Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom.Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom.

What is “Brandwashed”?

“Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy” is a book written by Martin Lindstrom and published in 2011. The book explores the various tactics and strategies that companies use to influence consumers’ buying behavior and build brand loyalty. It delves into the world of marketing, advertising, and consumer psychology, shedding light on the ways in which companies can subtly manipulate consumers without their awareness.

Lindstrom, a marketing expert and author, draws on his own experiences and extensive research to uncover the methods that companies employ to create brand obsession and drive sales. He discusses a range of topics, including the use of sensory marketing, subliminal messaging, product placements, and neuromarketing techniques that tap into the human brain’s responses.

The book also raises ethical questions about these practices and encourages readers to become more aware of the strategies used by companies to influence their choices. “Brandwashed” is meant to be an eye-opening and thought-provoking exploration of the consumer world and the power of marketing in shaping our preferences and behavior. It’s a critical examination of the ways in which marketing and advertising can impact our daily lives.

  1. Sensory Marketing: The book discusses how companies use sensory cues, such as scents, sounds, and textures, to create a memorable and immersive brand experience. For example, the use of a particular scent in a retail store can trigger positive emotions and influence purchasing decisions.
  2. Subliminal Messaging: Lindstrom explores the concept of subliminal messages, which are messages or images that are presented so quickly or subtly that the viewer’s conscious mind doesn’t register them. While the effectiveness of subliminal messaging is debated, some companies have tried to use it to influence consumer behavior.
  3. Product Placements: The author examines the prevalence of product placements in movies, television shows, and other media. Brands pay to have their products featured prominently within content, subtly influencing viewers to consider these products when making purchase decisions.
  4. Neuromarketing: Lindstrom discusses how companies use neuroscience and brain imaging techniques to understand consumers’ neural responses to products and advertising. This information is then used to design more persuasive marketing campaigns.
  5. Brand Loyalty: The book delves into the strategies companies employ to create and maintain brand loyalty. It examines the role of emotional connections, storytelling, and other psychological tactics in keeping consumers loyal to a particular brand.
  6. Social Media and Online Influence: Lindstrom looks at how social media and online platforms are used by companies to gather data on consumers and to influence their behavior through targeted advertising and content.
  7. Greenwashing: The concept of “greenwashing” is discussed, where companies may exaggerate or misrepresent the environmental benefits of their products or practices to appeal to consumers who are increasingly concerned about sustainability.

“Brandwashed” provides readers with an inside look at the often subtle and hidden strategies that companies use to shape consumer perceptions and decisions. It encourages consumers to be more aware of these tactics and think critically about their purchasing choices. Additionally, it raises important ethical questions about the impact of marketing on our lives and society as a whole.

Chapter 1: Buy Buy Baby – When Companies Start Marketing to Us in the Womb

The opening chapter highlights how companies have found ways to target and influence individuals from the very beginning of their lives, often exploiting the vulnerabilities of expectant parents.

Key Concepts:

  1. Prenatal Marketing: One of the central ideas in this chapter is the concept of prenatal marketing, where companies attempt to establish brand recognition and loyalty in unborn babies. This is achieved through various means, including playing jingles and music near a pregnant mother’s belly and using techniques like scent marketing.
  2. Brand Familiarity: Lindstrom emphasizes the idea that even before birth, unborn babies can become familiar with specific brands, sounds, and even scents. This familiarity can influence their preferences and behaviors later in life.
  3. Emotional Manipulation: The author also addresses the emotional aspects of prenatal marketing. Companies aim to create a bond between the unborn child and their products, often exploiting the emotions and desires of expectant parents, who only want the best for their future child.


