Multilingual Business Communication

December 15, 2008

Buy-ology: advertising science

Filed under: marketing communication, Trui Lagae — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 8:08 am


Martin Lindstrom, global branding expert, made some bold statements on the Youthwatching-congres last week. His quotes were based on a ‘neuromarketing’-research, in which 2000 volunteers were tested with brain scanners while watching advertisements. The results show that a lot of assumptions in advertising are plainly wrong.

Martin Lindstrom states for example that sex does not sell. Men are so diverted by the female body that they cannot catch  what brand is being advertised any longer. Second and more surprising result: warnings for cigarettes stimulate the area of our brains associated with pleasure (especially activated by sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and smoking). Therefore the label “causes cancer” actually makes people crave even more for a cigarette. A third conclusion finishes with the current product placement trend: it rarely works. A brand should already be very much associated with a character to make the product placement effective. Otherwise, it is a waste of money for the advertisers. ( A short overview of every chapter of the book “Buy-ology” with many more findings can be found on the author’s website.)

Shocking or perhaps just common sense? Martin Lindstrom may have turned the advertising world upside down, but to me it seems his very complicated scientific research has only proven what many already understood intuitively. The big achievement of Martin Lindstrom is by proving the facts scientifically he will convince the sceptics as well.

Trui Lagae



  1. Trying to find the factors which influence our buying behaviour is very interesting. I am convinced that the subconscious mind plays a role in almost all our choices. How many times did we choose a certain brand or product on a shelf without even knowing why you did it?

    If many hypotheses of neuromarketing seem logical, I have my doubts about the effect of the label ‘causes cancer’ or the link he makes between marketing and religion. I am also sceptical about Linstrom’s claim that companies invented our common superstitions (number 13 for example) to make us buy more.

    Gary Ruskin, an anti-marketing activist, believes neuromarketing could manipulate all consumers by playing on our fears or by unethically stimulating positive responses. According to practitioners, however, it is impossible to manipulate a person so precisely. Neuromarketing only wants to understand “how and why customers develop relationships with products, brands, and the company itself”.
    Will this lead to a revolution as Lindstrom pretends it? If this is the case, where will neuromarketeers put the limit?,,sid183_gci1038017,00.html

    Comment by Marlène Bragard — March 24, 2009 @ 10:24 am

  2. Sex does not sell anymore. This very statement was proven to us in Patrick Vyncke’s class. Vyncke teaches “Advertising and consumer behaviour” at Ghent University. In his book “Decoding the ad. How advertising taps into your heart & mind”, he describes an experiment he recently conducted. The primary affective reactions of 395 respondents towards 37 sets of ads were measured. Each set contained a neutral ad and a sexually orientated, manipulated version of the neutral one.

    With this experiment, Vyncke wanted to gain more insight into the ad-likeability impact. Advertisements very often contain hidden persuaders: secret messages about sex and death that are said to exploit consumers’ unconscious weakness. However, the experiment proved this statement wrong: the results clearly revealed that sex as a motivator is too often used in advertising. Participants thought that sexual slogans are not trustworthy and what’s more, sex is too often used in a non-functional way in advertising. So perhaps the sexual drive isn’t at the core of the heart and mind of consumers, as Freud once claimed.

    (Febe Corthals)

    Comment by meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie — April 5, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

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