If there’s one book on marketing you rush out to buy this fall, choose Brandwashed!
This is not a paid endorsement, merely the most creative and well-written look that I’ve seen at product placement, technology and the power that companies continue to have over consumers…ever. I’m trying to pitch it as a psychology class to my alma mater.
Did you know that you are first targeted by businesses at the age of 24 weeks? In the womb. The inspiration of Mr. Martin Lindstrom‘s latest is a Keeping up with the Joneses type experiment. A family moved into a wealthy Californian neighborhood with the intent of seeing at how concentrated peer pressure and product placement appeared to be and how well it worked. Because the publishing-company-created Morganson family was affluent, approachable and easy to respect, the result was that their peers and neighbors wanted to embody their purchase decisions. I reached out to Mr. Lindstrom about the development process of Brandwashed and his history in the marketing and advertising worlds.
You can’t have started much younger than this guy. As a kid he loved LEGO, (understatement, the man had a LEGO bed…actually I’m a little jealous and impressed by this) and was enamored by the idea of opening his own LEGOLAND. When visitors were a wee bit lacking the first day, Lindstrom decided to approach a local advertising agency for a sponsorship. His dedication to his craft must have been apparent; they accepted and 131 guests arrived the next day to see the newest branch of the LEGOLAND franchise. Unfortunately, guests 130 and 131 were representatives from LEGO who were none too happy with the situation. Regardless, enterprise and creativity were instilled in Lindstrom from an early age.
Lindstrom hopes that if readers take anything away from Brandwashed it will be the idea that we’re all Brandwashed. Here comes the psychology- “The more we think we’re immune the more brandwashed we are.”
In his journey to withdraw from the product/consumer frenzy, Lindstrom gave himself a goal. One year without brands. Nada. Toothpaste? Had to be generic, the kind you get on plains. Bananas, no Chiquita for you. Anything that subconsciously you would allude to with a store or brand reference, went out the door. When I asked Lindstrom which brand he missed the most? (And you’ll have to read Brandwashed to see if he was successful in his endeavor) Pepsi. Which interestingly enough, he’s since “quit.”
In reading Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, I was more often surprised than not reading case study and statistics. Lindstrom shares the Carmex industry as a shocker — they infuse an addictive substance into the lip balm, creating a continuous need for the consumer to apply more. Naughty, naughty Carmex! Seeing as how the inspiration for the Morganson experiment was a recent movie, I asked if Lindstrom thought the movie was an accurate portrayal of brand placement. He agrees it was extremely accurate and a fair representation of sale increases due to word of mouth and consumer-to-consumer advertising. One product advertised by the Morganson family saw an increase in sales of over 1000%.
Unfortunately the future of brand placement, at least if you’re opposed to it, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Lindstrom believes the future holds a complete integration of editorial messages and commercial messages.
“It’s sad but true. It’s happening because the TV networks are struggling to retain attention around their programs (TIVO) so they need to integrate the commercial messages into their editorial work. We’ll also soon see plot placement where the entire story is about a brand (think about Master – the dog in a Chile TV show sponsored by the brand Master). Can we avoid it – no – but we can inform about – hence Brandwashed (this is a product placement – now you’re warned) ;-D”
Well then maybe Lindstrom’s upcoming goals are spot-on: educating companies. This coming week he’ll introduce the 10 new ethical guidelines for companies worldwide to adapt. He’s created these with the help of 2,100 consumers. His hopes? That he can persuade 10% of Fortune 500 companies.
“Word-of-mouth is the answer- both online and offline. It is very clear to me that our filter goes up when we’re exposed for advertising – lowering the effect that it has. The same is happening for product placement as we get more and more used to it. Next frontier will be word-of-mouth — and possibly contextual advertising — both online (which is happening in a big way on Facebook and elsewhere) and in the real bricks-and-mortar world (like contextual shopping carts etc).”