  1. Jingles and Sounds: Lindstrom provides examples of companies using jingles and sounds to engage with expectant mothers and their unborn babies. For instance, a company might create a jingle associated with their product and encourage expectant mothers to play it near their bellies. The idea is that the unborn child will become familiar with the sound and, in the future, have a positive association with that brand.
  2. Scent Marketing: The book also discusses the use of scent marketing, where companies introduce specific scents into products aimed at pregnant women. These scents are carefully chosen to create a strong emotional connection. For instance, baby products might have a distinct and comforting scent, which is designed to create a bond between the product and the baby.
  3. Nurturing Parental Instincts: Companies often market products that tap into parents’ natural instincts to protect and nurture their children. An example would be advertising crib mattresses that are marketed as safer for a baby’s sleep, appealing to parents’ desire to provide the best and safest environment for their child.

Chapter 2: Peddling Panic and Paranoia – Why Fear Sells

The second chapter explores how companies use fear and paranoia as potent tools to shape consumer behavior. By creating and exacerbating concerns, businesses can market products or solutions that promise to alleviate those fears, ultimately driving sales and brand loyalty.

Key Concepts:

  1. Fear as a Marketing Tactic: Lindstrom introduces the core concept that fear is a highly effective marketing tool. Companies identify common fears and anxieties in their target audience and then create products or campaigns that play on those fears.
  2. Problem-Solution Marketing: The author highlights the use of “problem-solution marketing,” where companies first accentuate a perceived problem or fear and then introduce their product or service as the solution. This tactic can be seen in various industries, from healthcare to personal safety.
  3. Emotional Resonance: Fear-based marketing often relies on evoking strong emotions. This strategy taps into consumers’ emotions, making them more likely to respond to the product or service being offered as a solution to their fears.


  1. Home Security Systems: The chapter discusses how home security companies use fear as a key motivator for potential customers. They create advertisements and campaigns that depict the dangers of break-ins and burglaries, instilling a sense of fear in homeowners. The fear of a break-in prompts consumers to invest in home security systems, such as alarm systems and surveillance cameras, which are marketed as solutions to protect their homes.
  2. Pharmaceutical Ads: Lindstrom examines the pharmaceutical industry’s use of fear in advertising. For instance, ads for allergy medications often depict people suffering from extreme allergic reactions, inducing fear in viewers. The product is then presented as the solution to alleviate those fears and symptoms.
  3. Health and Wellness Products: The wellness industry often uses fear of health problems as a marketing strategy. For example, companies that sell dietary supplements may market their products by highlighting the fear of nutrient deficiencies and their potential health consequences. By doing so, they promote their supplements as the solution to these fears.
  4. Insurance Companies: Insurance providers often use fear to encourage consumers to purchase various types of insurance. Health insurance companies may emphasize the fear of unexpected medical expenses, while life insurance companies highlight the fear of leaving loved ones financially burdened.

Chapter 3: I Can’t Quit You – Brand Addicts, Shopaholics, and Why We Can’t Live Without Our Smartphones

This chapter explores how companies have successfully created products and marketing strategies that tap into our psychological vulnerabilities, compelling us to become devoted brand enthusiasts and shopaholics. It also investigates the powerful role of smartphones and how they have become indispensable in our lives.

Key Concepts:

  1. Brand Addiction: Lindstrom introduces the concept of brand addiction, emphasizing that many consumers develop deep emotional connections to specific brands, making it challenging to quit or switch to alternatives. These brand addicts often remain loyal even when it’s not rational.
  2. Compulsive Shopping: The chapter addresses the issue of compulsive shopping, or shopaholism, which is the irresistible urge to shop excessively. Companies often play a role in fueling this behavior through targeted advertising and marketing techniques.
  3. The Role of Smartphones: Lindstrom highlights the pivotal role that smartphones play in modern society. They have become integral to our daily lives, functioning as both a communication device and a portal to a vast world of brands and products.


