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Buy-ology
Old 09-04-2010, 10:25 PM   #1
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Buy-ology

I've recently read this book about neuromarketing. I'm frightened by the (IMO) huge possibilities for abuse that this research opens up, and repelled by the thought that advertisers are exploiting the information they gather about brain response for their own profit, regardless of whether that is to the benefit of the eventual purchasers of their products, or society as a whole. I don't know what to think about the people who volunteer to provide the data. I wonder if they have really thought about the kind of use the data will be, or could be, put to. At the very least, it will increase the grip of consumerism. To an even greater extent than is possible now, they will be able to link buying their product with what the potential customer inwardly wants, whether the product is actually capable of producing the desired result or not.

I don't know how to escape the influence of this, other than to avoid, as much as I can, exposing myself to any kind of mass commercial media. Has anyone else read the book, and did it strike you the same way?
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Old 09-04-2010, 10:41 PM   #2
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I avoid reading horror stories these days
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Old 09-04-2010, 10:54 PM   #3
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I avoid reading horror stories these days
Just to clarify, the author (Martin Lindstrom) did not write the book as a "horror story". He is active in the marketing industry, and as far as I can tell, the book is just intended to be an explanation of this new way of doing market research. I was the one who was horrified.
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Old 09-05-2010, 05:54 AM   #4
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I don't know how to escape the influence of this, other than to avoid, as much as I can, exposing myself to any kind of mass commercial media.
No, I haven't read the book... nor do I expect to.

In any event, I agree. You should avoid all exposure to outside influence of this type. Barring that, it seems we now (or will soon) have a choice of being:

1) bombarded (as we currently are) with thousands of commercial messages that are either irrelevant to our lives or inform of desires we didn't even know we had, or

2) being told only of those products or services that we have, through previous behavior, shown an affinity to.

I would prefer the latter since it frees more of my time. The decision to buy, it seems to me, remains the same with either choice -- and, besides, the more we (I) are exposured to advertising the more we gain the experience to resist the Siren's call.
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Old 09-05-2010, 07:17 AM   #5
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I counter Buy-ology with LBYM-ology.

Since we tend to carefully think through major purchases... We should be less susceptible to trickery.

For small purchases... I could be lulled into the BUYYYYYYY trance!
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Old 09-05-2010, 07:51 AM   #6
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So, you talked around the book but never gave us the name or a review. What's the title and was it an interesting and enjoyable (albeit frightening) read?

Edit: never mind. I see the thread title is also the book title.
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Old 09-05-2010, 10:20 AM   #7
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This sort of influence has been going on for many years, albeit now at a more advanced scientific level.

When I was 15 years old (over 40 yrs ago) our English Teacher asked us to read The Hidden Persuaders (Amazon.com: The Hidden Persuaders (9780978843106): Vance Packard, Mark Crispin Miller: Books) which was a real eye opener...subliminal messages embedded in the store Muzak, shapes of goods & pricing geared toward human sexual responses & women's menstrual cycles, etc. etc. etc.

The point is, be aware of it, but ignore it & hopefully you can bypass most/some of it...you have been influenced by it all your life.
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Old 09-05-2010, 10:50 AM   #8
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You do know that the pop-up ads and other advertising you get on-line is based on the personal info gathered by the cookies on your pc from different sites.
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Old 09-05-2010, 11:40 AM   #9
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A few defenses:

1. Never watch live television (record and skip commercials).
2. Use all available adblockers (AdBlock plus and Flashblock, for example).
3. Use gmail to avoid spam
4. Be aggressive about reducing junk mail
5. Be aggressive about eliminating telemarketing
6. Stay away from malls
7. Sit home and read a book or go for a walk
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:23 PM   #10
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Your best defense is to go get a job in sales and marketing. You will learn all the tricks to sell your own product, so that when you see them used to try to sell you products, you will simply laugh.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:54 PM   #11
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A few defenses:

