Book Review: Buying In

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Walker, Rob. Buying in : the secret dialogue between what we buy and who we are. Random House, 2008.

The mass market is dead, according to author Rob Walker. So is the couch potato consumer, who used to care what four out of five dentists recommended. Yet the new consumer purchases more branded products than ever before. In today’s environment where there is a paralyzing abundance of options available to the consumer, what makes people buy what they do?

The first part of the book is about branding, how marketers attach an idea to a product. Consumers will often participate in creating this meaning even though they don’t fully understand it themselves. Also important to consumer choice is the eternal tension between people wanting to be individuals, unique and special, and desiring to be part of something larger than themselves. Plus, consumer choice is about self expression. Product choice is powered by emotion, often unconscious to the consumer.

Walker also discusses new forms of marketing, such as hiring regular Americans to talk up products with friends and acquaintances, or to drop suggestions for purchases at stores. He also includes dozens of stories about branded products, including Timberland boots, PBR beer, the iPod and Red Bull. Interestingly, the section on Red Bull cites a study by Dan Ariely, Baba Shiv and Ziv Carmon, all of whom are or were at Fuqua at one time.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library РFuqua School of Business. All rights reserved.

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