I received a sneak copy of “Buying In” by Rob Walker from Random House several weeks ago. Although I am not in sales, marketing or advertising, I enjoy these kinds of books because they give me insight into how to better market products I create both to the end user and management.

Walker’s book talks about the marketing in today’s Internet age and how we as consumers have a dialogue with the products we consume and shape the brands just as much as they shape us. Traditional marketing no longer works with the new consumer and we’ve become immune to ads. We skip through commercials when we Tivo; we no longer notice banner ads on the Internet, much less click on them. Companies now resort to what Walker calls murky marketing or murketing where the line between advertising and word of mouth recommendations are blurred.

Traditional marketing campaigns make way to new strategies. The Toyota Scion campaign, for example, in trying not to be perceived as mainstream was run more like an underground rapper’s. Walker covers many interesting accounts of the rise of familiar brands such as Red Bull, Axe, and American Apparel.

For all the murketing that happens, we are also having an effect on the brands. Although originally Timberland was meant as a blue collar work boot, fashionable urban consumers, hip-hop and R&B artists were demanding pink and yellow colored boots to the tune of $1.6 billion.

To be honest, the beginning of the book was pretty dry, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish it. However, it does get better. What I really enjoyed were the various studies done. One that comes to mind is the SoBe Adrenaline Rush energy drink experiment. Subjects were told that scientific studies suggested that drinks like SoBe can significantly improve mental functioning. Some were told the drink cost the full retail price while others were told it cost half that. Members who drank the full price drink and told that the drink improved mental functioning performed significantly better than the other groups. So the power of suggestion can improve not only perception but also performance. Also interesting, but not surprising, when it comes to eco-friendliness, people do not do what they say.

One errata I found irritating was the claim that Red Bull was “invented” by an Austrian named Dietrich Mateschitz. Red Bull was invented in Thailand by a Thai chemist. I know that because my mom went to college with said chemist who is now quite wealthy. Krating Daeng literally translated “Red Bull” has been the tonic drink Thai truck drivers have been consuming for decades to stave off fatigue. Watering it down with carbonated water hardly constitutes inventing.

Overall, I found the book an entertaining read as far as marketing and advertising books go but definitely not one of my favorites. But if you like these kinds of books, I would recommend these:

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