Book Review: Buyology by Martin Lindstrom

Anyone who regularly reads our blog posts on the Drive Research website knows consumer behavior is a true passion of mine. The psychology of "why" people buy is fascinating to me. It dives into the numbers from your web analytics and surveys in an attempt to explain drivers to behavior. Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology covers similar topics in his attempt to explain "the truths and lies of why we buy?" Interested in consumer behavior and psychology marketing research? I recommend Buyology.

Here are several key takeaways and talking points from the book.

Book Review: Buyology by Martin Lindstrom

Qualitative, Quantitative, Neuromarketing.

The author makes a similar argument presented in another post from Simon Sinek arguing consumers struggle to rationalize why they buy things. He explains that there are so many underlying thoughts and feelings that go into decisions, that one person could not possibly understand their own inner-workings of their brain to explain why they made a purchase. Neuromarketing is the piece that will assist marketing researchers and advertisers in understanding the thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, and desires of consumers. More so than anything - cultural biases, upbringings, and other subconscious thoughts influence the choices we make.

Explaining the Pepsi vs. Coke Sip Tests.

This was always a favorite research story of mine, and I've heard about it long before Buyology but I thought it was worth recapping here. Why does Pepsi continually outperform Coca-Cola on taste test, yet Coke continue to dominate market share? The difference lies within taking a small sip versus downing the entire can. In the second or two of taking a sip of Pepsi, the sweet taste ignites a section of the brain positively and it immediately impacts choice. Because of the sweet taste of Pepsi however, downing an entire can is blood sugar overkill. Pepsi may win the sip test but coke wins the 12-pack buying race and market share as a result.

Television Recall and Advertising.

In 1965, 34% of consumers could recall TV ads. In 1990, this dropped to 8%. I wonder what this percentage is today in a completely fragmented market where digital video growth is trending increasingly upward? Advertising has become a battle for attention of worn out and finite attention spans. Lindstrom equates it to goldfish who have a working memory of 7 seconds, so every 7 seconds their life starts all over again. Advertisers fall into traps of "if it's not broken don't fix it." He used the example of automobile TV commercials he showed to a test group of participants. They all involved the same swerve, same turn, same desert, same dust cloud. Eluding to Seth Godin's preaching about purple cows, if your product advertising is not remarkable, it's forgotten in a sea of look-a-likes. The author argues creative should aim to stand out instead of fit in. He also reminds us who work in marketing research and advertising are not normal. Face it, we're not. Maybe you already figured that. We notice things that 99% of the consumer audience does not think about, not working in the industry.

A Case for Native Advertising.

In one of his chapters, Lindstrom discusses the impact of product placement in TV shows. With the growth in DVRs and digital video, 30 second TV spots are irrelevant outside of prime-time and live events. As a result, he expects product placement to drive prime-time television show plots over the next decade, cleverly working in products to play an integral part of the narrative of a program. These types of placements have a double-barreled effect based on his research. They increase the memory of the product while simultaneously weakening consumers' ability to remember other brands. Translation, if you work Chevy into product placement, it boosts the Chevy brand while consumers also forget about Ford and Toyota ads run during the same show. For this product placement to work (think native advertising within a site), it has to be more sly and more sophisticated than simply randomly placing them on-screen. It has to make sense. It's a subliminal form of sales through acceptance within the show's or website's structure.

The Corona with Lime.

Lindstrom talks about the power of ritual in one of his chapters. The Corona with lime ritual reportedly dates back to 1981 and a bar bet where a bartender popped a lime wedge into the neck of his Corona to see if he could get other patrons to do the same. And here you thought the lime was originally added to improve taste or perhaps combat bacteria? This random act in the early 1980s is credited by Corona as a key driver in helping the company overtake Heineken in the U.S. market.

Impact of Colors and Scents on Minds.

I've always heard red and yellow colors elicit hunger which is why you see brands like McDonald's, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, and KFC using those colors. The author takes this a step further. In rare visits (maybe once every few most) to Dave & Buster's my wife and I had always noticed the smell of vanilla. We figured they pumped it in purely because it was a popular and pleasant scent and didn't think otherwise. Turns out Lindstrom explains vanilla is the most popular scent in the country because it creates a feeling of comfort and evokes early childhood memories. Seems to go hand-in-hand with what Dave and Buster's mantra is right? This is a common practice in fast food restaurants (pumping in grill scents, sorry those aren't real cheeseburgers) and home and garden stores (pumping in grassy mist scents.) These also create improved customer experiences in-store as results of intercept surveys done during these times yield more positive results.

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