  1. Apple’s Brand Loyalty: Apple is a prime example of a company that has created brand addicts. Apple users are known for their unwavering loyalty to the brand, and they often wait in long lines to get the latest iPhone, even when their current one is still functional. Apple’s marketing and product design have cultivated a sense of belonging and prestige that keeps customers coming back.
  2. Fast Fashion: Fast fashion retailers like Zara and H&M have mastered the art of encouraging compulsive shopping. Their rapid turnover of trendy clothing items at affordable prices makes consumers feel the need to continuously update their wardrobes. The fear of missing out on the latest fashion trends creates a cycle of compulsive buying.
  3. Smartphone Dependency: The chapter explores the addictive nature of smartphones and how we’ve become reliant on them. Social media apps, in particular, have been designed to be addictive, using techniques such as push notifications and endless scrolling to keep us engaged and glued to our screens.
  4. Amazon Prime: Amazon’s subscription service, Amazon Prime, is another example of brand addiction. By offering fast shipping, exclusive content, and numerous other benefits, Amazon keeps its customers loyal and constantly using their services, often without fully considering the alternatives.

Chapter 4: Buy It, Get Laid – The New Face of Sex (and the Sexes) in Advertising

This chapter explores how companies leverage sexual imagery, innuendos, and desire to sell products and services. It also discusses the evolution of gender roles and sexuality in advertising and its impact on consumer behavior.

Key Concepts:

  1. Sexual Imagery in Advertising: The chapter introduces the concept of using sexual imagery and innuendos in advertising to grab consumers’ attention. Companies use attractive models and suggestive content to create desire and establish emotional connections with their products.
  2. Changing Gender Roles: Lindstrom addresses the shifting portrayal of gender roles in advertising. Traditional gender stereotypes are being challenged, and companies are adapting their marketing strategies to reflect evolving societal norms and values.
  3. Emotional Appeals: The use of sexual content is often tied to emotional appeals. By associating a product with desire, companies aim to create strong emotional connections between consumers and their brands.


  1. Calvin Klein Fragrance Campaigns: Calvin Klein has a history of pushing boundaries with provocative advertising. Their fragrance campaigns often feature scantily clad models and sensual poses. These campaigns use sexual imagery to create a sense of desire for the fragrance, suggesting that using the product can make the consumer more attractive and alluring.
  2. Victoria’s Secret: Victoria’s Secret is renowned for using sexual appeal in their advertising and marketing campaigns. They feature supermodels in lingerie and intimate apparel, emphasizing the idea that wearing their products can make individuals feel more confident, desirable, and empowered.
  3. Gender-Neutral Advertising: Some brands have challenged traditional gender roles in advertising. For example, brands like Nike and Gillette have released ads that break away from stereotypes, portraying women in sports and challenging toxic masculinity. These campaigns aim to reflect changing societal values and promote inclusivity.
  4. Dove’s “Real Beauty” Campaign: Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign focuses on portraying real people, celebrating diverse body types, and promoting self-acceptance. This campaign subverts traditional beauty standards and encourages consumers to feel confident in their own skin.

Chapter 5: Under Pressure – The Power of Peers

In this chapter Martin delves into the influence of social pressure and peer dynamics on consumer behavior. It explores how companies use peer pressure and social validation to encourage people to make specific choices and purchases. This chapter sheds light on the psychology behind social influence in marketing and how it drives consumer decision-making.

Key Concepts:

  1. Social Influence: The chapter introduces the concept of social influence, which involves individuals conforming to the behaviors, preferences, and attitudes of those in their social circles. This phenomenon is leveraged by companies to shape consumer choices.
  2. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Lindstrom addresses the fear of missing out, a powerful psychological motivator. The fear of not being part of a social trend or event often drives people to participate or purchase products to avoid feeling left out.
  3. Social Proof: The concept of social proof is a central theme. Companies rely on social proof, which is the idea that people tend to follow the actions of others, to convince consumers that their product or service is popular and trusted by many.