1. Never watch live television (record and skip commercials).
2. Use all available adblockers (AdBlock plus and Flashblock, for example).
3. Use gmail to avoid spam
4. Be aggressive about reducing junk mail
5. Be aggressive about eliminating telemarketing
6. Stay away from malls
7. Sit home and read a book or go for a walk
There was an article on the radio (Marketplace) I listened to this week and one of the biggest gatherers and sellers of information are the stores with the discount cards. If you don't have a discount card (which are 'free' - we have 3 including one to the liquor store Specs which gives 10% on all purchases). then you pay regular price on everything so they are hard to turn down. Also of course are the online stores that collect and sell the information as you buy things, and you can't really avoid that if you buy online as you have to provide your details to buy stuff.
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Old 09-05-2010, 02:35 PM   #12
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I don't know how to escape the influence of this, other than to avoid, as much as I can, exposing myself to any kind of mass commercial media. Has anyone else read the book, and did it strike you the same way?
Funny you should use that "influence" word, and here's a supplement to TromboneAl's #7:
Amazon.com: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) (9780061241895): Robert B. Cialdini: Books

It's been going on for a lot longer than Buy-ology, and just because the technology is getting better is no cause for alarm from this arms race either. I'm still willing to take my chances as an informed consumer.

The best educational value of books like these is that you can apply your new skills to ask for more discounts. "C'mon, everybody's doing it, it's the way of the future, get on board now or get left behind when I take my business elsewhere!"
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Old 09-05-2010, 02:35 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
A few defenses:

1. Never watch live television (record and skip commercials).
2. Use all available adblockers (AdBlock plus and Flashblock, for example).
3. Use gmail to avoid spam
4. Be aggressive about reducing junk mail
5. Be aggressive about eliminating telemarketing
6. Stay away from malls
7. Sit home and read a book or go for a walk
I'll take door numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6, Alex (Trebeck )

I do ALL of my shopping online, usually at Amazon. I accumulate a list of household things I need, like shower curtain, Pur faucet filters, steak knives, pizza pans . Then and ONLY then will
I e-shop at an approx once a month frequency, with enough "stuff" to get the free shipping deal.
What I spend for shipping (at other sites) to East Nowhere is MORE THAN compensated for the savings in gas, time, aggravation with unruly, slobbering, screaming-children materialistic crowds, plus avoiding frivilous chocolate purchases at local brick and mortar stores.
I do believe small traces of curmudgeon-ette are starting to set in.
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Old 09-05-2010, 02:40 PM   #14
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I do ALL of my shopping online, usually at Amazon.
I do believe small traces of curmudgeon-ette are starting to set in.
You know, Amazon is still under suspicion of setting prices based on your login.

It's interesting to compare their prices depending whether or not you're logged in. With the used booksellers, though, I usually don't have to care what Amazon's asking.
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Old 09-05-2010, 02:58 PM   #15
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So, you talked around the book but never gave us the name or a review. What's the title and was it an interesting and enjoyable (albeit frightening) read?

Edit: never mind. I see the thread title is also the book title.
Yes, Buy-ology is the name of the book. I added a review to the "What have you read recently?" thread. The short answer is, yes, it's interesting.
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:10 PM   #16
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Funny you should use that "influence" word, and here's a supplement to TromboneAl's #7:
Amazon.com: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) (9780061241895): Robert B. Cialdini: Books

It's been going on for a lot longer than Buy-ology, and just because the technology is getting better is no cause for alarm from this arms race either. I'm still willing to take my chances as an informed consumer.

The best educational value of books like these is that you can apply your new skills to ask for more discounts. "C'mon, everybody's doing it, it's the way of the future, get on board now or get left behind when I take my business elsewhere!"
Nords, I think you have hit the nail on the head re: what scared me so much. It is that the technology is getting better. In the past, advertisers have used all sorts of methods they thought were attracting customers, but they really didn't know. They had to just throw mud at the wall, and hope a lot of it would stick. They didn't know beforehand what the customers were thinking or responding to, or what actually induced them to buy, because the customers really didn't know themselves. As a result, the data gathered in focus groups, marketing questionnaires and so on was not very accurate, and advertising campaigns or product introductions based on that data failed at least as often as they succeeded. Adding the neurological studies will give the advertisers the information they need to target their campaigns with pinpoint accuracy, or so it seems to me. What an unscrupulous manufacturer could do with accurate information on what induces people to buy their product is frightening. For example, in one of the early chapters of the book, the author describes how neurological studies revealed that the warning labels on cigarette packages (including the graphic photos of the health effects of tobacco required in some other countries) actually reinforce, not reduce, the desire to smoke. He paints the research as useful and beneficial, because its intention is to find out what anti-smoking regulations and so on are really producing the intended result. But what is to stop the tobacco companies from acting on the results of these studies to promote smoking? Nothing whatsoever! And when I think of the use that could be made of similar studies in the political arena, I shiver in my shoes. Hitler came to power because he hit all the right nerves by accident or instinct. But what if someone as insane and evil as he was could know in advance exactly what to do to get people to vote for him?

