No one knows you better than you know yourself

Except for Martin Lindstrom.


Okay, that sounds a little freaky.  Let me rephrase that: Martin Lindstrom might not know you, but he definitely knows a lot about how you behave as a consumer and why you purchase the things that you do. The amount of information he has gathered through his research, experiments, and consultations is astounding.

Who is this guy?  He is not on the list of “interesting people” originally presented in the prompt, but I intend to prove that he should be with my post for this week.  Martin Lindstrom is an author, speaker, marketing guru, and “fan of the consumer”.  Throughout his career, he has gained experience through independent research and consulting with major brand names.  In 2009, Lindstrom made it into Time Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World”.  Pretty impressive feat if you ask me.

During spring semester of my junior year, I decided to tie together my economics minor with an independent study credit.  While I was required to do an “economics” independent study, I wanted to combine this requirement with my career interests.  My final product was entitled “Understanding the Consumer” in which I compared American and Chinese consumers based on microeconomics, consumer behavior, and marketing research.  The one resource that truly stuck out through my research process was Lindstrom’s Brandwashed.  I became a fan of Martin Lindstrom after reading this book.  Scratch that.  More like after the first chapter I read in this book.  Check out this video and see for yourself!

I highly recommend this book to anyone.  Even if you aren’t pursuing a career in marketing, you’re still a consumer.  You would be shocked at some of the things revealed throughout the chapters.  Further, if you are interested in marketing, I guarantee you will not want to put this book down.  Lindstrom is a very skillful writer who demonstrated the importance of balancing humor with detailed information.  Brandwashed is one of the most informational and entertaining books I have read to this day.  In my opinion, it is pretty hard to write a book that can be classified as both “informational” and “entertaining”—hats off to you, Mr. Lindstrom.  As if I did not think he was cool and “interesting” enough, I had a few other questions on my mind for my independent study and decided to try to get in contact with him.  I emailed his assistant and explained how much I enjoyed reading the book and the research paper I was working on.  I was given the opportunity to ask Mr. Lindstrom any five questions for my project, and within a few weeks I had a email in my inbox from the guru himself with detailed answers to my questions.  I thought it was incredibly kind of him to take the time to think about and respond to my questions.  How awesome is that??  Not only does he publish interesting work, but he demonstrated that he is willing to engage in conversation with fans or students.

If we were to host Martin Lindstrom at Bucknell, I think it would be fascinating to hear him elaborate on the world of “data mining”.  Billions of dollars have been poured into data mining over the years.  What is data mining and why is it so important?  Data mining entails the tracking and analyzing of consumer behavior; through data mining, marketers are able to determine purchasing habits, race, gender, address, phone number, education level, approximate income, family size, pet’s name, and all kinds of other stuff you wouldn’t think they could figure out.  He discusses how one online coupon barcode can reveal more than one would think as well.  One might think a coupon would be linked to a name, but in reality, that coupon is linked to your computer, your Facebook activity, when you downloaded and used it, which store it was used at, and where and how you found the coupon.  You’re giving away more than a coupon and money when you make a purchase; you are giving away private information about yourself.

To wrap things up for this week, I want to leave you with a list of fun facts about consumer behavior, marketing, and data mining.  The facts below are all quotes I pulled from Martin Lindstrom’s Brandwashed.


10 Fun Facts

  • While it may look fresh, the average apple you see in the supermarket is actually fourteen months old.
  • The reason [fattening food] products are so addictive is because the companies that sell them deliberately spike their recipes to include addictive quantities of habit-forming substances like MSG, caffeine, corn syrup, and sugar.
  • It’s long been accepted that when a typical women chooses a product, 80% of the reason is emotional and only 20% is rational; for men, […] this ratio is reversed that 20% of a man’s decision is emotional and 80% rational.
  • Best-seller labels make us think these titles have been “preapproved”; it makes us imply that if we don’t read what everyone else is reading, we’ll be uncultured, irrelevant, and excluded from the national conversation.
  • 99% of the time we derive the most pleasure from our first experience of something.
  • […] Our “window of openness” for new experiences, like getting our tongue pierced, slams shut at age 23 and our openness to trying out new foods pretty much closes for good at 39.
  • A royal family typically has a marketing plan for the next 75 years.
  • Mattel estimates that two Barbie dolls are sold somewhere in the world every second of every day, with total sales around 1.5 billion dollars annually.
  •  […] Students, with their meager incomes, irresponsible spending habits, and high credit limits are cash cows for these banks.
  • Based on marketers’ data, consumers who try a new product are likely to stick with it for an average of a year and a half.

