Martin Lindstrom on Brandwashing and the consumer revolution

by Mandy de Waal (@mandyldewaal) Take a look at how angry consumers are getting in banks and what’s gone down in Wall Street. Seen a consumer revolution on Facebook or insurgence on Twitter lately? If you’re a big brand that’s been manipulating consumers for longer than you can remember, perhaps now’s the time to be nervous. Mandy de Waal speaks to Martin Lindstrom, author of ‘Brandwashed’ – a book in which the marketing guru turns the heat on his own industry, drawing on all he has witnessed behind closed doors to expose the psychological tricks and traps that companies use to get consumers’ hard earned cash.

Mandy de Waal: Consumers are taking action against greed and what they see as the perversion of capitalism. What does this mean for brands and branding?
Martin Lindstrom: Brands should get their ‘house in order’ soon, rather than later. I’m convinced that we’ll soon see a Wikileaks of brands – some independent organisation that will disclose trade secrets and marketing programs from companies across the world without their permission. Many companies will “survive” this as there’s simply nothing to disclose – but some will be hurt greatly because they’ve crossed the line.

MdW: What was the motivation for ‘Brandwashed’?
ML: I’ve worked in advertising since I founded my own advertising agency at the age of 12. I’ve seen a lot – and at times become disturbed about what’s going on. Admittedly I’ve been part of this, and feel the time is right to put a line in the sand and push back on some of the techniques used. Had I written a book about ethics I’m sure no-one would ever read or write about it – so I had to write a provocative, thought provoking, edgy book which grabs people attention on both sides of the table. My hope is that the consumer gets a “wake up call” and realizes that they’re probably not as “immune” as they think they are. I also hope they’ll push back on some of the topics I’m raising in the book – like privacy – which (when you read about it) is rather shocking.

In terms of companies I hope the same – over the past months I’ve been on a road tour presenting for them a new set of 10 ethical standards. These are developed by the consumers not by me – but outlines what the “future” consumer hopes / expects from brands. Here’s the good news – all companies – all belonging to the biggest in the world – have bought into these guidelines – giving me a great sense of hope that things indeed can change. I’m fine about Brandwashing people – as long as it is positive – it is when it’s negative brandwashing I start to feel uncomfortable.

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