A provocative approach that should give pause to consumers as well as marketers.

UNCONSCIOUS BRANDING

HOW NEUROSCIENCE CAN EMPOWER (AND INSPIRE) MARKETING

The executive vice president of ad agency Deutsch LA argues that successful advertising depends on recognizing “the subtleties of nonverbal communication, body language, and unconscious micro-expressions of emotions.”

In other words, Van Praet writes in his debut, marketers can profitably apply insights from neuropsychology about the biological basis of behavior. As fMRI brain-scan experiments reveal, when subjects are called upon to make decisions, their responses may bypass conscious awareness. People may believe they prefer one brand over another because of taste, but the author cites experiments that mix up labels to demonstrate that this is not always the case. Instead, he explains, we choose brands that are familiar because they evoke pleasant emotions and are “road signs” that allow us to take “mental shortcuts.” As the complexity of our lives increases, we tend “to blindly obey…stereotypical rules of thumb that make our decisions for us.” Van Praet suggests that our inborn need for social attachment can be tapped in today's complex, consumption-based society by treating buyers as members of communities whose buying preferences are a mark of their self-identity. He offers illustrations of steps that a marketer can take to appeal to potential buyers on an unconscious level, such as a Deutsch ad for the VW Passat that featured a little boy dressed as Darth Vader deploying the force to start the car (a Super Bowl attention-getter). He compares the special garments of the Catholic clergy to the white lab coats featured in pharmaceutical ads as examples of the hypnotic power of authority in unconscious branding. Suggesting that the time has come for a more creative approach, he mocks the use of market surveys. To question consumers about their product choices, he writes, is as sensible as “asking the political affiliation of a tuna fish sandwich.”

A provocative approach that should give pause to consumers as well as marketers.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-230-34179-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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