13 thoughts on “No one knows you better than you know yourself

  1. This is one of those topics that I always want to learn more about but get too caught up in life to research. I’ll have to pick up his book- it sounds utterly fascinating.

    • I totally get what you mean. There are so many interesting things out there to read and learn about these days, and our lives just keep getting busier. Trust me on this one though–this book is worth making time for! It directly relates to your life and why we do the things that we do, so it can be classified as a fun and practical read!

  2. I found this post fascinating. Martin Lindstrom sounds like he would make for a great speaker at Bucknell. I would love to hear what he has learned about marketing. I find the marketing world fascinating because I am consciously aware of my irrational marketing decisions. I choose products that are colorful and bright, have interesting pictures on it or nice designs. When i look for a new book I always judge it by its cover. I think it’s because I am such a visual person and love art (creating it, buying it or getting ideas). It is so interesting to see research behind why people do what they do when the person who did it doesn’t even know why. I would be very interested to have Martin speak at Bucknell and I will pick up his book in my free time.

    • It’s interesting that you acknowledge your own irrational purchasing decisions. It is fascinating to hear about how much work and planning goes into the marketing of some of our favorite products and services. Color and brightness of images are key, especially for things that are supposed to be “fresh”, “natural”, and “healthy”. Who knows how much one slight change in color will make on sales for that week? In Brandwashed, Lindstrom mentions that marketers of a soda company were trying to decide exactly how many bubbles to include in their advertisement to appeal to consumers. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 20 AND 25 BUBBLES? I still cannot believe how much of my environment is controlled by marketers, and how many of my actions and decisions are watched and analyzed for future reference.

    • Haha, I try to be thorough when I want to make a point! I would LOVE to hear Martin Lindstrom speak at Bucknell. And yes I am a senior, why do you ask?

  3. Yeah, men are SOOOOO rational when they buy beer or cars because of life-size Barbie ads telling them are sexy if they do. LOLOLOLOLO 😀 DO you buy that 80/20 crap?

  4. I really enjoyed your blog! While I was reading it I was reminded of a class I took at Bucknell, Information Systems, where we discussed the privacy lawsuits that many companies battle because they can learn so much information about a person through, like you said, a bar code or Facebook.
    One specific story that has stuck with me is the story about Target figuring out a girl was pregnant, even before her father did. You may already have heard the story, but the gist of the article is that Target’s computer system was able to deduce if a girl is pregnant based on the products that she bought at the store (lotions, calcium supplements, washcloths, etc). In this story, the computer identified from a teenage girl’s shopping habits that she was pregnant, based on their previous research about what pregnant women typically purchase. So once Target realized this, they started sending coupons for items pregnant women tend to buy, such as strollers, baby bottles, blankets, etc., because of her “pregnancy score.” Her father found all of the coupons in the mail, and yelled at the supervisor of Target to stop “encouraging his teenage daughter to get pregnant.” A few days, later, the father called Target and apologized, because it turned out she was pregnant, and she just hadn’t told him yet. It’s just fascinating to think how powerful the world of data mining is, and how much business’s use it to market to consumers. I would love to hear Martin Linstrom talk at Bucknell about his book and his research in data mining.

    • That’s awesome you learned about those privacy lawsuits in Information Systems! Definitely great to be aware of the kinds of information these companies are going after and what you should try to keep private. I actually did come across this article–crazy story right? Since my independent study and coming across this story, I have paid more attention to the coupons I get at places like CVS, Weis, Walmart, etc. Last week, I got a coupon for Hershey’s candy…I guess they figured out I love chocolate?

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