Current Weather
The Spy FM

Products R Us: Are We ‘Brandwashed’?

Filed by KOSU News in Business.
October 23, 2011

Martin Lindstrom got into the advertising business early on.

“I started up my own ad agency when I was 12 years old,” he tells Guy Raz, host of weekend on All Things Considered. “I was a huge fan of Lego, so I built up my own Legoland in the backyard of my mom and dad’s garden.”

No one showed up on the first day, but Lindstrom persuaded a local ad agency to sponsor him. On the third day, he had 131 visitors.

The only problem? “Visitor number 130 and visitor 131 were the lawyers from Lego suing me.”

Since then, Lindstrom has learned a few things about advertising and marketing. He’s advised major corporations such as Disney and Proctor & Gamble, and recently wrote a book called Brandwashed, which chronicles the many ways corporations get us to consume their products.

Get ‘Em While They’re YoungLindstrom says companies get their hooks into us earlier than we may have thought; he says the average American 3-year-old can recognize 100 brands. That’s not all.

“We even are affected by brand messages before we are born, while we are in the womb,” he says.

He pointed to a recent British study that looked at pregnant women who watched a particular television show. The results showed that babies born to those women who watched the show had a stronger preference for the program than those children whose mothers did not watch the show while pregnant.

Whole Foods Marketing

Supermarket chain Whole Foods is known for its natural and organic products, and that’s the image it is great at selling, Lindstrom says.

In Brandwashed, he describes how the company makes its produce more attractive by carefully arranging its stores and coming up with specific display techqniques. For example, he points out that when you enter many Whole Foods stores, employees are cutting fresh flowers.

“It is not a coincidence,” he says. “What they are doing is to tell you on an unconscious level that, in fact, everything is fresh in this store.”

If you pay attention as you walk into the produce department, Lindstrom says you will notice the boxes holding the apples and bananas seem to have been delivered by something called “Patty’s Farm.”

“The story is probably very different,” Lindstrom says. ” In the backside of the store, they’re offloading all those bananas from huge plastic containers, most likely flown in the day before, into those individual-looking cardboard boxes, which by the way is not ‘Patty’s Farm.’

“It’s actually been designed by a graphic design company in New York City to make us feel this is nostalgia at its peak.”

Keeping Up With The Morgensons

In writing his book, Lindstrom carried out his own experiment. He hired a family — called the Morgensons — from Laguna Beach, Calif., and filmed them as they had friends over from the neighborhood and talked about 10 specific brands they were using. Their mission was to frequently mention these brands without letting their guests know of their secret motive.

Lindstrom was skeptical at first, but then realized that word of mouth is extremely powerful.

“This simple family, they within three months were able spread the word of mouth to 15,000 people across California,” he says.

In fact, it was so successful that “nine out of 10 [exposed to the family] definitely bought at least one out of the 10 brands.”

Even after Gina Morgenson, the mother, mentioned the brand Kiss My Face for the 10th time, people didn’t realize it was part of a setup. Lindstrom says that’s because we spend so much of our time talking about brands that it didn’t seem unusual.

“You and I are talking about brands 25 percent of our entire time. … It has become such a big part of our lives, I would almost claim we would have nothing to say to each other if we can’t talk about brands,” he says.

How To Cope

Lindstrom says you don’t have to switch off the television, iPhone and computer to handle the constant onslaught of brandwashing. Instead, he says, the first thing you should do is educate your children.

“They think brands are some physical stuff, but the reality is it’s in our minds,” he says. “And if you start to educate about that at a very young age, like 5 or 6 years old, they’re prepared before going to school, so thay’re not a victim to this peer pressure we’re seeing happening so much right now.”

Also, Lindstrom says when you go out shopping, don’t grab a shopping cart.

“We know today that if I’m doubling the size of your shopping cart, you actually are buying up to 40 percent more,” he says. “Another thing you should do is to always pay with cash because you have a physical relationship with money.”

But at the end of the day, Lindstrom says it is most important that we wake up to the fact that companies are using tricks to persuade us to buy, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

11PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 6AM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

6AM to 7AM Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves

"Travel with Rick Steves" is a fun, hour-long, and practical talk show with guest experts and calls and questions from travelers. This weekly program is a lively conversation between travelers and the experts as we learn to explore our world smartly, smoothly, and thoughtfully.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center