Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom (Key Takeaways)

Have you ever wondered why some of your products fly off the shelves and others collect dust? In this book author Martin Lindstrom explores the secret of successful products and services, what makes them stand out and why customers engage with them. What makes customers authentically engage with certain products? What are consumers really thinking?

Over the course of two years, Lindstrom and his team studied the buying behavior of 2,000 participants using neuroimaging (via a technique called SST which measures electrical activity inside the brain). Similar to how an MRI uncovers hidden truths, so does the SST, pinpointing consumers’ reward centers, and revealing which marketing or advertising efforts were interesting, dull, anxiety-provoking, or forgettable. This allows us to get to a better understanding of thought patterns and decision-making processes of our customers.

Lindstrom sites George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist from Carnegie Mellon University confirming what he was seeing in his study participants: “Most of the brain is dominated by automatic processes, rather than deliberate thinking a lot of what happens in the brain is emotional, not cognitive.”

Knowing this, as marketers, we can best share relevant products and services to their target markets by making an emotional connection with the buyer. This is tough given the pure onslaught of constant information assaulting us at all angles- 24 hour news channels, internet banner ads and pop ups, emails, text messages, etc. It now takes really creative ways to catch the attention of the audience, and even more to leave an impression.

One of the elements studied in Lindstrom’s experiments was American Idol and its advertisers.This was a good example of a brand connecting well with its audience in impactful ways with  Coca Cola. It was woven into the American Idol experience, not just through the cups sitting in front of the judges, but the Coca Cola red walls in the waiting section for the next contestants performing, furniture evoking the shape of bottles. Coke was fully integrated into the narrative of the show, with 60% of the airtime running with subtle and not so subtle branding. Meanwhile Ford, another American Idol advertiser, mostly just appeared in the commercials for the first few seasons, being forgettable, largely due to the response we have as consumers which is to turn off our brains when the commercials come on. We tune out thinking “this is just an ad.” While results of Lindstrom’s study showed that participants had strong brand association with Coca Cola, they barely noticed Ford with the researchers saying participants “had no memory of brands that don’t plan an integral part in the storyline of a program.”

Did you catch the main take-away message? Consumers have no memory of ads that don’t play an integral part of the story or make an emotional connection. 

A great example of connecting with your audience in a meaningful way is the below Father/ Daughter Subaru commercial from not too long ago. Did this commercial stand out to you?



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