So I read a book

A few of them actually but this one burned my butt. I wanted to “review” it a while ago, but thought it might be a good idea to — deep breath — calm down a bit before I did. See, the author of this book (Martin Lindstrom) fancies himself an expert on the human psyche because he’s in the marketing biz, makes an ass-ton of money doing it, and has conducted “studies” using brain scanners to try and figure out why we buy the things we buy — which you can read about in his other book Buyoloy if you want to. I don’t recommend it, they’re not very scientific studies IMHO, but hey, it’s… interesting… reading. The book I’m gonna be talking about here is called (oh, so cleverly), Brandwashed. Get it? Like brainwashed, but with brands? Huh? Huh? Clever, right? *sigh* Titles are hard, so I guess I can’t give him too difficult of a time for that. Except man, does this guy come off as a pompous know-it-all. Like, I’ve read some books in my time — a lot of books, and many of them have that, “I’m gonna tell you something you probably didn’t know…” tone to them — you know, Things [they] don’t want you to know! kind of books — but this one takes the cake. Like his second chapter is called Peddling Panic and Paranoia: Why Fear Sells and it starts with the how the companies of certain products like soaps and disinfectants started to aggressively market their wares during the SARS and Swine flu epidemics. According to him, it’s why hand gel is so ubiquitous now when 15 years ago we’da been, “Hand gel? What for?” And I kind of agree that companies do feed on fear and world events. That’s true. But then he makes this ludicrous statement: Turns out, though, that neither the Swine Flu nor SARS can be prevented by the use of antibacterial cleansing gels. and he’s halfway right. But the gels he’s dismissing aren’t just antibacterial, they are alcohol based gels, which do prevent the spread of flu, and the CDC does advocate the use of them if washing one’s hands isn’t available as an option. And, the simple act of washing one’s hands with any soap will help stop the spread of the flu. So there’s that. That was the first time I really went, “This guy isn’t the brightest bulb in the bunch.”

Later on in this chapter I came across these statements, and I’m gonna type them out entirely so you, dear reader, can enjoy them as much as I did.

…Restless leg syndrome? Fibromyalgia? Premenstrual dysphoric Disorder? Who knew such things even existed? Well, thanks to the psychologically manipulative and oft-aired commercials, we all do now.

Do you suffer from shyness? Apparently shyness isn’t just a personality trait but an actual pathology, and one that only Paxil can cure. What about acid reflux disease, formally known as heartburn? Today there are over a dozen drugs, from Nexium to Prilosec to Zantac, available to treat it. Who know that irritable bowels weren’t just the unfortunate repercussions of a spicy Mexican dinner and were actually a “syndrome”? PMDD, or “premenstrual dysphoric disorder,” is a relatively recent condition, though is bears much in common with the monthly hormonal changes fertile women have been experiencing for centuries. LBL, which stands for “light bladder leakages,” is an even newer one, pharmacologically speaking. Anyone who’s ever gone swimming in a public pool has probably encounter a young child who suffers from this.

These days , we’re being persuaded to ask our doctors for medications to address what were once considered nothing more than everyday inconveniences. A recent study by two York University researchers found that big Pharma spends nearly twice as much on promotion and advertising as it does on research and development. No wonder Americans are the most overmedicated people on earth, with overall domestic sales of prescription drugs totaling $235.4 billion

Brand Washed — Martin Lindstrom 2011

This was Chapter 2, dear reader. Chapter 2. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better. Because nothing entrusts me to an author more than to be told that the pain that eats away at my guts day in and day out (IBS) is nothing more than “repercussions” of something I ate – or hey, that heartburn that kept me up for most of my adult life? To the point I couldn’t even drink water? No matter what I ate or drank? That heartburn? It’s nothing more than a minor inconvenience. It’ll go away eventually. I should just throw away the medicine that made that disappear for good, that’s just Big Pharma. What about my daughter’s crushing, curl into a fetal position pain she gets every single month — sometimes for a week? Oh, women have been suffering that kind of pain since time immemorial. Aren’t we used to that shit by now? She should just buck up and take it. But whatever! We didn’t know about it before, right? So it didn’t exist, but hey, Big Pharma made a commercial about it, so they’ve brainwashed — sorry, brandwashed us (see how clever he is?) into thinking we need to take medicine for that now so we can lead normal lives. Nothing like a man to tell us how real our menstrual woes are.

