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Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,093 ratings  ·  132 reviews
Marketing executives and consumer advocates alike predict a future of brand-proof consumers, armed with technology and a sophisticated understanding of marketing techniques, who can effectively tune out ad campaigns. But as Rob Walker demonstrates, this widely accepted misconception has eclipsed the real changes in the way modern consumers relate to their brands of choice. ...more
Hardcover, 261 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Random House (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  1,093 ratings  ·  132 reviews

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Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jamie Schweser
Shelves: nonfiction
Much more than a simple, cocktail party business book -- it's an attentive, subtle and entertaining meditation that not only uncovers the latest trends in buying, selling and marketing but also pushes readers to consider larger questions beyond these subjects. Personally, since finishing the book, I've taken a harder look at my purchases and what they mean to my larger sense of identity. Not that this is some kind of Chicken Soup for the Marketing Soul, but Walker isn't afraid to follow his many ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. As a small biz owner I am often looking for ideas on how to advertise or spread the word about what I do without being unauthentic to who I am and what I do and what my overarching biz and cultural goals are. This book didn't provide me with ideas on how to advertise better, but it did offer insight into how advertising works, doesn't work, and sometimes isn't needed. Sometimes, having the best product is all that matters in the end. He does have a chapter ...more
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got this in a socialist bookstore which, with its focus, made me think that it would be a kind of 2008 update of Naomi Klein’s “No Logo”. Instead, it reads like a primer for brand marketers, and, in fact, its back cover is full of praises sung by business journalists. Its author, Rob Walker, is a columnist in the business press.

Walker’s oft-stated thesis – that, despite marketers’ claims to the contrary, marketing is alive and kicking, just taking some different forms – would work better for
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: red
Subtitle: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are

So, there are people who make it their task to analyze the relationship between consumer and producer. They are normally in the pay of the latter, who really ought to be called "seller" because they may not actually have produced anything (e.g. Apple pays somebody else to make their electronic devices). Rob Walker, unusually, is one of these people, but not primarily as a creator of ad campaigns, but rather as someone who analyzes t
It is quite likely, although by no means assured, that when it comes out this summer Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are will take its rightful place alongside such paradigm shifting titles as The World is Flat, Freakonomics, Applebee's America, The Tipping Point, etc. Like most of its compatriots Buying In relies heavily on expert interviews and case studies to explore how the world has changed over the past 10 years or so. In this case -- marketing, branding and c ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book doesn't seem to be thick, but contains so important message about how the marketing evolved. He gave many examples from Red Bull, Timberland, Ipod, Living Strong, the Hip-Hop generation...etc to explain the whole development between producers and consumers.

We are in the murketing era ( def. from wikipedia: murketing is an advertising strategy that avoids direct sales of a product and focuses instead on vagaries such as marketing buzz, brand identity and publicity.). The commercial and
3.5 stars. This was a good book. I don't quite know what the point was but it was filled with a lot of anecdotes and examples of different businesses that made it a decent listen.


The first brand logo believed to have been worn on the outside of a garment is some La Crost crocodile from a French tennis player in the 1920s.

A logo acquires its meaning through the product it is attached to or those who wear the product.

I never liked that stupid Ecko brand because it was associated with hip-h
Mary M
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Consumerism Explained (sort of)

I hardly ever rate a book five stars. The book must have really rocked my world in some way. This was a “PrettyGood” book, a concept he discusses. It was written in 2007, so no doubt much has changed, but many of the people and methods of consumerism are still alive and working. If you are interested in why people buy the things they do and what kind of force consumerism is in the world, this is a good read and rather more optimistic than might be the norm.
This might be close to 10 years old but there's still plenty of relevance here. The rise of influencers, murketing and priming continue to have an insidious presence, coupled with marketers' astute understanding of the psychological thrill of acquisition and our delusions of "control" and "uniqueness". ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
fun books about brands and image associated with it, and how consumers inturn effect the brand. murkerting is the act of marketing towards a less specific market, due to the fact that the consumers make their own interpretation, the history of PBR is super interesting seen as how it has set up to fail slowly.
Bryce Ramgovind
Mar 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Very interesting concept and brilliant start, however the author failed to sustain the interest. Towards the end of book it became a case study of different companies' marketing campaigns. ...more
Cj Rey
Oct 09, 2020 rated it liked it
I think most business-related books would be better if they were limited to 100 pages. This book included.
ashiq khondker
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book has been crucial to my research on subjectification processes and self-actualization, as located in consumer economies.
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
from the library c2008
Everything I have read so far is great. e-ching reading

ch 1 the pretty good problem is what is there to choose when the field is full of adequate competiters
"the goal of the rational consumer is 'maximize utility'"

the desire code:utility, economical, and authentic

authentic is "you can't help but be attracted to them because they lived by their instincts." referring to some skateboarders who started a youth culture

authentic competes with invented symbolic meani
Andrew (M)
Dec 03, 2008 rated it liked it
“Buying In” is about the role consumers play in modern advertising (or as Walker calls it, the “commercial persuasion” industry). Whereas in the past consumers were presented with a marketing message by the advertising company, consumers now have a much greater ability to shape that message. Through numerous examples of business that employ this “murketing” strategy (a neologism that conveys the murky quality of modern marketing), we see how companies can no longer expect to force a particular m ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Does what we buy define who we are? I won't tell you the punch line, you'll have to read to the last line of Walker's book to find the answer.

This is a popular study of marketing and consumers--why we buy, and how marketing affects what and how we choose to buy. Walker considers and rejects the two extremes often supposed to be true today:

--consumers (especially younger ones) are cynical and way too smart to buy the marketing hype.