The frightening thing to me is that this can all be done at the unconscious level. You won't see a neon sign blinking "Coke....Coke....Coke", but a building, or someone wearing clothes that are that particular shade of green that Coke bottles are (product placement with a vengeance!), and a little way down the street you'll get a whiff of some scent that has pleasant associations (carefully fostered by earlier exposure), or see something that evokes the shape of the bottle, and all of a sudden you'll be thinking "boy, I'd sure like a Coke", without ever knowing why. It is like Pavlov's dogs. They had no idea why they salivated when they heard the bell. Even if they had been human and known exactly what was being done and why, I don't know if they'd have been able to stop their mouths from watering, because the salivation started off as an involuntary response that was not under their conscious control. If I am not completely letting paranoia run away with me, neuromarketing will give advertisers Pavlov's ability to link purchase of their product to involuntary, unconscious responses. I don't see how being an informed consumer can protect against such manipulation. Being informed is at the conscious level, and neuromarketing bypasses that and goes straight for the subconscious.
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Old 09-05-2010, 05:08 PM   #17
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I don't see the worry here. Unless you're sitting in a room with electrodes or scanners or whatever, these technique don't apply to you. They just mean that when, say, GM changes the shape of a model of car and asks 100 people if they like the new shape better, they're more likely to know what people really feel. That would seem to me to mean that, to the extent that the focus group is representative, we'll get better products. That could be good in and of itself (if we intend to buy that product), or indirectly (if it means that the consumer product companies in our portfolio make more $$ for lovely dividends).
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Old 09-05-2010, 05:37 PM   #18
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There was one amusing scene in Minority Report (an otherwise forgettable movie where the hero is racing through a mall and the billboards scan his eyeball and start offering him things.
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Old 09-05-2010, 07:00 PM   #19
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... scan his eyeball[s] and start offering him things.
I had that happen in a bar/restaurant in the Korean section of Honolulu in the 1970's.

(The fact that I was with my wife (and two other guys) didn't seem to matter.)
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Old 09-05-2010, 10:10 PM   #20
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I don't see the worry here. Unless you're sitting in a room with electrodes or scanners or whatever, these technique don't apply to you. They just mean that when, say, GM changes the shape of a model of car and asks 100 people if they like the new shape better, they're more likely to know what people really feel. That would seem to me to mean that, to the extent that the focus group is representative, we'll get better products. That could be good in and of itself (if we intend to buy that product), or indirectly (if it means that the consumer product companies in our portfolio make more $$ for lovely dividends).
I don't have to be hooked to electrodes or scanners to be affected by these techniques. All it takes is a statistically valid sample group. The advertiser gathers data from the group and designs a marketing strategy based on what they find out.

Neuromarketing research is not aimed at finding out whether the product is better—of higher quality or providing better value for money. It's aimed at finding out what makes people want to buy it. In your example of a car body, the body style that people want to buy may make the car less fuel-efficient or harder to repair or not as safe in a crash, but so what? It sells. It increases profits for the manufacturer and the ad agency. What else do they care about? They are in business to make money. And a car body is relatively benign. It would have to meet the minimum standards set by law, so about the worst that can happen there is that it could have been better but wasn't. But there's nothing to keep the producers of not-so-innocuous products from using neuromarketing just as effectively for products that are subject to abuse (gambling, alcohol), that are damaging in one way or another (predatory lending), or that are out-and-out deadly (tobacco products). If a company has no qualms about producing such things in the first place, and an advertising agency has no qualms about promoting them, what reason is there to think that either the producer or the advertiser will have any hesitation in selling them more effectively, or for that matter selling them irresistibly, if they can figure out how to do it? The same methods would also work for political candiates, regardless of their fitness for office, regardless of whether they are in politics to try to serve the public good or simply to line their own pockets—or worse. Anybody here think politics is a mess and politicians are a plague now? Wait until they (and/or the corporate lobbyists) adopt neuromarketing.
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