The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life
HOW DOES MAGIC HAPPEN? The Ogilvy advertising legend—“one of the leading minds in the world of branding” (NPR)—explores the art and science of conjuring irresistible products and ideas.
"Sutherland, the legendary Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, uses his decades of experience to dissect human spending behavior in an insanely entertaining way. Alchemy combines scientific research with hilarious stories and case studies of campaigns for AmEx, Microsoft and the like. This is a must-read." —Entrepreneur ("Best Books of the Year")
Why is Red Bull so popular, though everyone—everyone!—hates the taste? Humans are, in a word, irrational, basing decisions as much on subtle external signals (that little blue can) as on objective qualities (flavor, price, quality). The surrounding world, meanwhile, is irreducibly complex and random. This means future success can’t be projected on any accounting spreadsheet. To strike gold, you must master the dark art and curious science of conjuring irresistible ideas: alchemy.
Based on thirty years of field work inside the largest experiment in human behavior ever conceived—the forever-unfolding pageant of consumer capitalism—Alchemy, the revolutionary book by Ogilvy advertising legend Rory Sutherland, whose TED talks have been viewed nearly seven million times, decodes human behavior, blending leading-edge scientific research, absurdly entertaining storytelling, deep psychological insight, and practical case studies from his storied career working on campaigns for AmEx, Microsoft, and others.
Heralded as “one of the leading minds in the world of branding” by NPR and "the don of modern advertising" by The Times, Sutherland is a unique thought leader, as comfortable exchanging ideas with Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler (both interviewed in these pages) as he is crafting the next product launch. His unconventional and relentlessly curious approach has led him to discover that the most compelling secrets to human decision-making can be found in surprising places:
What can honey bees teach us about creating a sustainable business?
How could budget airlines show us how to market a healthcare system?
Why is it better to be vaguely right than precisely wrong?
What might soccer penalty kicks teach us about the dangers of risk-aversion?
Better “branding,” Sutherland reveals, can also be employed not just to sell products, but to promote a variety of social aims, like getting people to pay taxes, improving public health outcomes, or encouraging more women to pursue careers in tech.
Equally startling and profound, Sutherland’s journey through the strange world of decision making is filled with astonishing lessons for all aspects of life and business.
Praise For Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life…
— Entrepreneur, "Best Books of the Year for Entrepreneurs"
“This is a breakthrough book. Alchemy is wonderfully applicable to about everything in life. Furthermore, it is funny as hell.”
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan
“Alchemy, as Rory Sutherland’s title promised, turns words into gold. Veins of wisdom emerge regularly and brilliantly from these pages. Don’t miss this book.”
— Robert B. Cialdini, author of the million-copy bestseller Influence
"So many of us are trained to focus on data and the logical, and Alchemy makes a great argument for the irrational. I think everyone could use a reminder that asking dumb questions, reframing old ideas, and, in turn, trying to create a bit of magic, can lead to unexpected solutions for some of our most difficult problems. Alchemy was a reminder of that and then some."
— Inc., "Great Books for Anyone Who Wants to Get Ahead in Life"
"The most recent, and the funniest book on the subject is by Ogilvy Vice Chair Rory Sutherland. Alchemy is both a book on human behavior and a rallying cry to stand up against the spreadsheet mafia dominating most government and corporate policies today. ... Alchemy is full of examples of how human behavior runs contrary to the laws of economics from Sutherland’s work at Ogilvy."
— Forbes, "Best Books on Consumer Behavior to Help You in Business and in Life"
“Buy this book. I loved it. It’s full of great insights.”
— MATT RIDLEY, bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome
“BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT: wonderfully heretical, naughty, funny, and wise. Alchemy has furnished me with enough good stories and sage aphorisms to keep my lecturers to tired students going for another ten years.”
— JULES GODDARD, London Business School
“The don of modern advertising.”
— The Times (London)
“Rory Sutherland’s Alchemy is a deeply original book.”
— ROBERT TRIVERS
"Sutherland is revelatory — and entertaining — in his anatomy of apparently paradoxical consumer choice in action. "
— The Times (London)
“Sutherland brings together complex theory with stories and plentiful humour to both captivate and entertain. It’s an important work for our era of apparent irrationality.”
— The Spectator (UK)
William Morrow, 9780062388414, 384pp.
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
About the Author
Rory Sutherland is vice chairman of Ogilvy. A columnist for The Spectator, he is former president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the professional body for advertising, media, and marketing communications agencies in the United Kingdom. His TED Talks have been viewed more than 6.5 million times. He lives in London.