Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, by Martin Lindstrom

I always like to read books on advertising, commercialism, and so on, so I had to pick this up when I saw it at work. It's really fascinating, because Lindstrom is a fairly eminent marketer and he explains a lot about how companies persuade us to buy stuff. Topics range over influencing unborn babies, selling fear, stealth advertising, nostalgia marketing, and why we (subconsciously) think that celebrities know what they're talking about.

I was most interested by his chapter on selling hope. Lindstrom describes in detail how marketers design bottles and labels and names to associate their product with your longings for a more peaceful or more competent or more beautiful life. Herbal supplements, health and energy drinks, and cosmetics do it all the time, and the explanations were great.

At the end, Lindstrom tackles the loss of privacy that is happening to all of us, as data miners develop profiles on us. Our cell phones, the coupons we print out from the Internet, our Facebook profiles, all sorts of things tell companies more than we ever expected. And finally, Lindstrom talks about the most powerful marketer of all--our very own selves. When our friends tell us what brands they like, we listen; but what if our friends are being paid to recommend brands?

There's some great information in this book, so I recommend it. It's kind of odd, though, because Lindstrom is himself a major marketer, so sometimes you kind of feel like he's spinning his own actions a bit.

Martin Lindstrom is Danish, which made me happy (because I lived there once), and as a kid he was obsessed with Legos. If you visit his website you can see a photo of him in his backyard, which he turned into a mini-Legoland. Pretty mind-blowing! I'm almost afraid to show my own little Lego-maniac the pictures.


  1. I just read an article on how Target uses data on 25 products to decide if a woman is pregnant, and if so how far along. It was creepy & crazy!

    I hate how integrated marketing & advertising has become; they're almost part of everything. I think product placement should be banned from tv shows/movies; it's so obnoxious (just this morning, I was watching latest Amazing Race episode & realised all of the female contestants were wearing the same ridiculously tight lycra capris; I'm *sure* that's because of a company. I was even more annoyed that the men don't have to wear skintight clothes.). It drives me nuts, especially since not everyone knows what to look for.

  2. Ooh, Target can figure out how far along I am? (Er, metaphorically. I'm not.) Wow.

    One kind of amazing thing Lindstrom kept saying is how surprisingly apathetic a lot of people are about all this. It makes you mad (and me), but a lot of people just don't mind at all, even when their own friends are paid to hype things--I wonder if it's because we've all gotten so used to it that it no longer strikes us as abnormal.


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