Buy.ology: Why We Buy What We Do

It seems that I spend a great deal of time these days talking about the subconcious emotional drivers of designs. It turns out that there are very good reasons we all "buy" what we do. Reasons that are tied into our biology, culture, and our individual manner of nuture.

I first became aware of this kind of thinking when studing the work of Rudolph Arnhiem- and his seminal book on Art and Visual expression as an undergrad at the University of Michigan. Now comes Author Martin Lindstrom, with an amazing new lense on the topic, using neuroscience to get an even tighter perspective. The info below from a Time magazine review of his new book " Buy.ology".

What do Rosary Beads and Red Bull have in common? A lot, it seems. Marketing guru Lindstrom and his team hooked up 65 people to special MRI machines to find out what their brains revealed about the connection between religion and brand loyalty. For days, the researchers ran images—like those of the Pope and a bottle of Coca-Cola—by the wired subjects. The resulting brain scans were arresting. It turns out that there is virtually no difference between the way the brain reacts to religious icons or figures and powerful brands. Nike is a goddess, after all.

The experiment is quintessential Lindstrom. The author, who spends 300 days a year on the road, teaching major companies how to market their brands, has an original, inquisitive mind. His new book is a fascinating look at how consumers perceive logos, ads, commercials, brands and products. Lindstrom conducted a three-year, $7 million neuromarketing study (sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline and Bertelsmann, among others) that measured the brain activity of 2,000 volunteers from around the world. Some of the results confirmed marketing-industry hunches; others flew in the face of conventional wisdom. A few findings from the well-traveled savant:

• Product placement on the TV or movie screen is generally useless (unless you are selling it). Viewers tune it out like white noise. It works only when the product is fundamental to the story line.

• Cigarette warning labels not only do not deter smoking but actually encourage smokers to light up. The reason? The nucleus accumbens, or the "craving spot" in the brain, is stimulated by the sight of the warning.

• Is subliminal advertising still used? You bet. There are even stores that play music containing concealed recorded messages prodding shoppers to buy more or not to shoplift.

• Contrary to popular belief, sex usually doesn't sell products. But controversies about sex in ads do (see Calvin Klein or Abercrombie & Fitch).

The author insists he doesn't study buyology, which he defines as "the multitude of subconscious forces that motivate us to buy," to help companies launch nefarious marketing schemes. Rather, he says, "my hope is that the huge majority will wield this same instrument for good: to better understand ourselves—our wants, our drives and our motivations—and use that knowledge for benevolent, and practical, purposes." Well, maybe. But then again, he has nothing to sell us.

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  • Mark Dziersk

    V for what it's worth I think teachers are the greatest profesion. Perhaps decisions have been made around you, out of your control, that affect the behaviors of students?
    Mark Dziersk FIDSA

  • V Madiraca

    $7million to find out why I buy a product?

    I would rather see money spent on middle school students to see why they are not interested in school and what I can do as a teacher to motivate them.

  • Nick Trendov

    Not to burst your ballon, but this but the entire concept of Buyology is old wine in a shiny new bottle.

    I'll make this post short. Marketing segmentation models are showing their age and the reason for their collapse is simple. People act dynamically and the stories and processes of their lives goes way beyond market segmentation.

    Buyology is more of the same, segments of a model scaled down to segments of a brain. The concept starts with the supposition that understanding brain activity reveals desire, positive or negative, related to a message. The 'secret sauce' is making sure that brain stimulation occurs from at least two sources--scent, audio, visual...ho hum.

    My experience is related to the Persona concept where people can wear Persona masks that represent stories and processes important to them when they intereact with a product, company or story. People can and do wear and discard many Person masks during the day, knowingly or not.

    For those that would benefit from understanding the power of stories applied as a marketing tool to serve rather than maximize billing see http://neuropersona.wordpress....

    Then you make a decsion, but I guarantee it is worth the read.

    Nick Trendov

    The $7m spent on the survey should have been dontated.

  • James Seay

    Interesting article. This reminds me of a book written by Patrick Hanlon "Primal Branding". The book discusses how successful brands are set up similar to religions. The creation story, non-believers, symbols, rites of passage are all important elements in brand building.