Book Review: Buyology

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy and the New Science of Desire

Martin Lindstrom,Broadway Books 2010, 255 pgs

This book has a lot of hype, no surprise because the author is a brand expert in the marketing industry.  This book itself was subject to a little controversy, Lindstrom gamed the book rankings by using a bulk buying service.  This service artificially bumped his sale ratings. After reading that, I was even more happy that I bought this book used.

This book is premised on a large neuro study that Lindstrom had a part in: scanning, victims, err, participants brains for activity when exposed to different types of advertisements and marketing.  This book explains the results of this, the implications and looks at standard marketing cliches; product placement, sex-sells, etc.

Lindstrom does a decent job. I found it telling that throughout the book Lindstrom has to constantly remind us that he is on our side.    But Lindstrom is a ‘brand marketer’, and his business depends on our willingness to part with money to buy things.

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Experencies vs. Things

I think it’s time to talk about the experience vs. things dichotomy.

If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, here’s the cliff notes:

Forgot guns vs butter from the econ classroom, this is about vacations versus iPads.  It’s about consumer goods from big box USA versus a rum fueled night at the beach in Cuba, or a stroll around the Eiffel Tower.

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Beats suck.

A survey in the Spring of 2014 found that 46.1% of teenagers pegged Beats by Dr. Dre as their preferred headphone brand for their next headphone purchase.   Beats Electronics controls 27% of the headphone market and 57% of the premium headphone market (premium headphones are headphones that are $100+).   Before Beats got in the game, high priced ‘premium headphones’ were exclusive to the realm of audiophiles.  Beats by Dr. Dre has disrupted the fabric of the headphone game, it’s no wonder audiophiles are outright hostile to Beats presence.   The effrontery of Beats by Dr. Dre is not just about inferior headphones, it is about strong marketing forces. This is not new, but rather just a continuing tradition of an unstoppable force of celebrity endorsement, heavy advertising, ostentatious appeal, the pursuit of status: all the tricks of modern day

Here’s the TL;DR on Beats headphones, Beats are really not about the sound, they are about fashion sentiment, the ‘coolness’. Dre promotes the idea of good music but Beats arguably don’t deliver on that note.

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