Martin Lindstrom’s book, Buyology, offers an in-depth look at the psychological reasons why consumers buy the products they do. Indeed, Lindstrom defines Buyology as “the multitude of subconscious forces that motivate us to buy” (6). Lindstrom goes on to say that the new science of neuromarketing “is the key to unlocking…our Buyology” (3), as it will allow scientists to peer into the human brain and witness these subconscious forces in action. By seeing what drives consumers to buy, scientists and marketers will be able to make products and advertisements capable of tempting the irrational, subconscious part of our minds. Although this may seem scary, even immoral, Lindstrom praises neuromarketing as a science that will be used for the good of consumers as well as advertisers. He states that “neuromarketing is not about implanting ideas in people’s brains, or forcing them to buy what they don’t want to buy” (35). Instead, Lindstrom believes that neuromarketing will actually give consumers more control “because the more we know about why we fall prey to the tricks and tactics of advertisers, the better we can defend ourselves” (Lindstrom 5). Furthermore, he asserts that neuromarketing will give consumers more meaningful products that will satisfy marketers and consumers alike by “earn[ing] more money and satisfy[ing] consumers at the same time” (Lindstrom 5).
Lindstrom’s views concerning neuromarketing, however, are very narrow-minded. Once marketers know exactly how to engage the subconscious minds of consumers, they will have a tremendous amount of power in influencing us to buy whatever they want to sell us. The subconscious mind is, as Lindstrom admits, irrational, and if marketers can influence that part of a consumer’s mind, they could potentially make consumers spend money in irrational ways. Perhaps neuromarketing could allow marketers to sell us products that we really want, but at what cost? After all, neuromarketing may allow marketers to sell products powerful enough to make people pay anything for them. The result may be that people are selling their homes and their savings to buy an emotionally powerful product. Is this really a good thing for society? This link, while somewhat quirky, offers a glimpse into the dangers of neuromarketing.
Lindstrom also fails to take into account the problems of over-consumption. Hyper consumption has already reached a breaking point in our society; as it has become increasingly unsustainable. If neuromarketing becomes the main means of selling products, consumption may finally reach its breaking point. Rather than trying to peer into people’s brains in order to sell more products, perhaps we should be looking for ways to make people want to consume less. Maybe the problem is not trying to find out what material things people really want, but what emotional and mental needs people have. By doing this, maybe consumption can be curbed.
Several questions arise from these points. Is neuromarketing ethical? Is it dangerous? Is it good for consumers? In our already over-extended consumer society, is neuromarketing what we really need?
Tom Reilly, Section 01