great—dapper and distinguished. The camera then cuts to a beautiful younger woman passing him by. And through her eyes we see him as old, decrepit, and repulsive—his worst-feared self realized. A lot. Most of us are scared about the economy, of losing our jobs, and of defaulting on our mortgages. Of getting cancer. Of getting old and breaking a hip. Of death.
Not to mention gym memberships and organic food and bottled water and humidi ers and dehumidi ers and designer clothing and Viagra and earthquake insurance and water-filtration systems and plastic surgery and bike locks and. When they aired in , many media observers and consumer advocates decried them as sensationalistic, salacious, and sexist. Not to mention transparently obvious in their intent to terrify.
Airing a few months into the global recession—for many Americans, one of the scariest times in recent memory—the ads worked like a charm, especially among their target audience: women. Thanks to this unabashed fearmongering, alarm sales rose by an unprecedented 10 percent in a single year—a year during which crime rates actually decreased.
It was a TV commercial featuring a father and his young daughter. The father was about to leave on a business trip, and the daughter was dejected. The camera cut to the father in a black limousine as it pulled away from his visibly unhappy daughter. Next, the screen showed Dad on an airplane.
Then the daughter again, looking up longingly into the sky. Next we see Dad striding into a meeting overseas, his daughter back at home. At last the phone rings. The daughter picks it up, almost tearily. The commercial was for Allianz, a well-known life insurance company. Yes, we were using fear to remind fathers to look out for the families they love.
Without saying so, the ad asked, If something were to happen to you, would your family be nancially protected? The hands-down winner was the shot of the little girl gazing up at the sky. Yet this was nothing compared to another ad I saw once. Love him more. Fear and its close cousin, guilt.
I consider guilt to be a global virus. And no one is better at spreading that virus than marketers and advertisers. Note the matte, unshiny bags they come in, compared to the slippery, gleaming bags enclosing regular Cheetos, which subconsciously remind us of oily, greasy skin.
Not even close. She messed up. Is she a good mother compared to other mothers? Naturally, there are an endless array of products out there—from LeapFrog computers for young children to organic baby food to postnatal exercise videos to LED lightbulbs to Priuses—to alleviate all that guilt. Yet most moms and dads feel incredibly guilty about bringing home a prepackaged meal—or worse yet, getting takeout. A few years ago, supermarkets began selling pizza. Thus, a guilt-ridden mother can now provide a well-rounded, nutritious, home-cooked meal for her family.
Now you understand what Hamburger Helper or Duncan Hines brownie mix add an egg and half a cup of water are all about. Immediately the male viewer thinks about his hardworking, self-sacri cing father— before terror of losing more inches of his own rapidly retreating hairline sets in. Oh no! If an Olympic ice skater can come down with arthritis, so can I! Fear, followed by hope and renewal. The classic one-two punch. Do you su er from allergies?
The woman pictured in the ad for Flonase allergy spray sure does. In a series of photos, we see her unhappily rubbing and wiping her runny, red nose and nally clutching her nostrils in agony. She looks miserable, at the end of her rope. Then we see her after two squirts of Flonase spray. Her teeth quite miraculously have suddenly become blindingly white. A beautiful blond child stands nearby, beaming. Flonase has transformed our sneezy, hacking worst nightmare into a sexy, feminine, outdoors- loving, allergy-free object of our envy and desire.
Sure, pharmaceutical ads play on our fear of death and disease and aging to get us to buy their products. Pharmaceutical companies also play on one of the most subtle yet powerful of psychological tricks: our fear of social isolation, of being outsiders. Countless studies show that humans have a universal need to belong dating way back to our early ancestors, for whom survival depended on being a member of a band or tribe ; for most of us, the thought of being left out or alone is terrifying.
How exactly do the drug companies play—and prey—on this fear? Believe it or not, they use a formula that, according to a research study carried out at Stanford University, is more or less standard for this kind of fear-based advertising. Once the person in the ad has taken whatever it is that is designed to improve their appearance, steady their mood, or alleviate their symptoms, not only do they look brighter, happier, and sexier, but they face straight ahead at the camera.
This accomplishes two things. First, as any psychologist will tell you, averted gazes are generally associated with shame and social isolation, while a straight-ahead gaze is a sign of con dence and connectedness. So the straight-ahead gaze implies that taking the drug or medication has magically made the person in the advertisement not just healthier but more popular, loved, and accepted.
