Review: Buying In by Rob Walker
Title: 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?
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.