Why do you choose Coke over Pepsi, Corona over Bud, Crest over Colgate? You don't think much about these choices, you say; your gut decides. Marketing guru Martin Lindstrom says otherwise. Your preference for Macs over PCs is embedded in your brain circuitry. In "Buyology," he shares the results of a three-year, $7 million study, in which he submitted 2,000 people to fMRI scans to explore what, exactly, happens in your brain to make you stand in line all night for an iPhone.
The idea: People lie; brain images don't. To create successful brands, companies need to learn what people really want, not what they say they want.
The evidence: Lindstrom tested smokers, some of whom said they heeded the health warnings on cigarette packages. According to fMRI tests, the warnings did not dampen cravings; in fact, they stimulated them. There's a religious aspect to these brain connections, too. The same areas of the brain "lit up" when people looked at religious symbols—the Virgin Mary, for example—as when they looked at strong brands, like the iPod. Weak brands generated less brain activity.
The conclusion: The most successful brands (Nike, Harley-Davidson) stimulate the brain's emotional centers in a positive way—a lot like religion. They create community, rituals and a common adversary. Coke Zero, says Lindstrom, succeeds because it poses as an enemy to its sugary sibling, Coke.