  1. Online Reviews and Ratings: Websites like Amazon and Yelp use customer reviews and ratings to influence purchasing decisions. High ratings and positive reviews serve as social proof, assuring potential customers that the product or service is well-liked and trustworthy.
  2. Social Media Influencers: Companies often collaborate with social media influencers who have large followings. These influencers can sway their followers’ opinions and behaviors by endorsing products or experiences, creating a sense of FOMO for those who want to emulate them.
  3. Limited-Time Offers and Scarcity: Companies use tactics such as limited-time offers and creating a sense of scarcity to trigger the fear of missing out. For instance, flash sales and limited quantities of a product encourage consumers to act quickly for fear of losing out on a great deal.
  4. Peer Pressure in Brand Selection: Many consumers choose brands that align with the preferences of their peer groups. For example, teenagers often select clothing brands that are popular among their friends to fit in and avoid feeling left out.

Chapter 6: Oh, Sweet Memories – The New (but also Old) Face of Nostalgia Marketing

This chapter explores the fascinating world of nostalgia marketing. This chapter delves into how companies leverage consumers’ emotional connections to the past, particularly their childhood memories, to create a sense of longing and sentimentality. Nostalgia marketing aims to tap into our past experiences and use them as a persuasive tool to drive consumer behavior.

Key Concepts:

  1. Nostalgia as a Marketing Tool: The chapter introduces the concept of nostalgia marketing, where companies use feelings of nostalgia and sentimental attachment to past experiences to promote their products. This taps into consumers’ emotional connections with the past.
  2. Emotional Resonance: Nostalgia marketing seeks to evoke strong emotional responses, connecting consumers to their memories and experiences. This emotional resonance can lead to positive associations with the brand.
  3. Retro Branding: Companies often use retro branding, which involves reintroducing or redesigning products to mimic those from the past. This strategy aims to invoke a sense of nostalgia and cater to consumers’ fond memories.


  1. Coca-Cola’s Classic Bottles: Coca-Cola has successfully used nostalgia marketing by maintaining its classic glass bottle design. The vintage look of the bottle, which harks back to the brand’s early days, evokes nostalgia among consumers. Many people associate Coca-Cola with pleasant memories of their past.
  2. Reboots of Classic Movies and TV Shows: The entertainment industry often leverages nostalgia by producing reboots or sequels of classic movies and TV shows. For example, the return of the “Star Wars” franchise, or the revival of “Full House” as “Fuller House,” appeals to fans’ nostalgia for the original content.
  3. Retro Packaging: Snack and cereal companies sometimes reintroduce retro packaging designs that mimic the look of their products from the past. For example, the limited-edition packaging of cereals like Lucky Charms or Trix may feature the classic designs that consumers remember from their childhood.
  4. Vintage Ad Campaigns: Brands may run advertising campaigns that pay homage to their own history. For example, Levi’s jeans has used retro-themed ads that recall iconic campaigns from the past. This creates a connection with consumers who remember the brand’s earlier marketing efforts.

Chapter 7: Marketers’ Royal Flush – The Hidden Powers of Celebrity and Fame

This chapter explores the extent to which celebrities and their fame can shape consumer behavior and create powerful connections between brands and their target audience.

Key Concepts:

  1. Celebrity Endorsement: The chapter introduces the concept of celebrity endorsement, where companies leverage the popularity, image, and credibility of famous individuals to promote their products or services. Celebrities are seen as influencers who can sway the opinions and choices of their fan base.
  2. Association with Fame: Companies aim to create associations between their products and the fame, success, or lifestyle of celebrities. This connection between a famous figure and a brand is intended to enhance the brand’s appeal and perceived value.
  3. Social Proof and Trust: Celebrity endorsements tap into the psychological principle of social proof. Consumers tend to trust and believe in products more when they are associated with someone they admire or trust.


