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Unthinking: The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  205 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
What do Howard Hughes and 50 Cent have in common, and what do they tell us about Americans and our desires? Why did Sean Connery stop wearing a toupee, and what does this tell us about American customers for any product? What one thing did the Beatles, Malcolm Gladwell and Nike all notice about Americans that helped them win us over? Which uniquely American traits may expl ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 26th 2011 by Business Plus (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 561)
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Feb 19, 2011 Julie rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was interesting. The author breaks it down into three categories. We buy things because they remind us of childhood. We buy things because er.. it fits our culture. And we buy things because they appeal to our eyes.

We like to play and we like bright colors.

Americans are drawn to loners, but we like to be a part of things. And we're basically optimistic.

We like pretty things. Which is ableist language, because he also includes 'smooth' and 'symmetrical' and things tha
Jul 21, 2014 Jina rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: marketing, business
This is yet another business book that is not based on research, but on some amusing stories with cherry-picked "facts". I am dubious anyway that an American born and raised can write about what American culture is. In chapter 2, he makes a basic factual error about the painting "American Gothic" (that the man and woman are supposed to be husband and wife), which was easily verified as wrong in 30 seconds with Wikipedia. In the section about how American actors aren't tall, dark and handsome, Be ...more
Laura Hughes
Feb 24, 2014 Laura Hughes rated it it was ok
I was so excited when I read the introduction to this book. "This is exactly the kind of book I like!" I thought to myself. Debunking popular myth with HARD MATH AND STATISTICS. Using surprising anecdotes to illustrate subtle and counterintuitive concepts in psychology, sociology, and eocnomics. YES. Unfortunately, the intro is by far the highlight of the book. The whole book reads like a series of introductions. Beckwith is skilled at drawing you in with a detailed anecdote, but then he fails t ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Edgar rated it liked it
It's an okay book about how Americans think from a marketing standpoint.

While most people say they want innovation and a lot of bells and whistles, after all is said and done ultimately the products that win our dollars are things that appeal to our childlike sensibilities, that reinforce our optimism and make our lives easier.

Perhaps that how Fairey's Hope campaign poster helped Obama win the presidency. It has solid colors and it had a simple mission statement.

It's a short book so it's a rec
Earl Veale
Aug 16, 2015 Earl Veale rated it really liked it
there are times when the gung-ho American consumerist attitudes begin to be a little over the top. the thoughts and ideas in the book, make pressing on worth the slight annoyance. in hindsight, anybody building a business, or trying to spread an idea should be aware of the typical American attitudes in order to help grow your business.

the author isn't promoting "tricks", he does say that a quality product is your best marketing tool. he is pointing out some of the more subtle, behind the scene
Jill Furedy
Sep 11, 2011 Jill Furedy rated it liked it
This was another book that told me about a bunch of interesting studies, but never does much with their information. I did learn that focus groups prefer round logos to rectangular, but it didn't mention what effect the logo preference has on a given companies sales. They shared stories like I've read before about the faulty assumptions people make, somewhat entertaining, but not terribly helpful. I like reading the stories, and individually they all support the overall point of the sections, bu ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Paula rated it liked it
This book reminded me of the book "Buyology", which I thought was overall a better book. This book was interesting, but I felt that the author was trying too hard to make his point somtimes. According to him, the Beatles were successful in the US largely because Brian Epstein had the then apparently radical idea of not naming their first US album after a hit song, but rather inviting us to "Meet the Beatles." It is an iconic album cover, but that was not why they were so popular. He could have n ...more
Apr 10, 2011 Katey rated it it was ok
I won this in a First Reads giveaway.

None of the information in this book was shocking or even surprising. If you know a little bit about psychology or sociology (or marketing) you're already familiar with these ideas. It does put them in quite a current context, which is nice, with the recent publishing date, and frequently cites examples and information from 2009 and 2010.

But the way in which this book was written was rather ironic: of all the anecdotes and statistics about unthinking masses a
Ryan Smith
Apr 04, 2011 Ryan Smith rated it liked it
Beckwith has offered us here a very accessible investigation into the cyclical exchanges that form the relationship between the consumer zeitgeist and the almost astoundingly complex world of marketing successes and failures. His best gestures are those that gently guide into understanding those justifiably perplexing examples that seem to defy all of our intuitions.

While the structuring of the book at times struck me as a bit scattershot and jumpy, this allowed for a certain fluidity that I ap
Rhodes Davis
May 22, 2014 Rhodes Davis rated it did not like it
"Stream of consciousness gibberish. It's like a mind dump of ideas trying to connect with advertising and things we experience in life. The actual substantive part would probably fit in a blog article but I abandoned the book after encountering several errors.