Recognize me, the photograph says. Meet my gaze. You know me. This brand works. If you want to be as happy as I am, use it. They also spend millions of dollars a year stirring up fear in our hearts over conditions we never even knew to be afraid of. Restless leg syndrome? Premenstrual dysphoric disorder? Who knew such things even existed? Well, thanks to the psychologically manipulative and oft-aired commercials, we all do now.
Do you su er from shyness? What about acid re ux disease, formerly known as heartburn? Today there are over a dozen drugs, from Nexium to Prilosec to Zantac, available to treat it. A recent study by two York University researchers found that Big Pharma spends nearly twice as much on promotion and advertising as it does on research and development. Instead, you lift up the top newspaper and pull out the one directly underneath it. Did you know that consciously or not, 72 percent of people do the same?
Ironically, though, after scanning the headlines, many of that same 72 percent of consumers replace that paper right where they found it, under the top one, so they all end up thumbing through the same nger-smudged newspaper over and over. Go figure! The point is that the illusion of cleanliness or freshness is a subtle but powerful persuader—and marketers know it.
I believe this is tied into our nearly universal fear of germs, which ties in to our innate fear of disease, illness, and even death. We slather on epic amounts of hand sanitizer. We pay exorbitant prices for fruit and produce grown without pesticides. No, not really. But it does make us less afraid of getting sick. Global contagions aside, our fear of germs pervades a whole host of buying decisions we make in our everyday lives, from which newspaper we pull o the stack to which groceries we buy.
On a recent NBC Today segment, when my team and I scanned the brain of a female volunteer named Kelly as she made her way down the supermarket aisle so we could analyze her thought patterns as she made her selections, one of the most interesting things we found was that perceptions of cleanliness had a big impact on her decisions—without her even realizing it.
Over the length of the segment, store executives, the lm crew, the producer, and even TV viewers failed to notice one thing that our brain scanners were able to pick up. Every time Kelly picked a product o the shelf, the scientists were able to detect a slight pause or increase in reaction time before she put the object either in her basket or back on the shelf. What was going on here? And on one occasion, when the product Kelly wanted was the lone one remaining on the shelf, the fear response in her brain was so pronounced she ended up choosing another brand altogether—though if you had asked her, she would have had no idea why she had done so.
It makes sense that our fear of germs or contamination would be particularly pronounced when it comes to food products. To see what I mean, picture, say, a marmalade display. Marmalade, as most people know, is a fruit preserve with a thick, peely texture and a syrupy taste. Yet there is no way on earth a marmalade manufacturer can guarantee freshness. Marmalade is simply not a fresh product. Those glass jars have been sitting on this supermarket shelf for upwards of eight months.
So what do they do? They try to create the illusion of freshness by attaching the top of the marmalade lid to the glass jar with a narrow white strip of adhesive paper. When the strip is unbroken, it means that no one has twisted the top of the can open and done who knows what to it. Yet that paper lid gives us the illusion of cleanliness.
The reality is that this jar of marmalade has likely been sitting on this shelf unbothered for months. Occasionally, a clerk will come by and dust it. Free-roaming cows and chickens? Handpicked fruit and owers? Homegrown tomatoes, still on the vine? No matter what Whole Foods you visit in any city in America, the rst thing you see is owers. Da odils. Flowers, as everyone knows, are among the freshest, most perishable objects on earth. Consider the opposite: what if we entered the store and were greeted with stacks of canned tuna and plastic owers?
The prices for the owers, as for all the fresh fruits and vegetables, are scrawled in chalk on fragments of black slate, which is a tradition of outdoor European marketplaces. The dashed-o scrawl also suggests the price changes daily or even throughout the day, just as it might at a roadside farm stand or local market. But in fact, most of the produce was shipped in by plane days ago, its price set and xed at the Whole Foods corporate headquarters.
Not only does the price not change daily, but what may look like chalk on the board is actually indelible; the signs have been mass-produced in a factory. Does hummus really need to be kept ice-cold? What about cucumber-and-yogurt dip? No and no. Similarly, for years now supermarkets have been sprinkling select vegetables with regular dew drops of water—a trend that came out of Denmark. Like ice displays, those sprinklerlike drops serve as a symbolic, albeit a bogus one, of freshness and purity.
