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Review: Buying In by Rob Walker

April 18, 2012

Buying In coverTitle: Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are
Author: Walker, Rob
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Business / Marketing
Publisher / Year: Random House / 2008
Source: Unsure… I think perhaps from my cousins bookstore review pile?
Rating: 4/5
Why I Read It: I have a few books on my shelf on the topic of marketing / consumerism, I read this now as it was part of my roommate challenge.
Date Read: 12/03/12

The media keeps telling us that the consumer is in charge, that marketing has changed and is becoming obsolete, and other such random messages. The truth, however, is quite different. Marketing has indeed changed but it isn’t going away, it is rather taking over a more prominent place in our lives. In this book Walker explores this phenomenon, looking specifically at the Desire Code, or why we buy what we do and what motivates our decisions, the power of marketing and branding, and what the future will hold.

Being published in 2008, the book is a bit dated in terms of the trends and advertising discussed. Despite this,  however, Walker’s points are still relevant and come across well. For anyone old enough to remember the big advertising gimmicks of the early 2000s, the examples will be relevant. A key point he makes throughout is that in saying we are above the influence of marketing and advertising is a fallacy, as we are all influenced by it. Instead, we should try to understand why we are susceptible, how, and what that means to truly recognize the influence and better cope with it.

In this book Walker uses the term ‘murketing’ to describe the way advertising is currently being done. ‘Murketing’ is, he says, the mix of murky and marketing. As advertisements blend in more and more with real life through product placements, paid promotions, sponsorships, and more, it is becoming harder and harder to tell what is advertising and what isn’t, therefore the murkiness is a definite part of the equation.

Especially relevant to myself and other book bloggers was the discussion on agents who are sent free products to promote and generate buzz. It was interesting here to read about the ethics of it that many discuss, as well as the ways in which psychology comes into play. While interesting, it isn’t quite what we do with review copies – we aren’t exactly generating buzz in the same way as the agencies discussed, calling bookstores and what not, instead we dissect and discuss. Still, definitely interesting.

If you are interested in marketing and how it is changing – and how we interact with brands as symbols both in accepting meanings and in creating new ones – you would definitely find this book interesting. Well researched and well written, he makes a lot of great points and discusses much of our consumer culture and the ways in which buyers and sellers interact.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2012 8:56 am

    I am DEFINITELY going to be adding this to the TBR list, so thanks for bringing this to my attention! As I work in graphic design, a lot of time (if not all the time) what I do overlaps with advertising and marketing, so I would love to see this author’s perspective on the marketing industry. From what you’ve said, it sounds like it would be a highly interesting read.

    • April 25, 2012 4:33 pm

      Oh yes if you deal in design you may really like this one Court. It’s not super recent, but still interesting.

  2. April 18, 2012 10:41 am

    Great review – I love the word murketing!!!

  3. April 18, 2012 10:56 am

    I think I need to read this one. Your discussion about our role as marketers was very interesting, and while I was reading the first half of your review, I was thinking “hey, aren’t bloggers also marketers in some ways?” Definitely an intriguing review, and I think I will be looking for this one when I can.

    • April 25, 2012 4:35 pm

      Yes, yes we definitely are zibilee :) Bloggers are mentioned in the book, though not book bloggers in general.

  4. buriedinprint permalink
    April 18, 2012 3:40 pm

    Good to hear that your challenge is pulling you into the different corners of your shelves; I can’t remember if this was an all-year pledge on your part, but you must be starting to see some headway by now! I’ve done some reading on branding — and have spent more than enough hours in my working life thinking about it –so that I’m quite happy to read your thoughts on this one rather than actually read the book.

    • April 25, 2012 4:35 pm

      Well, the pledge will last until the shelf is cleared so maybe a decade or century long pledge, BIP? ;) heh.

  5. April 18, 2012 5:22 pm

    Great stuff Amy! Your review reminds me of sage advice I was given by a recognized master of copywriiting – John Carlson. Long story short? Salesmanship will always make sales. The mediums might change (that’s back to how you observed this 2008 book seemed a bit dated) but the message is the same; people have needs and/or desires. Sales and marketing either meets the need or fulfills the desire.

    For something that sounds so straightforward at the surface a hole with no bottom lies underneath.

    • April 25, 2012 4:36 pm

      YES! That is pretty much exactly what Walker said in many more words Howard. Sales people will sell… always. The game may be “changing” but that doesn’t mean they are selling any less!

  6. April 19, 2012 4:13 am

    Great review Amy although I know this book is not for me.

  7. bostonbibliophile permalink
    April 19, 2012 4:36 pm

    I’ve always found marketing to be really fascinating. It’s so much about manipulating human psychology at a fundamental level.I always thought if I ever went to business school it would be for marketing. Oh well, I will content myself with great books liek this one! Have you read Paco Underhill’s WHY WE BUY? It’s an earlier iteration of the same idea, with some emphasis on physical merchandising. Neat!

    • April 25, 2012 4:38 pm

      It really is about manipulations in so many ways, Marie, especially with the ways it is done now. I haven’t read Why We Buy but it certainly sounds right up my alley!

  8. April 19, 2012 10:22 pm

    I haven’t read much on marketing but this book sounds too interesting to pass up. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    • April 25, 2012 4:38 pm

      You are most welcome Vasilly. When I read books like this I generally end up paranoid, but I still enjoy them ;)

  9. April 24, 2012 5:39 pm

    Fascinating. I’ve received requests for advertising that specify that the link should appear in the text of my blog post and not as a visibly commerical ad. Murketing indeed.

    • April 25, 2012 4:39 pm

      Ohhh interesting that the requirement has been stated outright like that Niranjana. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that. Murketing. Interesting to think how we play a part isn’t it?

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