Bring Your Questions for Brandwashed Author Martin Lindstrom

Though the exact percentage is debatable, the fact is that the vast majority of U.S. GDP is made up of personal consumption.  The American consumer doesn’t just drive the U.S. economy, for decades he’s been driving the global one as well.  Though that dynamic is slowly changing as Americans cut back on just about everything we buy, for the better part of the last 60 years, the U.S. consumer has been king. And from this has sprung a massive marketing and advertising industry coldly focused on a singular goal: getting us to buy as much stuff as they possibly can.

In his new book  Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, marketing guru Martin Lindstrom trains a bright light on his own industry to uncover all the unsavory things that marketers do to subtly, or not so subtly, influence our buying habits. Lindstrom’s agreed to answer your questions, so fire away in the comments section. As always, we’ll post his replies in due course.

Oh, and to prime the pump, here’s the Table of Contents:

1. Buy, Buy Baby: When companies start marketing to us in the womb

2. Peddling Panic and Paranoia: Why fear sells

3. I Can’t Quit You: Brand addicts, shopaholics, and why we can’t live without our smart phones

4. Buy It, Get Laid: The new face of sex (and the sexes) in advertising

5. Under Pressure: The power of peers

6. Oh, Sweet Memories: The new (but also old) face of nostalgia marketing

7. Marketers’ Royal Flush: The hidden powers of celebrity and fame

8. Hope in a Jar: The price of health, happiness, and spiritual enlightenment

9. Every Breath You Take, They’ll Be Watching You: The end of privacy

10. I’ll Have What Mrs. Morgenson Is Having: The most powerful hidden persuader of them all: us

Mike B

Can you please enumerate the tricks you are using in your cover to entice people into buying your book? Do you find using such tricks to be hypocritical? If attempting to use no such tricks could be considered a trick how would you recommend a product make itself completely generic as a protest against branding?


"Can you please enumerate the tricks you are using in your cover to entice people into buying your book? Do you find using such tricks to be hypocritical?"

I think that was the point. He took it to the extreme as to be comical. I laughed.


What high profile marketing schemes were abysmal failures?

Chris Markham

If I KNOW that marketeers are using heuristics like herding, and endowment effects to sell me stuff, does this make me immune to marketing?


What differences are taken into account when marketing towards men vs. women?

David Coles

Is there a point at which we reach brand overload and the money spent on advertising and branding begins to loose efficiency? That is to say, is there a natural peak level of effective advertising exposure that will eventually crest and reach a saturated equilibrium of sorts? Not on specific brands, but on daily branding exposure as a whole?


Two unrelated questions:

1. In industries where all products and marketing are illegal, such as drugs like heroin and cocaine, America is still the #1 consumer. Doesn't this suggest that even if the "manipulative" "tricks" you discuss were banned outright, Americans would still consume more than anyone else in the world?

2. Do you think that "brandwashing" and its effect on America's status as #1 consumer is a net good or bad thing? After all, if we weren't the #1 consumer, wouldn't some other country be? And wouldn't the whole world (including ourselves) be poorer as a result?

PS. Just a funny anecdote: I passed an enormous billboard for this book as I drove through west Los Angeles. While the billboard momentarily distracted me from the road, it intrigued me with its content. (In big block letters it read: "ARE YOU BRAINWASHED?" only the "brain" was crossed out and "brand" was written over it in script.) I thought, "Those marketers did a great job!"


Caleb b

I failed to see a chapter about the role of comedy in marketing. Is it "mind control?" Since I know they are trying to make me laugh, will this still make me more likely to buy?

Also, what part of the brain are marketers trying to access when making deliberately weird, or off-putting commercials? I'm thinking of the creepy King (burger king) or the cult-like look of the Snuggie.


Is it possible to estimate what marketing professionals would earn if their fees was on a strict percentage of sales generated from the marketing campaigns?

Adora Tsang

Are there benefits to being manipulated?

Leon Y

Do you think that despite the fact that we can consciously learn about the tricks marketers use, we will still fall for the same marketing tricks because of our human nature? As in is the evolutionary psychological tricks innate?


I consider myself a cautious consumer who resists marketing in general steering away from new products until price falls (I did not get a DVD player until 2004), I buy generic products and believe that their quality is equal to name brand and don't have a smart phone. What habits would indicate that I have fallen prey to marketing without realizing it?

Mo T. Bac

Is there a relation between the marketing budget and quality of the product?


Your recent op-ed in the NY Times was more or less destroyed by the psychology blogosphere. Should we be more optimistic about the book?

Joycelyn lim

"it's not the consumers' job to know what they want" - jobs. Essence of this book. Nice job!


Average consumers don't drive the economy; job creators drive the economy.


I habitually buy store-brands or generic (except when the national brand is cheaper due to sales).

Does that make me smart or just a sucker for a different marketing ploy?


Do you think there is a tipping point for a product's success? Once a product successfully reaches a certain amount of people, other people see it and then buy it to fit in, rather than because of direct marketing.


One more question occurred to me:

Marketing is intended to persuade us to buy products, but it also serves another latent function which is to educate us about new products, about differences between products, or about the products themselves. Given this educational benefit, among other benefits, do you think marketing is a net good or a net bad for society on the whole?


"Advertising: The Right to Choose" true, false, senseless or nonesense?