Why do we buy things? As the economy melts around us, many are re-evaluating their purchase decisions — but are we able to resist the impulse to buy — or is the need to gather things innately us? Researcher Martin Lindstrom spent $7 million looking into the brains of 2,000 people with an fMRI machine to help him understand our impulse to buy one brand over another.
Lindstrom argues our brains want what they want even if it is bad for our bodies: Sugar over sugarless, nicotine over clear lungs, caffeine over decaf and faith over facts — because we are hardwired to feed our wants and needs and wishes even if we publicly deny them and privately denounce them.
Successful branding, Lindstrom claims, understands that animal need and then provides a socially acceptable stimulus for satisfaction.
McDonald’s isn’t about great food: It’s about re-creating childhood memories of inclusion and love. Buying a Ford over a Chevy is as much about reflexive feelings of safety and convenience embedded in our subconscious by direct exposure to the product, imagined experience, repeated exposure to advertising and an internal aesthetic that determines “purchasing taste.”
The most successful international brands like Coke, Nike and Harley-Davidson, are able to touch emotional centers of belonging in the brain — just as religious ecstasy does — in order to make the entire body feel better in the process of buying or “buying in.”
The question now becomes: “Why did Barack Obama win the world?”
Did Obama try to create a brand as powerful as McDonald’s?
Did we vote for the best president — or did we merely, reactively, uncontrollably — buy the most convenient and effective advertising campaign packaging that pressed the right emotional buttons in our brains?