Ironically, that same dewy mist makes the vegetables rot more quickly than they would otherwise. So much for perception versus reality. Heinz ketchup. Moreover, Heinz does not, in fact, have to be refrigerated once the seal is broken, as we are led to believe. We painted green leaves on the insides of the lamps and even went so far as to display fresh tomatoes and vegetables behind glass displays.
And trust me, it worked. Note the spill of kiwis, oranges, mangoes, strawberries, and raspberries that blanket most juice cartons. Would it surprise you to nd out that many of these blends contain only the tiniest trace amounts of the more expensive, exotic fruits like kiwi and mango, and are typically more water and sugar than actual fruit juice?
And guess who has a true monopoly on the entire category of fruit juices, not to mention milk, buttermilk, and lemonade? A Swedish conglomerate called Tetra Pak, the global manufacturer of those rectangular plastic containers in which our juices and milks are packaged. On my preliminary package design, I placed ve cheese balls in a minimalist, Stonehenge-like pattern. The person who hired me had a t. I redesigned the package to show seemingly hundreds of those cheese balls.
Because it seduces us into thinking we are getting that much more in the package. This may have nothing to do with freshness after all, even the smartest marketers out there would be hard-pressed to fool any consumer into thinking that Cheetos are remotely fresh , but it goes to show why, despite the minimal amount of actual fruit inside most fruit juices, their containers picture a veritable cornucopia of kiwis, mangoes, and so on.
Dole and other banana growers have made the creation of a banana into a mini science, in part to manipulate perceptions of freshness. Each color represents the sales potential for the banana in question. Believe it or not, my research found that while it may look fresh, the average apple you see in the supermarket is actually fourteen months old. Mango-papaya conditioner, anyone? Lemon lip gloss? Orange-scented Pine-Sol? Will these products get your hair or your oors any cleaner than the regular versions?
Of course not. Some companies I know have even gone so far as to create a chemical that accelerates the appearance and quality of bubbles, to make unwitting bathers feel as though their hair is getting cleaner faster. Similarly, ever wonder why Aquafresh toothpaste looks the way it does? The white is meant to be a symbolic for whiter teeth, the red a symbolic for protecting the gums, and the blue a symbolic for fresh breath.
And it works. In one experiment, I asked two groups of consumers to try two di erent versions of the toothpaste—one the regular version and one that had been dyed just one color. Sure enough, the group using the paste with the three colors not only reported that the toothpaste worked 73 percent better, they even claimed they believed that their teeth looked whiter.
Back at Whole Foods, as I round the corner, a decidedly nonfruity smell hits me. Yet again, our brains have been tricked into believing that everything in the store was shed, trucked in, and hand-delivered just this morning. I was once called in to advise the owner of a Dubai sh market who had attempted to sell frozen sh. At rst, very few customers showed any interest. Suddenly and irrationally , sales of the sh—the frozen sh, remember—rose by 74 percent. It was perceived as fresher simply because it was displayed on blocks of ice.
Why, that fresh bunch of spinach could easily be weeks old! Whereas, they inform consumers, frozen food is conserved and preserved on the spot! A nal sh story. A friend of mine once worked on the small island of Tenerife, largest of the Canary Islands o the coast of Spain. He was a sherman, and his very best customer was a popular local restaurant known as Los Abrigos. But the restaurant owners had speci c instructions.
When customers would arrive for lunch between noon and p. It was all completely staged, but people fell for it, and soon the restaurant had to turn away a daily overflow of customers. Which may be the scariest thing of all. Is it a colleague checking in? News of a canceled meeting? A sick child? A death, a birth, an emergency? Without this lifeline in your hand, where would you be? Cut off. I know a man whose iPhone sits in a bedside dock beside him at night.
Most nights, he wakes up involuntarily at a. Then again at three. Then again at ve. As he gets ready for the day, his phone goes with him everywhere. To the bathroom while he takes his morning shower. Outside when he takes the dog out for a quick walk. While driving to work, he recharges it in the passenger seat, lest the battery run out before he makes it to his office where he has a backup.
As he drives, his GPS app tells him which route has the least tra c. At work, he plugs it into his computer. Sometimes he squints to read a book on the Kindle app. He uses his smart phone as a stopwatch, a ashlight, a calculator, a calendar, a camera, a stock checker, a note taker, and more. At those times he felt as though his very identity had been stripped from him. And in this behavior he is far from alone. A recent study of two hundred students at Stanford University revealed that 34 percent rated themselves as addicted to their phones, while 32 percent worried they someday would be addicted.
