Marketing Book Review: ‘Brandwashed’ by Martin Lindstrom

Have you ever read a marketing book that, while reading it, you lost all track of time because you were genuinely interested in the material? Sadly, my college textbooks never had that effect on me. However, Martin Lindstrom’s book Brandwashed did, and I’m glad!

The long title of his book is: Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy. It combines marketing, advertising, and psychology to really give an in-depth analysis of what today’s companies are doing to get us to remember their brands – hence the title.


I won’t give anything away, but as a consumer there were tons of “Whoa! Really?!” moments that kept me turning the pages. For example, shampoo companies have recognized that consumers see the number of generated bubbles to mean that is getting their hair cleaner than their less-bubbly competitors. So, a few companies that Lindstrom knows have taken this idea and have created a chemical that quickly multiplies the number of bubbles created. So it makes us think that this brand of shampoo is really getting our hair cleaner than the less expensive brand ever could. (Did you just have one of those “Whoa, really?” moments? I warned you!)

Lindstrom also goes into detail about how we’re hooked on brands from two different stages. The “Routine Stage” occurs when we use products out of mere daily rituals; toothpaste, paper towels, laundry detergent. You know those brands we’re loyal to and won’t give any other brand a passing thought. When we run out of them we immediately go out and buy the exact same brand without thinking twice about it. No questions asked.

"I must buy some more Hawaiian shirts before I leave"

The second stage is the “Dream Stage” where we purchase products not because we ‘need’ them, but because our guard is down. Think about your spending habits while on vacation or on a weekend; they’re probably a bit more erratic and relaxed than during a normal work week. So, if you came back from an island vacation with a suitcase full of sarongs or Hawaiian shirts, blame it on all that relaxation that made you put down your guard and open up your wallet.

One last gem I’ll leave you with concerns online coupons and their bar codes. Have you ever wondered what’s encoded in there? What is the scanner really reading? Well, retailers are able to gather your IP address, what search terms you used to find it, what day and time you found the coupon, when and where you redeemed it, and so much more from this little guy. With this information they’re able to better appeal to you and other consumers who match your profile. Now, this does result in you getting your favorite cereal or chips at a cheaper price, but is it worth it?

I could go on and on about other things I learned from this marketing book, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll urge you to check out Martin Lindstrom’s Brandwashed for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it, and plus you’ll feel really smart for reading something educational!

"Brandwashed" by Martin Lindstrom

Want to find about more about Martin Lindstrom and his book, Brandwashed? I highly recommend visiting the Brandwashed website here. You can also take his ‘Brandwashed Intelligence Test’ and really see how brandwashed you are (careful though, it’s not for the faint of heart). His previous books and Brandwashed are both available at all major bookstores and on his website.

Do any of Martin Lindstrom’s “enlightments” surprise you? Is there an instance where you believe that one brand is superior to another? If so, which brand is it and why? Shout off below!

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Jill Tooley

    “Brandwashed” sounds incredibly interesting, Amy! I can’t believe that some marketers resort to things like “making more bubbles” to persuade customers to buy (okay, maybe I can). It’s eerie how brands seep into our daily consciousness now…trying to find out our every like and dislike in order to use it to their advantage. The barcodes you mentioned are perfect examples of this — we use cards like that because we feel it’s benefiting US, when in reality it’s benefiting the brand more so. Creepy!

    I had fun taking the Brandwashed Intelligence Test! I scored a 5 out of 10, so I guess I’m not a TOTAL sucker to marketing! 😉

    Great post, Amy!

    • amy

      I just showed the tip of the iceberg in this blog post! His book was beyond fascinating! I wrote down little notes or highlighted interesting facts, and when I went to write this review almost every single page of his book I highlighted or had a Post-it on the page! A great read!

      I haven’t read his other books yet, but they’re added to my list of books to read! Thanks for commenting, Jill!

  2. Bret Bonnet

    I always thought the more my scalp burned the better the shampoo, but it’s the amount of bubbles that matters. To think, for all these years I was wrong! 😉

    • amy

      Yep, they say you learn something new everyday. Glad we could clear this up for you, Bret 😉 Thanks for reading!!

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I can’t say that I’m totally surprised that companies make more bubbles to give people the impression that their hair gets cleaner. I use a fairly-expensive brand name shampoo, but the amount of bubbles was not a determining factor. It was because I’ve tried literally every single kind of shampoo made for color-treated hair, and my current brand is by far the best at retaining my color and keeping my hair healthy. But for those making decisions based on bubbles – save yourself some money and stick to Suave. 🙂

    I took the test and I got a 3. I’m a marketer’s dream! This doesn’t surprise me, though. I’ve formed opinions on products and “gotta have it” attitudes based on commercials alone. :/ Whoops.

    • amy

      Excellent point, Mandy! With my hair I rarely stick to the same brand time after time. With a few exceptions, I don’t really notice a difference too much between using Pantene versus L’Oreal. As soon as I run out, I’ll go and try something else.