Pharmaceutical companies do spend a lot of money on promotion and marketing (link to the study from the quote above). That’s always been true, and it’s truer still since they’ve been allowed to have TV commercials here in the United States — which I’ve always been against. I don’t think that TV commercials for prescription medicines do anyone any good. However, that does not invalidate any of the illnesses people legitimately have. I mean, they’re prescribed for a reason. Doctors are not on “Big Pharma’s” payroll just dealing drugs for the fun of it. I’m not on two very powerful psychiatric drugs because some pharmaceutical company dreamed up bipolar disorder and said to psychiatrists everywhere, “Hey, give these to people.” Actually, the meds I take are a-typical for bipolar, so that wouldn’t have worked anyway — one is an anti-psychotic and one is for epilepsy that is also prescribed for migraines. Go figure. But my point is, there’s no conspiracy for “Big Pharma” to create disorders and have doctors dole out the meds for them. And if any doctor does give meds where they’re not needed — that doctor is unethical and needs to be in jail. Maybe they do exist, and I’m being naive. But I think this author is using the same fear mongering technique that he’s warning his readers to be wary of. And it persists throughout the book. All I had to do was turn the page

Here, he talks about how supermarkets put “freshness” strips on products so that consumers will know that the product is somehow been uncontaminated or “unsullied by germs, untouched by another human being.” Maybe he’s too young or wasn’t in the US when there was a series of murders that happened in Chicago in the 1980’s where someone put cyanide into Tylenol capsules and placed the tainted capsules (in their Tylenol bottles and boxes) back on the shelf. There was also footage of grocery security store camera that hit the news in my area around the same time that showed two store clerks doing all kinds of disgusting things to the food and putting that food back on the shelves. In both cases the tainted food was sold to unknowing customers — because there were no seals. Now the clerks probably didn’t have much of an impact on how food is packaged, but those murders sure did. Now, I can’t speak for you, dear reader, but when I’m looking at the seal around the food I buy, it’s not because I want to believe that it’s “freshly flown in from… just this morning.” as the author of this book thinks we want to believe. Because I’m not stupid. I’m looking at the seal to see that some bored clerk hasn’t spit in it (or who knows what else) or that some mad person hasn’t slipped cyanide into it or something. I mean, this guy must think that we, the consumer, are mindless sheep — and he’s here to save us from our stupidity.

As an aside, he also mentions that the “popping” sound we hear when we open a jar of jam is manufactured and patented in a sound lab. So when I’m canning stuff and my cans “pop” to signify that the seal has taken… I’m stealing that sound? Good to know. Hope I don’t get sued.

I could go on and on. And I did read the book to the end. Most of his observations are pretty much the same. He sees a trend — sometimes not even a trend – the experiment later was because he heard someone make the same statement twice — and then makes an outlandish observation like the ones above with next to nothing to back it up, but because he’s an “expert” in marketing he has some kind of clout I suppose. He even had a weird experiment in the end were he planted a fake family in some neighborhood, and had them brandwash everyone by… showing off? their stuff? In his words (again)

The point of this multimillion-dollar experiment was to test the seductive power of word-of-mouth marketing. By filming a “real” family in spontaneous, unscripted situations and scenarios like these, from barbecues to champagne brunches to shopping expeditions, we would document how the Morgensons’ circle of friends responded to specific brands and products the Morgensons brought into their lives. When put face to face with another family’s “enviable” lifestyle — and the brands and products that sustain it — would they want all the things that family has? And more important, would this influence be so powerful as to make them actually go out and buy those things?

Brandwashed — Martin Lindstrom

The trouble with this is — One: not cool messing with people like that. Not ethical either. I’m pretty sure of that. Especially for a whole month. And two — You can’t plop some fake family down for a month in one neighborhood see what goes on in that neighborhood and say, “See? What I’ve been saying all along about everything is right.” That’s just bad science! Plop that family down in anywhere but Southern California and I bet they’d be laughed at (...champagne brunches… snicker… Who does that?) or worse. Seriously. There might be one family who’d buy the same stuff but honestly… no. Just… no. In some parts of the country that family would be ignored until they’d lived there for a year. I’ve personally lived in places where they’da had to keep that family there for maybe five years before anyone could call them “friend”. But hey, he did an experiment that proved his point, so what are you gonna do? One fake family, one neighborhood, and he’s the smartest man in the world. Science, bitches! Then again, given what he said above about “Big Pharma” I don’t think this guy and science are more than kissing cousins.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone unless you need to raise your blood pressure. It wasn’t even good for much of a laugh. He tries to be funny, but he’s not. He is full of himself though — I bet his eyes are brown.

4 thoughts on “So I read a book

    1. Willow Post author

      I’ve been reading a bunch of marketing type books for research purposes. I’ve just read a pretty good one called “Why We Buy” and I’ll probably write about that one later. But the two I read by this guy… yeah, they pissed me off. Especially this one.


  1. Melanie B Cee

    There he is, a PUBLISHED author. And I bet ya that dozens will buy it and ingest it as ‘gospel’ too. Well it MUST be true, it’s right there in print after all and nobody LIES ‘in print’ (or on the internet). I’ll give it a pass. That kind of stupidity is wide enough spread without some moron adding his dollar and eighty cents worth to the phenomenon. Gah!! 😡

    Liked by 1 person


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