The way things are trending, I suspect this number is only going to grow. Think about how many times you check your phone throughout the course of the day. Twenty- ve? Two hundred? Let me ask you another question: Where do you keep your cell phone when you go to sleep at night?
Two tables away sat an American couple. It was lunchtime. Lowering his head, the man drew his hand to his pants pocket, surreptitiously slid out his phone, and cocked his eyes down at the small, glowing screen. A moment passed. Then the man excused himself and went to the bathroom. I was right. The moment he returned to the table, the woman, who had undoubtedly taken his absence as an opportunity to check her own phone, rose to use the bathroom herself.
Tucking our recharged cell phones into our purses or pockets before leaving the house in the morning has become a ritualized step of arming ourselves against the day. The third-place winner? The sound of a vibrating phone. But addicted? Just as with addiction to drugs or cigarettes or food, the chemical driver of this process is dopamine, that feel-good neurotransmitter.
Still, the theory that behavior like that of my iPhone-obsessed friend is driven by the same neurological processes as drug or alcohol addiction remains unproven and controversial. As the study got under way, researchers screened both audio and video of a ringing and a vibrating iPhone. Researchers then screened these audiovisual images to our volunteers three times in a row. Were iPhones really, truly addictive, no less so than alcohol, cocaine, shopping, or video games? Two weeks later, the MindSign research team rang me up with the results.
First, a straightforward observation: The audio and the video of the iPhone both ringing and vibrating activated both the audio and visual cortices of our study subjects—in other words their brains had visual, not just auditory, associations with the sound of the ring tone.
What the sights and sounds of a ringing or vibrating cell phone did reveal, however, was that our study subjects loved their iPhones; their brains responded to the sound of the phones the same way they would respond to their boyfriend, girlfriend, niece, nephew, or family pet. In short, it may not be addiction in the medical sense, but it is true love. Did she use this money for a down payment on a house or to send her kid to college?
Nope, she used it to fund her Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci habits when she was caught, the brand-name clothes, handbags, and shoes bought with the stolen money were enough to fill twenty-seven garbage bags. Today most experts also agree that regardless of its cause or what shape it takes, addiction is, biologically speaking, a brain disease.
Then, like an alcoholic after a binge, he or she is overcome with guilt and remorse before the cycle starts all over again. As we saw in the last chapter, marketing and advertising entreaties that play on emotions like fear, insecurity, and the universal need for acceptance are incredibly persuasive. One four-year-long German study has even found that a critical factor in shopping addiction is the boost of self-esteem shoppers get from interacting with store clerks!
But their subconscious minds enjoy being treated as a special somebody. Still, do companies and advertisers have a hand in creating these addictions to their products? Sometimes they use subconscious emotional or psychological cues, like when cigarette companies imbue their ads and packaging with subtle imagery meant to induce craving.
And other times they persuade us to engage in behaviors that actually rewire our brains to become hooked on the act of shopping and buying. To nd out exactly how these addictions form, I spoke with a former senior executive at Philip Morris seemed like the logical place to start my research on addiction about how mere consumer habits and preferences can cross the line into addictions—and the role companies play in pushing us over it.
He told me that his company has identi ed a model of how we get hooked on brands. It happens in two stages. These are all products we buy regularly and replace or replenish whenever they break or run out. They are essential to our everyday functioning. When do we slip into the dream stage? During the summer, over the weekend, on vacation. Think about it. Beyond the essentials, how many times do you open your wallet during the workweek? But as the weekend approaches, we shed our routines like an unwanted skin and become susceptible to the dream stage.
In sum, a habit is formed during the dream stage, then the habit is reinforced and permanently embedded during the routine stage, at which time we are unconsciously longing for the dream-stage feelings we left behind at the beach or at the spa or at that outdoor concert. This, in fact, is why most beverage brands are so ubiquitously present at summertime music festivals and concerts; those companies know this is one of the best windows to hook new customers on their products.
Miraculously, the area is soon packed with other kids; mission accomplished. In order for a product to truly take root, its makers have to imbue it with some addictive—whether physically or psychologically— qualities. So what exactly do companies and advertisers do to engineer our desire and make their brand or product so impossible to resist?
Let me give you one example from the front lines. The Power of Craving A couple of years ago, one of the largest beverage companies in the world hired me to help solve a problem. The sales of its top soft drink had been declining over the past three years, and despite rolling out every trick in its playbook, nothing including more TV ads and a viral campaign was working.
