[2009-11-02] “Buyology”

“Buyology” by Martin Lindstrom is a book that purports to show that our subconscious drives our buying decisions in ways that we rarely suspect. Marketers can successfully sell products to their target consumers by understanding these factors; otherwise their campaigns are a waste of time, effort and money. The author tries to back these claims by citing the results of some studies.

The studies in question involved over 2,000 volunteers and used brain-mapping with Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study their reactions to products and marketing messages. By noting the parts of a volunteer's brain that “light up” when presented with a test, the researchers draw various conclusions about how the product or marketing message affects their subconscious.

This is where the studies seem to be flawed, as far as I can tell. It seems to be a case of the classic logical fallacy usually known as affirming the consequent - “A implies B” does not necessarily mean that “B implies A”. In other words, suppose a part of my brain lights up under fMRI when, say, I'm hungry. If you now observe that the same part of my brain lights up when I see a product, it does not necessarily follow that the product makes me feel hungry. Maybe it does; maybe it doesn't.

I feel that there is not enough material in this book that justifies its existence. It should perhaps have been published as an article in a magazine instead. There is a fair amount of fluff in this book seemingly to fill out the pages. In addition the author comes across as quite egotistical dedicating several passages to tell you (again and again) that he surely has influenced your life in one way or the other and that he is constantly travelling all over the world meeting his big and important clients. It seems as if this book did not have an editor.

Other Posts from 2009