I LOVED Selling the Invisible. This one didn't hit with me."
Mar 06, 2011 Charlie rated it liked it
I was initially really excited, and continued to be interested throughout but in the end it was kind of like learning a magic trick. The subtitle is "The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy". But after he presents some of the foundations for his claims, you realize, it's not so surprising at all - we buy stuff that is fun to play with, that other people we know are buying, and that looks cool. He does have plenty of good psychological research studies, and documentation of marketing and sales d ...more
Aug 26, 2014 Phillip rated it really liked it
This was surprisingly good. It describes marketing and takes a positive psychology approach. Loaded with anecdotes. It is a neat commentary on American society.
Feb 09, 2016 Steve rated it liked it
A collection of anecdotes about advertising techniques and the ways successful brands have marketed their products to the hapless masses.
Richard Mulholland
Jun 23, 2011 Richard Mulholland rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
I enjoyed this book.

However it was over-the-top American (often the word America appeared four or five times a page), the author really found evidence that supported his theory as opposed to looking at evidence to find a theory. That said, you find it hard to ever disagree with his logic which is why I'd still recommend it - just with the above caveat.

I have edited my review and upped the rating to 4-stars. This is due to the impact that the "checklist" at the end of the book has had on both my
Feb 18, 2012 Lori rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Ugh, I had such high hopes. To be fair there were some really interesting ideas presented. But mostly it was just a conglomeration of the authors random ideas. There was no real organization and very little to base it off of, and the scientist in me really balked at the way he drew conclusions. It was a poor man's Malcolm Gladwell (who ironically was talked about a few times in this book!)
Mike McVey
In the vein of Malcolm Gladwell, Beckwith brings to light observations that are usually covered by our environmental biases. Very interesting and important things to know but, also like Gladwell, there are no citations.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The author provided thought-provoking material; so much that I have already started the process of writing again.
Jul 06, 2011 Nicole rated it liked it
Shelves: audible
I have got to stop reading these business books. It took forever to read, and the narrator was annoying. Same narrator as another business book from last year, I forget what, but this was kind of wandering and inconclusive. I know more about Harley-Davidson now than I was likely to know under other circumstances now, though.
Mar 30, 2011 Christina rated it it was ok
An interesting look at an abundance of marketing data that the author feels proves his not exactly revolutionary thesis on why we like/buy what we do. Many of the examples were interesting and thought provoking, but overall I didn't really take away anything I didn't already know/suspect.
Stephanie LGW
Apr 27, 2011 Stephanie LGW rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
This was really interesting. From colors to "we like what is familiar", Beckwith gives a lot of different reasons and rationalizations why we buy what we buy, and why blind taste tests are ineffective (i.e. Pepsi vs. Coke).
Oct 21, 2014 Jessica rated it liked it
Written on a sixth grade level, this book relies too heavily on anecdotes. Convincing statistical evidence would makes this bunch of personal observations by a professional marketer much more compelling.
Nov 10, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Beckwith is always a good bet. Easy to read. To the point. Insightful.
This one comes with a very useful checklist in the back, to help you think through the way your business is presented to the world.
May 08, 2011 Gloria rated it it was ok
Won in GoodReads giveaway.

It was just okay, just like the star says.

Probably best for reading in short bits at lots of different times (it is written that way).

May 15, 2012 Daniel rated it it was ok
Shelves: business
Quick and inoffensive. More than anything, a collection of somewhat interesting anecdotes and a lot of premises taken for granted. Light on meaningful analysis.
Tai Tai
great thought-provoking theories though relying too much on monday morning quarterbacking rather than hardcore evidence
Jun 16, 2012 Julia rated it did not like it
A rehash of things that others have written about with greater insight and skill.
Jun 13, 2013 Trish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read. Great for anyone working in sales/marketing.
Aug 07, 2012 Kent rated it it was ok
Shelves: business, psychology
This one didn't do much for me.
Apr 30, 2012 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good! A whole lot to think about.
Feb 10, 2012 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: adult
Sunday color
Kim Sookkhim
Kim Sookkhim marked it as to-read
May 08, 2016
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Harry Beckwith heads Beckwith Partners, a marketing firm that advises twenty-three Fortune 200 clients and dozens of venture-capitalized start-ups on branding and positioning. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford, Beckwith is an internationally acclaimed speaker. He is the bestselling author of five books, which, collectively, have been translated into twenty-three languages.
More about Harry Beckwith...

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“When outsiders criticize Americans, they regularly note that we seem self-centered, which we are. But few contend we are selfish, and with good reason; we are not.” 3 likes
“Buying things is only sometimes about owning the things. Buying often is simply about what 50 Cent observed: being ABLE to buy. Having less means hearing "No, you cannot have that," and we loathe being told what we can and cannot do.” 1 likes
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