It looked hopeless, until I realized something the marketing executives had overlooked. Though it seemed like a small detail, psychologically speaking it was anything but. At Coca-Cola, for example, marketing executives spend hours discussing how many bubbles they should feature in their print ads and on in-store refrigerators. In this case, it was one type of symbol in particular. But what those little drops of sweat signal to us subconsciously is that the beverage is not just cold but ice-cold, which, as everyone knows, makes soda a million times more tasty and refreshing.
It was clear to me that if it was to revive the brand, the company would have to come up with a new unconscious symbol—something even more powerful, more seductive, more crave-worthy than the sweat drops. The only question was what. So I began touring the country, going so far as to spend the night in the homes of soda drinkers of all ages and races. I ate with them. I talked with them. I partied with them. And, of course, I drank a lot of sodas with them. Along the way, something clicked.
A few years ago, I conducted a study about the powerful role that sound plays in our subconscious minds. By scanning the brains of fty consumers from around the world, I was able to isolate the ten most evocative and addictive sounds. The most powerful sound was a baby laughing. But interestingly, also rounding out the top-ten list were the sizzle of a broiling steak and the crackle and zz of a beverage being poured into a glass filled with ice cubes.
Point is, sounds are incredibly e ective triggering cravings. So if I wanted to help that soft drink company revive its brand, the key would be to nd out exactly what sounds would trigger the most powerful cravings for its product. What I found was that not everyone responded the same way to the sound of a can opening or a beverage being poured. Believe it or not, people who drink a lot of soda can actually hear the di erence between the click of one brand and the click of another.
From my research on how cigarette companies trigger cravings something I wrote a lot about in Buyology , I knew that depending on the person, certain unconscious signals trigger cravings for certain brands and not others. I found in my earlier fMRI research that Camel smokers experienced more cravings when they saw illustrations of Camels and Camel logos, and Marlboro smokers experienced more cravings when they saw illustrations of the iconic Marlboro Man. JC: People are beginning to better understand the diversity of cultures and regions, and the variety of cultural experiences that can be had — historic, ecological, gastronomic, urban, etc.
It is much more than a beach vacation. CNP: What do you see as being the key difference between place branding and place marketing? JC: It is significant. Place branding is the clear articulation of the essence of a location — its true meaning, attributes and potential. Place marketing is then the tool to communicate these messages to specific audiences. CNP: City brands are finding their way into the spotlight — how can nation brands work more effectively with cities to support a clear place brand identity?
CNP: What advantages are there for promoting better collaboration between economic development and destination marketing teams? JC: They go hand in hand. Again, increased communication and coordination can help align efforts to they are more jointly effective. CNP: Do you think there is a growing role for the private sector in supporting nation and city brands? If so, what is your top tip for engaging private sector organizations in the process?
JC: The best way to engage the private sector is by articulating a measurable return on investment that is aligned with their own brand and market objectives. Many non-profits do this very effectively every day, and nation and city brand teams can learn from their examples. Why is that? CNP: What is your top tip for creating a place brand strategy that is sustainable in its approach — both in terms of preserving the culture of your place and of minimizing environmental impacts?
In The Spotlight. JC: Communication and coordination CNP: What advantages are there for promoting better collaboration between economic development and destination marketing teams? Again, increased communication and coordination can help align efforts to they are more jointly effective CNP: Do you think there is a growing role for the private sector in supporting nation and city brands? JC: Yes. Because it is a powerful tool to improve economic development.
JC: Learning from the incredible cadre of experts — what a great variety! JC: Boston, where I already live and work. Find out more.
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|Usd yen pip value in forex||It was clear to me that if it was to revive the brand, the company would have to come up with a new unconscious symbol—something even more powerful, more seductive, more crave-worthy than the sweat drops. Yet again, our brains have been tricked into believing that everything in the store was shed, trucked in, and hand-delivered just this morning. And, of course, I drank a lot of sodas with them. Cut off. But what about the latest food villain of the twenty- rst century—salt?|
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We spoke to Javier Cortés, Studio Director for Design at Gensler, to discover his thoughts on how place brands can overcome these challenges. Jun 16, , Javier Peregrina, , +% Jun 13, , Jose Antonio Cortes, , +%. Jun 13, , Pablo Bella, , %. In the pages ahead, we'll learn all about what they know, how they know it, But when you think about how many tunes, sounds, and jingles are linked to.