The Age of the “Brandwashed” Consumer

In an NPR article last month they interviewed Martin Lindstrom, about his new book called, “Brandwashed.” Martin’s book is about all the different tricks that companies use to manipulate our minds to buy more. In the interview he points out that American 3-year-olds on average can recognize 100 brands.

He then goes on to talk about the supermarket chain, Whole Foods. Stores are set up to entice consumers to buy more. This is not something that is specific to Whole Foods, and I don’t think that

Martin is suggesting that at all. We all know that all retail stores set up their stores for this purpose. He explains that the store is set up from the moment someone walks through their front doors to convince them that everything in the store is fresh. The floral area is near the front door, and customers will often see employees there cutting fresh flowers. This is done so that customers will subconsciously get the message that everything else in the store is fresh. Produce is often placed in boxes, when it was most likely shipped there in plastic barrels and lots of plastic. He talks about how bananas and apples might be placed in boxes with printed logos on them from “Patty’s Farm” when this is not the case at all, there really is no Patty’s Farm, it really is just a designed box from a graphic design company in New York.

Martin also talks about how natural it is for people to have conversations with their family and friends about brands or products. He did his own study where he asked a family in California to naturally have dinner guests over to their house, and without their friends knowledge simply slip in the brands and products, of some brands in their conversations. He said that even after the 10th time of mentioning a brand, their friends had no idea it was a setup. He says that is because we spend so much of our time talking about brands that it didn’t seem unusual. He then states that, “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.”

I don’t think Lindstrom is in any way saying that we should boycott advertising or retail stores for doing these things, he is saying that these things are simply part of our lives, and that we need to be aware of them. He says to educate your children, don’t use a shopping cart when shopping, and always pay with cash. These things can help us spend less money, and consume less. I would also add that when going shopping make a shopping list before hand, that will reduce the compulsive purchases.

These are the types of things that often have me conflicted when I think about the profession that I am in, and the passion that I have for

sustainability. Is consumption hurting our planet? YES of course it is, it is creating more waste than we can figure out what to do with, creating pollution that is bad for our climate, and creating larger and larger gaps in the divisions of our

socioeconomic classes. However working in the advertising profession I am also very passionate about my job, I love what I do, but I do think that there are better ways for companies to go about selling their wares, and they don’t need to resort to “brandwashing.” Combining this passion for sustainability, and this love of advertising is a good thing I think. Making our planet a better place and helping it live on can only be in the best interest of companies. Without this planet they can’t make money. Of course if there was no planet would anyone even notice they weren’t making money?


The Green Guerilla