Author Hopes His New Book Redraws Ethical Lines in Marketing

The picture at left is the packaging that we received along with Martin Lindstrom’s new book Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy. After the jump, we’ve got another picture of the inside of the box, which comes with a little video screen.

Bloggers “receive so much stuff every day, I had to stand out,” Lindstrom told us this morning during a phone conversation. “I thought the kit would be interesting and would be passed around the office.”

Lindstrom also wanted to make a point about being “brandwashed.” He says there’s both positive and negative marketing and far too many companies are crossing the line into negative territory.

Lindstrom is the head of Buyology Inc., a “neurological marketing company,” the Lindstrom Company, and the Brand Sense Agency, and the author of two previous books, Buyology and Brand Sense. He also made the TIME 100 list in 2009. In this book, he talks about the fraudulent methods companies are using to manipulate consumers into purchasing their products.

Lindstrom defines “positive brandwashing” as making a great product that people will recommend to others. “Negative brandwashing,” however, happens without the consumer knowing, such as playing psychological tricks. In an article published last Thursday on Fast Company‘s website, Lindstrom uses Whole Foods as an example. Flowers at the store entrance, ice displays, and farmer’s market-style signage all suggest freshness to consumers, sending cues about the goods on sale that may not be true.

While people expect companies to market to them, Lindstrom says, ” We have gotten to the stage where we’ve moved that ethical line too much.” He calls the current state of things a “free-for-all.”

“The Wikileaks of brands may happen,” he adds, “where some online organization decides to sneak out the stuff that’s happening behind-the-scenes at brands. We will end up in the same category as bankers.”

The 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that banks and financial services companies were at the bottom of the list of organizations that people trust.

With this book, Lindstrom wants consumers to push companies to be more forthright about their marketing practices. In the end, he says there could be even greater benefit for companies.

“It’s important for companies to realize now that if they take the time to communicate, they may even get more customers. It becomes a marketing tool,” he says.

And besides that, “we have to sleep well at night,” he says.

“I don’t want to say that I’m a saint. It’s just as much my duty to help get this on track.” Wendell Potter set out to reveal unethical behaviors in PR, specifically in the healthcare arena, in his book from earlier this year, Deadly Spin, showing there are others who may be of the same mindset.

Lindstrom has invited us to check in with him in a few months to see if his efforts are making an impact. We definitely will.