--marketing is so smart and pervasive that nothing we buy is "aut
Todd N
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
I work for an advertising/media company (albeit one that thinks of itself as a technology company), so I was very interested to read a glowing review of this book about marketing in the New York Times a few weeks ago.

This book is an attempt to sum up the latest trends in marketing and to shine some light on the American consumer's twisted and complex relationship with the concept of "brand."

The most shocking thing I learned in this book (which seems sort of obvious to me know) is that every gene
Aug 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: marketing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Through measurable social science studies, observations and interviews, and a sprinkling of pure conjecture, Rob Walker deconstructs the relationship between ourselves and our stuff in Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are.

I’ve maintained a keen interest in corporate marketing (which I now know to call the consumer persuasion industry) since my law school days, when I supplemented my meager student loan and part-time work income by participating in market research st
This book was a great beginning point for those who are interested in marketing. Everything stated in a book about effective marketing and whatnot should be taken with a grain of salt because it is never so simple.

This book uses case studies to help prove the authors point. And these case studies lead to some very interesting conclusions about mankind.

Reading this I came across a few lines that I thought would help someone get a feel for this book.

"Branding is really a process of attaching an id
I tend to think that I'm a pretty intelligent person, and more or less immune to marketing gimmicks and whatnot. So when I read the opening of Buying In, where Rob Walker states that polls show that 77% of people asked said they're "more aware" of marketing efforts than others, and 66% said they're "better critical thinkers than their typical peer," I decided maybe I'm not as smart as I think I am.

Based on that, I then expected the book to be much more about ways that we're tricked into buying
I was really expecting to like this book more - the premise was far more interesting than the book itself.

My main complaints are that it felt disorganized to me - Walker would be discussing murketing in the 80's for example (murketing = murky marketing), and then switch gears to discussing brands, only to jump back to talking about murketing in the 90's. There was too much back and forth between time periods and topics, which gave the overall feeling of disconnectedness. There was also a lot mo
Aug 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Precocious high school students who might be interested in market and PR
"Buying In" presents most of its information in examples of brands and their marketing. The examples are excellently chosen and very fascinating, from Red Bull to PBR to Timberland to Converse to Kia. However, the book is a bit dated and could use more relevant examples. For example, American Apparel is referenced, but from about 2006, and since then a lot has changed with the company's ethics, how they market themselves, and the owner's sexual proclivities.
I'd lump the book in with other pop sc
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The message of Buying In is that while modern consumers have becomes smarter and more discriminating, they are nonetheless embracing brands like never before.

Despite cynicism in general toward the persuasion industry and new technologies that allow people to bypass advertising in some contexts (using TiVo, DVRs, website ad blockers), author Rob Walker contends that people are increasingly finding value by bringing their own meanings and interpretations to brands. Using varied examples including
Dec 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Rob Walker, who writes an always intriguing NY Times column on marketing and consumer culture, pulls together what he has learned about brands, beliefs and what we buy in well-structured discussion with a number of fascinating stories. The book would still be worth the read if it contained only Walker’s expanded versions of his columns recounting unusual brand stories such as Hello Kitty (the secret to the logo’s power is its missing mouth), Red Bull (built by spending $100mil on goofy undergrou ...more
Aug 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting book profiling corporate america's desire to sell you stuff and people thoughts about how they are immune to it while at the same time company's are still sneaking things into your subconscious. The author coins the term "Murketing" to descibe the combination of murky, somewhat underhanded marketing that this entails. The promotion of this book on GoodReads makes me think that the author has learned a thing or two about promotion during his interviews...

A selection from the book r
Jan 05, 2009 added it
Shelves: interviewees
Read the STOP SMILING interview with New York Times Magazine columnist and Buying In author Rob Walker:

While many of us fancy ourselves modern-day Holden Caulfields as we call out the phonies in the world of advertising and marketing, few have articulated their positions with the degree of clarity as Rob Walker. Rather than simply bristling at Doves’ “real beauty” ad campaign or railing on Nike’s purchase of Converse, the Savannah-based writer encourages us to consider how our behavior and attit
May 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
Wow was this book disappointing. Rob Walker is a columnist and it showed in the superficial, anecdotal treatment of the topics. While the book has an ambitious subtitle, it does not actually get into the psychological aspects of buying on the consumer end, which is to what I assume the subtitle alludes. Granted, I only read halfway through before having to return to the library, but I flipped through the remainder to see if I was missing anything and it didn't appear that I was.

The premise seems
Aug 16, 2009 rated it liked it

This sometimes fascinating, sometimes long-winded book explains about "murkablity". Murkablity = Murky + Modern

Walker draws on the such histories as Proctor & Gamble, Timberland, Red Bull, Axe, and Ecko. It gave me a pause because I, like most Americans, consider myself wizened to the ploys of modern marketing. If we are all so immune to marketing ploys how come our collective behavior and buying habits say otherwise?

Some of the points that stuck out of me: how a labeled can of Coca-
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthropology-etc
Starting with investigating his own relationship with his Converse Chucks and his rejection of Nike (who now apparently owns Converse), Walker debunks the received wisdom of Old Advertising that consumers are manipulated into needing things they had hithertofore lived happily without. Advertising now seems to just validate what the consumer had already decided. Besides, who actually makes conscious decisions? Doesn't your brain just decide and then you spend time rationalizing?
Walker was in at t
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Rob Walker is a journalist covering design, technology, business, the arts, and other subjects. He writes the Human Resource column for Lifehacker, and has contributed to The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, TheNewYorker.Com, Design Observer, The Organist, and many others. His book The Art of Noticing (Knopf) comes out in May 2019. He is on the faculty of the Products of Desig ...more

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I admit that I certainly counted myself among those who figured I was brandproof. After all, I'm a journalist who writes about this stuff for a...
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