      In regards of using dish washing soap however, I’m the type of person who thinks that using a crap-ton actually gets dishes cleaner than using the suggested amount. It’s those darn bubbles!!!! They make everything seem so squeaky clean!!! On the plus side though, I’m rarely asked to do the dishes 😉

  4. david k waltz

    Thanks for the info – I went there and got a 7 out of 10. According to the website, at that score level I don’t even need the book!

    Might put it on my list, those are facts that can be dropped around at Christmas parties.

    • amy

      Wow, you really know your stuff, David! 7 out of 10 for a first try is pretty darn impressive.

      If you find marketing, psychology, and consumer behavior interesting then this book is a really excellent choice! You’ll be sure to stump a few guests at your holiday parties when you ask them a question from it 😉

  5. Rachel

    I love books like this, ones that mix marketing and psychology; I may have to borrow it from you sometime! Also, I got a 4 on that Brandwashed intelligence quiz. 🙁 Why doesn’t it give me the answers??? Test, you are cruel! I guess I have to read the book or something, haha. Sneaky marketing right there!

    Thanks for the book review, Amy!

    • amy

      I’ve got it in the office if you ever want to read it. Warning though, I did write down some notes in the margins, so if that bugs you, just a head’s up 😉 It was beyond interesting, and I know you’d probably enjoy it too!

  6. Joseph Giorgi

    I only scored a 4 on the quiz. Guess I should probably buy the book. 😉

    “Brandwashed” sounds like it’s loaded with insight! The marketing tidbits you mentioned are pretty wild. I’ll say this much: I’m going to be weary of online coupons from here on out.

    Great post, Amy!

    • amy

      There were so many excellent and thought-provoking tidbits that I would’ve loved to include in this post, but you’ll have to read the book to find out more 😉

  7. Cybernetic SAM

    That is really neat! But I guess this is another win for broke people as they usually don’t have the means to be brand loyal! I could totally understand how people get suckered into it though, there is an amazing psychology to how consumers spend their money. It really is neat! Great post!

    • amy

      Thanks, Sam! I took a consumer behavior class in college which was the science of why people shop, it was beyond interesting! Just little things like the type of music in a store affects how fast you shop and how much you spend and how different wording on a sales flyer can increase traffic over some other wording. It was one of the textbooks I wish I would’ve kept instead of selling back to the bookstore 🙁 Oh well.

  8. JPorretto

    I got a 7! But I could also tell which questions were intentionally misleading/shocking, which is why I’m a really bad test subject. I always try to figure out the question takers motives rather than just answering the questions.

    This is interesting as all get out, especially since this is the majority of what my Psych degree was based on, not the head-shrinking stuff.

    I need this book. Damn Amy, are you brandwashing people for the brandwashing book???

    • Amy Swanson

      I had no idea you had a psych degree! Man, the things you learn about people on these comment sections 😉 In regards to your awesome score, perhaps you just really know your marketing stuff?

      If I could brandwash people, believe me Dunkin’ Donuts would be paying me big bucks LOL

  9. Jen

    Really cool post Amy. This book sound really interesting! I got a 7 on the quiz, I guess that’s pretty good, but I picked the answers that didn’t seem obvious. Maybe that’s why I did well. I, like Jeff, thought about the marketers, and what they would think. Of course they want to market Justin Beiber to 35 year old women, so they buy the CDs, posters, and dolls for their 12 year old kids. Makes perfect sense. If the parents don’t like it, they won’t let their kids listen to it!

  10. Ellyn Gilmore

    I only got a 5 on the test :(. I think that Martin Lindstrom has the right idea too, because now that I took that test I want to go buy his book to figure out how I’m being brainwashed!! One thing I do know is that I like when my soap and shampoo go make lots and lots of bubbles!!

    • amy

      I can’t remember which blog you commented on and mentioned the movie about ‘living with the Joneses’, but Martin was the brain child behind it!! There’s a chapter about it in the book and it was beyond fascinating. The number of times we talk about brands is outrageous and enough to make anyone wonder how advertiser’s get into our brains.

  11. Eric

    Not to get all non-sequitur on you, but – if I’m not mistaken – it’s actually the smaller the amount of bubbles, the better the shampoo is for your head, hence, that recent movement toward “sulfate-free” shampoos. If you’ll ever read the back of a bottle, most times, one of the first couple ingredients is sodium lauryl sulfate. More ironically, from my experience, it’s always the cheapest shampoos that foam the most. That said, if you ever run out of bubble bath, a bottle of Suave shampoo is about the same darn thing. Whoa, bubbles. Neat article, Amy, and I’ll have to give that book a look-see. Always interested in the psychology behind marketing and advertising.

    • amy

      As someone who pretty much just buys a shampoo based on the smell, I had no idea about the sulfate-free shampoo movement. Very interesting! Thanks, Eric!

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