When I reviewed
Why People Buy by John O’Shaughnessy
on Amazon.co.uk, I gave it a Four Stars rating which means I consider it to be good.
Here is my book review.
A revealing book about consumer theory written for practitioners and academics but it’s nearly 30 years old
I’m fascinated by understanding why people buy what they buy, when they buy it and how they buy it. Generally I feel that far too much of the literature on sales and marketing ignores the buyer and his or her motivations.
This book was first published in 1987 and it was written for both marketing practitioners and for academics and students of consumer behaviour.
On the one hand, it is nearly 30 years old and our understanding has advanced significantly thanks to developments like neuroscience where brains are stimulated whilst they are being scanned by MRI equipment, highlighting what is really happening in the brain when they see marketing messages. The recent advancement of behavioural economics has highlighted how easily our brains become irrational and fall for tricks.
On the other hand, the reptilian brain in our heads was first developed millions of years ago, a long way down the evolution scale to protect us and it still controls much of what we do today. The more advanced thinking parts of our brain have also developed over thousands of years so psychological insights developed 30, 50 or 100 years ago, still have significant value because our evolution is very slow.
I like this book because it made me really think about what’s happening in my own buying decisions across different buying situations and at different times. It also made me aware of how much habit guides many of my choices because of some belief that I accepted long ago and haven’t challenged since but my habitual buying can be broken.
The book is quite academic in tone and isn’t one of those management style books that sell in millions. It is challenging to read and there are plenty of academic references cited. Whilst I am an active reader and highlight important lessons, I also appreciate the fact that each chapter ends with two sections:
– a summary,
– implications for marketing.
I don’t recommend this book for small business owners because I feel the important lessons are presented in other books in a lighter way. Nor can I recommend it for students of consumer behaviour because your exams are going to require you to know the latest thinking.
If you’re a marketing consultant or a specialist marketing executive, I think reading this is beneficial in just the same way as reading the direct marketing classics like “Scientific Advertising” or “Breakthrough Advertising” is beneficial. The ideas may have been summarised and re-summarised in more recent books but the process causes insights to be lost along the way. It remains an important part of my library.
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