Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Truth and Lies of Buyology

"Sex doesn't sell." In fact, people in skimpy clothing and suggestive poses not only fail to persuade us to buy products - they often turn us away.

This is the controversial finding of "Buyology: Truth and Lies About What We Buy" which has just been released by Doubleday, and is the officially published result of a three-year neuromarketing study by author Lindstrom.

The single most important element of this book is the thesis that consumers are driven by subconscious motivations and that the majority of the decisions we make every day are basically taking place in the part of the brain where we're not even aware of.

This soon-to-be-controversial book breaks a bunch of myths about marketing, and one of the most important ones is that cigarette warning labels make people want to smoke more, not less.

Part of the study involved warning labels placed on cigarette packs. Researchers asked test subjects if the warning labels that are mandatory now on most cigarette packages actually worked. The answer was a resounding "yes." A different group of researchers studying anti-smoking ads had earlier found that this line of messaging had the same counter-intuitive effect.

Another research study done earlier by Brian Wansink also looked into the subconscious aspects of buying behavior and the importance of brand.

"Buyology" digs into a couple of areas that we take for granted - product placement and brand. Research proved that product placement doesn't always work. In one example, they looked at product placements in "American Idol," they found that Coca-Cola was far more effective at captivating consumers than Ford Motor Co., even though the corporations similarly paid more than $26 million on their campaigns. And, when looking into the importance of a brand's logo, the book points out that brand image is not as important as many have held it to be. It may actually be that the importance is declining, and that things we hold true may be changing due to increased awareness and transparency. I see it around me every day when people refer to Coke as a "soft drink brand" where previous generations would have regarded it simply as a drink.

Buyology is must buy for any reader that wants to get beyond the noise of marketing today, and dig deep into the science of why the things we do work the way they do.


REBlogGirl said...

Dangerous to make the statement "sex doesn't sell." Depends on the product you are selling and the demographic and psychographic you are targeting. Shockvertising for example works exceptionally well on people between the ages of 18 and 35 and it often uses sex. Now, if you are hitting an older "authentic" market - that obviously doesn't work but to say "sex doesn't sell... it turns people away" is a generalization not based on real studies. If sex didn't sell, marketers wouldn't use it so liberally and those shockvertisements wouldn't win some many Ad awards.

Ben Watson said...

Hi rebloggirl

I should have made it clearer that I actually agree with you - I was more pointing out what the study indicated.

Sex clearly sells. But it also turns people away, according to the study.