  1. Nike and Michael Jordan: One of the most iconic celebrity endorsements is that of Nike and basketball legend Michael Jordan. The Air Jordan line of sneakers became a cultural phenomenon, thanks in large part to Michael Jordan’s endorsement. His association with the brand turned it into a symbol of excellence and athletic achievement.
  2. Cosmetic Brands and Hollywood Celebrities: Cosmetic companies frequently use Hollywood celebrities as brand ambassadors. For instance, L’OrĂ©al has featured stars like Jennifer Aniston and Eva Longoria in their campaigns. The celebrity’s beautiful appearance and fame are linked to the effectiveness and desirability of the cosmetics.
  3. Athletes and Sports Apparel: Brands like Adidas, Under Armour, and Puma have signed endorsement deals with prominent athletes, such as Lionel Messi, Stephen Curry, and Usain Bolt. These partnerships enhance the brand’s reputation, associating it with athletic prowess and success.
  4. Coca-Cola and Santa Claus: Even fictional characters can be celebrities. Coca-Cola’s portrayal of Santa Claus in its holiday campaigns, particularly the plump, jolly Santa, has contributed to the popular image of Santa Claus and the association with Coca-Cola during the holiday season.

Chapter 8: Hope in a Jar – The Price of Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Enlightenment

This chapter explores how companies tap into our deepest desires for well-being and fulfillment, often manipulating consumers’ vulnerabilities and aspirations to drive sales and brand loyalty.

Key Concepts:

  1. Emotional Triggers: The chapter introduces the concept of emotional triggers, where companies aim to connect their products with deep human desires and aspirations. These desires may include better health, happiness, spiritual fulfillment, or personal growth.
  2. Emotional Resonance: Lindstrom addresses the idea that products associated with emotional well-being and fulfillment tend to create strong emotional connections with consumers. These connections influence purchasing decisions, as consumers believe these products will bring them closer to their desired state of well-being.
  3. Exploiting Vulnerabilities: Companies often target individuals’ vulnerabilities and insecurities to sell products that promise to improve their lives. This can be seen in industries such as dietary supplements, self-help, and personal development.


  1. Dietary Supplements and Weight Loss Products: The weight loss industry often capitalizes on individuals’ desire for better health and an ideal body. Products like dietary supplements, detox teas, and fat-burning pills promise rapid weight loss and improved well-being, exploiting people’s desire to be healthier and happier.
  2. Self-Help and Personal Development: The self-help industry markets products, books, and courses promising personal growth, self-improvement, and happiness. These products often tap into individuals’ insecurities and the desire for a more fulfilling life.
  3. Yoga and Wellness Retreats: Companies offering wellness retreats or spiritual experiences aim to provide individuals with a sense of spiritual enlightenment and inner peace. These retreats and experiences often come with a high price tag, targeting individuals seeking inner fulfillment and happiness.
  4. Luxury and Lifestyle Products: High-end luxury brands market products that promise to enhance one’s lifestyle and social status. Owning a luxury car, designer clothing, or expensive jewelry is often associated with happiness, success, and the good life.

Chapter 9: Every Breath You Take, They’ll Be Watching You – The End of Privacy

This chapter explores how companies collect, analyze, and utilize consumer data to understand and influence consumer behavior. It sheds light on the extent to which our personal information is monitored and used to shape our choices and preferences.

Key Concepts:

  1. Data Collection and Surveillance: The chapter introduces the concept of data collection and surveillance by companies. Through various means, including online tracking, social media monitoring, and data analytics, businesses gather vast amounts of information about individuals.
  2. Consumer Profiling: Lindstrom addresses the practice of consumer profiling, where companies create detailed profiles of individuals based on their online behavior, preferences, and activities. These profiles are used to tailor marketing strategies and influence consumer choices.
  3. Targeted Advertising: The chapter explores how companies use consumer data to deliver highly targeted advertising. By understanding individual preferences and behavior, companies can present advertisements that are more likely to resonate with consumers and lead to desired actions, such as making a purchase.


