Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's scarier than Packard ever thought

October 2011 Book Review


The Hidden Persuaders

by Vance Packard

Originally published in 1957, this book apparently exposed the average consumer to practices going on behind the closed doors or businesses and ad agencies.  The practice of studying consumer behavior or as it’s referenced in this book as Motivational Research.  Vance Packard’s take on the subject seemed extremely cynical, but I work in this industry, so who am I to judge.  It is interesting to read about practices taking place as far back as the fifties and to see the birth of our consumerism culture (a move from purely need based purchases to want).

As we are only a little more than a week away from the passing of the iconic Steve Jobs, I found the following quotes from this late fifties book to be eerily profound and prophetic on the success Jobs was able to render decades later:
"An executive said the company was committed to a program of “planned product obsolescence,” presumably by creating new styles and features each year that would make appliance owners dissatisfied with the models they had." 

“You’ll watch for style changes in next year’s appliances, tend to consider your model ‘obsolete’ after two or three years even though it works well—just as your husband watches year-to-year style changes in cars, tends to consider the family model outdated after two or three years even though it runs beautifully.”

The practices and methods still hold true to this day (just a lot more wide-spread, scientific and timely in collection) and as I’ve seen will continue to evolve.  I get the sense Packard would not be happy.

I’m now reading the latest Martin Lindstrom book, Brandwashed, which I’m expecting to be a modern version of The Hidden Persuaders, but I don’t expect the same impact will be made in our modern high consumption society.

The Fightin' Analyst Book Rating:

out of five stars