Book Review – Buyology

There’s a book out there by Martin Lindstrom floating around called Buy-Ology. It’s a good book, but not useful for my kind of marketing.

Lindstrom is a professor at Stanford’s business school and goes into great detail about whether various kinds of marketing arrangements actually work or not. Like, do all those commercials have an impact (no, they don’t), does seeing other people with a product (think iPods) make us want them (answer: yes), does subliminal messaging work (actually, it was never really done — it’s all a fake and even when it’s been tested, it doesn’t work).

My favorite bit was about American Idol and the amount of money Ford, AT&T (then Cingular at the time of the writing) and Coca Cola spend on advertising. Ford spends nearly $40 million dollars and lo, it doesn’t do a damn thing for them. Using brain scanning (fMRIs) technology and user tests, they figured out no one notices Ford because they don’t actually play a role in the show aside from having a bunch of commercials.

AT&T fares well because they play a role that’s almost like a character — “you can vote with us” — and it works. But Coke, my goodness, they have it down to a science. We all know that Coke cups sit in front of the judges and that they often plug Coke’s refreshing taste. But, did you know that the table the judges sit at is cleverly shaped like a Coke bottle? Or that when someone gets the nod to go to LA the winners are taken to a room with dark red walls? Subtle, eh? The results play well for Coke.

In all, Lindstrom’s book is fascinating, especially if you enjoy reading about human behavior and psychology. However, it’s not at all useful if you don’t have a marketing budget with millions of dollars at your disposal. The book takes a hard look at major marketing efforts of the world’s top companies. There’s no discussion here if putting flyers on telephone poles work or not (my guess is that it doesn’t).

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