  1. Online Behavioral Tracking: Companies, particularly in the digital advertising space, use tracking technologies like cookies to monitor individuals’ online activities. This data is then used to create profiles and target consumers with ads based on their browsing behavior.
  2. Social Media Data: Social media platforms collect vast amounts of data on their users, including their interests, friends, and interactions. This data is leveraged by advertisers to target users with ads that align with their preferences and online behavior.
  3. Location-Based Services: Many mobile apps use location data to provide personalized services and targeted advertising. For instance, a retail store can send special offers or discounts to customers when they are in close proximity to their physical location.
  4. Data Brokers: Companies known as data brokers collect and sell consumer data to other businesses. This data includes information such as income, buying habits, and lifestyle choices. It is used for a wide range of marketing purposes, from targeting potential homebuyers to delivering personalized health advice.

Chapter 10: Conclusion – I’ll Have What Mrs. Morgenson Is Having – The Most Powerful Hidden Persuader of Them All: Us

Chapter 10, the concluding chapter examines the role of consumers themselves as the most influential hidden persuaders in the world of marketing. Martin emphasizes the power of social influence and the ripple effect of consumer choices on the marketplace. It highlights the interconnectedness of consumers’ actions, preferences, and behaviors in shaping the success of products, brands, and marketing strategies.

Key Concepts:

  1. Consumer Influence: The chapter underscores the concept of consumer influence and the power that individuals hold in shaping the market. It explores how our choices and behaviors can create trends and impact the success or failure of products and brands.
  2. Word of Mouth and Social Networks: Lindstrom emphasizes the role of word of mouth, both offline and online, as a significant driver of consumer behavior. Recommendations and opinions from peers and influencers have a profound impact on the choices we make.
  3. Consumer Trends and Movements: The chapter highlights the emergence of consumer-driven movements and trends. Consumer activism, sustainability, and ethical consumption are examples of movements that have gained momentum due to consumer demand.


  1. Social Media Influencers: Social media influencers, who have built large and engaged followings, play a significant role in shaping consumer behavior. They often recommend products or share their experiences, which can lead to increased sales and the popularity of specific brands.
  2. Viral Marketing Campaigns: Companies have leveraged the power of viral marketing, where consumers themselves become the promoters of a product or campaign. For instance, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gained immense popularity and raised substantial funds for the ALS Association through consumer participation and social sharing.
  3. Ethical Consumerism: The rise of ethical consumerism is an example of how consumer preferences have impacted the marketplace. Consumers increasingly choose products and brands that align with their values, such as sustainability, fair trade, or eco-friendliness, prompting companies to adapt their practices and offerings.
  4. Consumer Boycotts: Consumer boycotts have made headlines and led to changes in corporate behavior. When consumers organize and collectively decide to boycott a brand or product due to ethical concerns, it can influence companies to reevaluate their practices.

Additional Reading

  1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini
  2. “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom
  3. Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age” by Jonah Berger
  4. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg
  5. “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal
  6. “The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar
  7. “Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain” by Patrick Renvoise and Christophe Morin
  8. “Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom
  9. “Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You” by Patricia Evans
  10. “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook” by Joseph Sugarman
  11. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell
  12. “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  13. “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less” by Barry Schwartz
  14. “Brandwars: 10 Rules for Building the Killer Brand” by David D’Alessandro
  15. “The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture” by Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant
  16. “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior” by Leonard Mlodinow
  17. “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  18. “Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization that Thrives” by Anese Cavanaugh
  19. “Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life” by Rory Sutherland
  20. “Hooked On You: The Genius Way To Make Anyone Like You In 90 Seconds or Less” by Andrew C. Marshall
  21. “Friction: Passion Brands in the Age of Disruption” by Jeff Rosenblum
  22. “Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?” by Susan M. Weinschenk
  23. “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception” by George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller
  24. “Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position” by Brad VanAuken
  25. “The Branded Mind: What Neuroscience Really Tells Us About the Puzzle of the Brain and the Brand” by Erik Du Plessis
  26. “Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success” by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown