Martin Lindstorm

In this book BrandWashed, Martin Lindstorm explores “tricks” which marketers use to lure customers to make purchases. The reason he uses the term ” Trick ” is because his premise for writing the book is that Marketers ” Brand Wash” customers to purchase things which are not necessary or important for the customer.

A. Peer Pressure


Being social animals, peer pressure is basic human need. And brands use this basic human need to increase sales. In an experiment , cookies were offered to people gathered in a room. At first , only 1 in 5 took the cookies. Then experimenter sent a person in the room who took the cookie without permission. This triggered everyone in the room to start having cookies .


In another experiment a group of 200 people were asked to walk in a room, however only 10 were asked to walk in a specific direction. Soon all 200 begin walking in that direction.


Such behavior is witnessed because of people’s fear of ” missing out” .


How Brands Use Peer Pressure to Influence Consumers


Companies create artificial peer pressure to sell their products.One way of creating peer pressure is through customer reviews. A 2008 study showed that American consumers who have shopped atleast 4 times a year and who has spend min $500 prefer to consult atleast 4 – 8 people before they feel comfortable in purchasing a product. Another way of creating artificial peer pressure is through ” BestSeller Lists” . Such lists give impression that products were pre approved by experts, however, it’s not always the case.


In Smartphone apps market , “What’s Hot” and “What we are listening to” is usually a result of negotiation with the record distribution companies instead of being recommendations of experts.


Nevertheless people believe in the authority of these lists and the product is set on a trajectory to become actual best seller.



B. Nostaliga

Nostalgia is a sentimental desire to return to our past . It tilts our vision towards positive elements of our past and at the same time makes us ignore the negativity.

While it’s a healthy thing , sometimes we can remember things which were not there at the first place. In a famous experiement, researcher reminisiced a group of people how they played with bugs bunny in Disney land . A totally false memory because Bugs bunny is not a walt disney character.


How Companies Use Nostalgia

Companies use nostalgia to create a feeling of warmth .

e.g. Heinz in 2009 revived a 1970s ad in which mother was serving beans to kids with the slogan :

“sometimes when I am feeling sad my mum will read the signs. She knows that beans means Heinz”

This evokes consumers pleasant nostalgic moments. Consumers may not have had Heinz at the time ,as the Ad intends to tap into the romanticism of nostalgia which may not necessarily be linked with memories of the product.

After this Ad, “Beinz mean Heinz” was voted most popular slogan in Advertising Hall of Fame.

C. Fear

Brands use fear to sell products

Fear is a survivalist instinct.  In human beings Amagdela is responsible for fear and prefrontal context is responsible for rational decisions. The part of the brain responsible for fear takes precedence over the rational part. Brand engage threat in the following manners

  1. Direct Threat

Therefore, when under threat humans tend to make ir-rational decisions. E.g. when there’s a “flue” pandemic around , we tend to use hand wash more out of fear. There’s no proof that they help, however, we still do it out of fear.

  1. Perceived Threat

This is a future version of our ” feared self ” . E.g. You would buy make-up because you are scared of your unkempt future ” feared self”.

How brands use threat to their advantage?

Security Firm Broadway Commercial created an ad in which they showed mother preparing food without noticing that there’s a stranger watching her kids without nearby. The ad increased their sale by 10%

Companies also use a combination of fear and guilt.

In one of the video Ad, Thai Life insurance showed a Man driving when he suddenly realizes that he should spend more time with his Children. Soon after the realization, his car is hit and he is killed.

It activates guilt as well as fear center in parents as people are afraid of death and they want to spend more time with their children.

Companies also play on the fear of becoming something undesirable. e.g. Products advertising baldness and obesity highlight the fears and disappointments of obese and bald people and then propose a solution. Triggering the fear center and then rewarding by a product which solves their fear of becoming bald and obese.

A commercial of Flonase allergy spray e.g. shows a woman trapped in her house while rest of her family members are having fun. Soon after she uses the spray she also joins them and have fun.

D. Addiction

A study of young Americans [ 18-25] found out that when these youngsters hear their iPhone vibration or ring, a brain region called “insula” is activated. This region is also activated when we are in love.

Marketers know this tendency of human brain addiction and focus on creating products which can make you addicted.

While shopping brain releases Dopamine, which gives a pleasure ” hit ” , however, as soon as shopping is finished, the hit level goes down. To keep up, the shopper goes back, albeit this time with more purchases.

How Brands use Addiction ?

Brands build their products to be addictive. one of the study researchers found that fat and sugar have the same effect on brain as of cocaine. Both fat and sugar release dopamine and with every use required more dosage to reach the original level of satisfaction. And at times the addiction proved to be 7 times stronger than drugs.


Soda maker e.g. use this fact to create addictive soda. Red bull e.g. contains 27g of sugar and its withdrawal symptoms have been known to causes shaking, headaches and nausea in people.

Lip Balm uses methanol to make it more addictive. Paradoxically it also uses Phenol (A carbolic acid) which causes dryness in the lips , thus causing the need of lip balm to be used again.

And the act of applying the balm can become a habit in itself on regular use. Therefore, after some time people start to use it without conscious thought.

E. Childhood Memories

Childhood memories play a major role in forming our liking for brands. It’s a known fact that in the womb a child is able to hear voices around her mother. These voices include marketer’s jingles as well.

Nickelodeon study notes that by the time a child has reached the age of 10, she could remember as much as 300-400 brands. From these brands children build relationships with brands which can last life time.

Recent Studies have shown that by the time they are 36 months old, American Children recognize 100 brands.

The reason for these lifetime relationships given by author are:

  1. Children can connect easily by using common brands. e.g. A child in 2009 wanted LEGO because all his friends had LEGO.
  2. Another reason is that the context of family establishes the norms for children. If a brand is used in house hold every day, when a child grows up, it will be a norm for her to use that brand.

How Brands Engage Children’s From The Beginning ?

Cosmetic Firms such as Bone Bell offer cosmetic to girls as young as 7 years. From 2007-2009 , the percentage of girls using mascara at the age of8- 12 has already increased from 10 to 18 %.

Kellogs created iPhone based Car Racing game for their Apple Jack Cereal in which children collected cereal icons to earn extra point.

This approach has short term as well as long term benefits. In the short term it helps :

  1. Getting around legal complexities which prohibit direct marketing to Kids
  2. Children act as viral marketers as they share games and activities with their age fellows.

In the longer run the brand image persist in kids mind!