Brandwashed is the latest book of Martin Lindstrom. Lindstrom is Danish from origin, a huge Lego-fan, columnist for Time Magazine and Harvard Business Review, author of successful books like Brandsense and Buy-ology and elected by Time Magazine in 2009 as one of the most influential people in the world. In Brandwashed, he describes the tricks and traps companies use to manipulate consumers’ minds. Though Lindstrom earned his money until now by giving marketing and communication advice to top brands in the world, the author now stand up for consumers and criticizes major brands and their marketing and advertising approach. ‘Fan of the Consumer’ is Lindstrom’s newest slogan and says it all.
The book is built around 9 chapters with sounding names like ‘buy buy baby’ (on how companies target babies and children), ‘buy it, get laid’ (about sex and sexes in advertising), ‘marketers’ royal flash’ (on the hidden power of celebrities) and ‘every breath you take, they’ll be watching you’ (on the end of privacy).
Consumers clearly are receptive towards these kind of techniques used by brands, but what about Generation Y?
In ‘under pressure’, Lindstrom reveals the power of peers. What others do and how they behave, influences our own behaviour. It seems almost as if we believe that others do know better what we want, more than we do ourselves. Also, people want what others want. And this is especially true for teenagers. A national SIS study amongst 2035 teenagers shows that 60 percent believes wearing or owning the right brand of clothes, gadgets or cars could help them ‘buy’ happiness. They also believed, more than adults, that this would help them become more popular. These teens truly believe that their favorite brands make them feel cool, confident, friendly, self-expressive, creative and passionate. Whether these brands actually deliver on this, doesn’t even matter.
Lindstrom also describes in his book the findings of a study of the Journal of Consumer Research. This study explains that at the age of 11 or 12, teenagers begin to understand the meaning of brands, and this is in the same period that their self-esteem is dropping. And so they use brands to gain popularity. The less confidence or self-esteem they have, the more they seem to be dependent on brands. Normally, this fades away as they become older. So it does affect generation Y, but we cannot deny it also affects generation X or babyboomers, though it is less prominently.
The generation lap
On Fast Company, Lindstrom recently wrote a piece on the entrepreneurship of Generation Y, in which he also describes the current harmony between teens and their parents today. This harmonic instead of rebellious relation makes them both wear the same brand of jeans or listen to the same music and have a nice, friendly relationship. In this book tough, he also talks about the generation lap and reverse peer pressure. When a brand becomes popular and widespread amongst an older generation, it becomes unhip amongst youngsters. Youngsters want to have some distance between themselves and their parents’ generation. And so Lindstrom advises brands to come up with ‘brand disapproved concepts’, deliberately built to court parental disapproval. As a clear act and proof of coolness. This court parent disapproval has a 90 percent success rate among the younger set, research shows.
Me, myself and I
Lindstrom also calls Generation Y the “me-obsessed generation”. He thinks that this generation believes it’s all about them. And this is no surprise to him; youngsters of today have grown up in an era where everything is personalized, their smart phone, sneakers or T-shirts. Thus when brands use personalization techniques (like the named Coke cans in Australia), young people are attracted to this. This ‘me selling proposition’ offered by brands, increases the self-identification with brands and this is one of the success factors of the CRUSH for brand leverage amongst GenY.
Privacy is dead
We all share a lot of information online and brands take advantage of that. We blog, tweet, chat, Foursquare, YouTube, buy stuff, … and with or without knowing it, we leave all kinds of data behind. As Lindstrom writes: we’re playing right into the hands of the data miners.
Since the younger generation is even more online, Lindstrom organized teenagers focus groups across the country to talk about privacy. Surprisingly, the word ‘privacy’ meant nothing to them. Either they were completely indifferent towards the subject or they had giving up on it. Privacy is even more dead amongst Generation Y.
Yes, Generation Y is into brands and can be called brandwashed, just like other generations. One could also approach is positively and consider GenerationY as brand lovers. Especially, if these brands are cool,give them a positive feeling and are able to stimulate self-identification. Let’s not call it brandwashed, let’s call it brandmashed!