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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.