The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are
By Rob Walker
Random House (NY), Hardcover, 9781400063918, 291pp.
Publication Date: June 3, 2008
“Fascinating … A compelling blend of cultural anthropology and business journalism.” — Andrea Sachs, Time Magazine
“An often startling tour of new cultural terrain.” — Laura Miller, Salon
“Marked by meticulous research and careful conclusions, this superbly readable book confirms New York Times journalist Walker as an expert on consumerism. … [A] thoughtful and unhurried investigation into consumerism that pushes the analysis to the maximum…” — Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
Brands are dead. Advertising no longer works. Weaned on TiVo, the Internet, and other emerging technologies, the short-attention-span generation has become immune to marketing. Consumers are “in control.” Or so we’re told.
In Buying In, New York Times Magazine “Consumed” columnist Rob Walker argues that this accepted wisdom misses a much more important and lasting cultural shift. As technology has created avenues for advertising anywhere and everywhere, people are embracing brands more than ever before–creating brands of their own and participating in marketing campaigns for their favorite brands in unprecedented ways. Increasingly, motivated consumers are pitching in to spread the gospel virally, whether by creating Internet video ads for Converse All Stars or becoming word-of-mouth “agents” touting products to friends and family on behalf of huge corporations. In the process, they–we–have begun to funnel cultural, political, and community activities through connections with brands.
Walker explores this changing cultural landscape–including a practice he calls “murketing,” blending the terms murky and marketing–by introducing us to the creative marketers, entrepreneurs, artists, and community organizers who have found a way to thrive within it. Using profiles of brands old and new, including Timberland, American Apparel, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Bull, iPod, and Livestrong, Walker demonstrates the ways in which buyers adopt products, not just as consumer choices, but as conscious expressions of their identities.
Part marketing primer, part work of cultural anthropology, Buying In reveals why now, more than ever, we are what we buy–and vice versa.
Praise for Buying In
“Walker … makes a startling claim: Far from being immune to advertising, as many people think, American consumers are increasingly active participants in the marketing process. … [He] leads readers through a series of lucid case studies to demonstrate that, in many cases, consumers actively participate in infusing a brand with meaning. … Convincing.” — Jay Dixit, The Washington Post
“Walker lays out his theory in well-written, entertaining detail.” — Seth Stevenson, Slate
“Buying In delves into the attitudes of the global consumer in the age of plenty, and, well, we aren’t too pretty. Walker carries the reader on a frenetically paced tour of senseless consumption spanning from Viking ranges to custom high-tops.” — Robert Blinn, Core77
“Rob Walker is one smart shopper.” — Jen Trolio, ReadyMade
“The most trenchant psychoanalyst of our consumer selves is Rob Walker. This is a fresh and fascinating exploration of the places where material culture and identity intersect.”
–Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food
“This book has vast social implications, far beyond the fields of marketing and branding. It obliterates our old paradigm of companies (the bad guys) corrupting our children (the innocents) via commercials. In this new world, media-literate young people freely and willingly co-opt the brands, and most companies are clueless bystanders desperate to keep up. I really don't know if this is good news or bad news, but I can say, with certainty, that this book is a must-read.”
–Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do with My Life?
“Rob Walker is a gift. He shows that in our shattered, scattered world, powerful brands are existential, insinuating themselves into the human questions ‘What am I about?’ and ‘How do I connect?’ His insight that brand influence is becoming both more pervasive and more hidden–that we are not so self-defined as we like to think–should make us disturbed, and vigilant.”
–Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
“Rob Walker is a terrific writer who understands both human nature and the business world. His book is highly entertaining, but it’s also a deeply thoughtful look at the ways in which marketing meets the modern psyche.”
–Bethany McLean, editor at large, Fortune, and co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room
“Are we living in an era of YouTube-empowered, brand-rejecting consumers? Rob Walker has the surprising answers, and you won’t want to miss this joyride through the front lines of consumer culture. A marketing must-read.”
–Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick
“Rob Walker brilliantly deconstructs the religion of consumption. Love his column, couldn’t put his book down.”
–Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy
"A fresh and fascinating exploration of the places where material culture and identity intersect."—Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food
"A compelling blend of cultural anthropology and business journalism."—Time
"Few observers have plumbed the subterranean poetry of marketing as thoroughly as Walker."—New York Times Book Review
"Superbly readable . . . a thoughtful and unhurried investigation into consumerism . . . marked by meticulous research and careful conclusions."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Witty . . . Walker unravels what he calls the Desire Code, that tension between wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out, wanting to be unique and yet somehow attached to something greater than ourselves."—Times-Picayune
"Provocative . . . richly reported."—USA Today