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The 'Buyology' Behind The Way We Shop

Tiffany's signature blue box dates back to 1837. Lindstrom says that, on average, a woman's heart rate will increase by 22 percent when she is exposed to this color.
Bonile Bam / Getty Images
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Tiffany's signature blue box dates back to 1837. Lindstrom says that, on average, a woman's heart rate will increase by 22 percent when she is exposed to this color.

When you walk into the mall to do your holiday shopping this season, what will influence your spending decisions? Are you in control of what you buy? Not as much as you might think, says brand and marketing expert Martin Lindstrom.

In his new book, Buyology, Lindstrom explores the way companies are marketing directly to the consumer's subconscious. Subtle — and not so subtle — advertising is everywhere, he says; companies paid $3.36 billion for TV and movie product placement in 2006.

Lindstrom reports on the findings of a three-year, $7 million "neuromarketing" study. The research measured the responses of 2,000 volunteers from around the globe as they were exposed to brands, logos and advertisements.

The findings dissect the effect of products and ads that are carefully crafted to appeal to buyers on a sensory level — iPod's bright white headphones, PlayDoh's distinctive smell, Tiffany's blue-green boxes.

Lindstrom says companies create rituals around their products — drinking Corona with a lime, or eating an Oreo cookie filling-first — in an attempt to integrate their products into habitual, comforting, daily activities.

"I don't believe neuromarketing is the insidious instrument of corrupt governments or crooked advertisers," Lindstrom writes. "I believe it is simply a tool, like a hammer. Yes — in the wrong hands, a hammer can be used to bludgeon someone over the head. But that is not its purpose ..."

Lindstrom advises executives at McDonald's, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, The Walt Disney Co., Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline. He is also the author of Brand Sense; Clicks, Bricks and Brands; and BRANDChild.

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