My Take-Aways From The Book Buying In

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 05:50 PM with 0 comments

You have heard the saying ‘you are what you eat.’ But how about you are what you buy? Or the reverse? The latter question is the premise behind a great book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker.

In Buying In, Walker explores this relationship, or as he calls it dialogue, between what we buy and who we are. It is packed with examples of brands and consumer goods and the ways they interact with consumers, the very people who are on the selling side with the marketers and others who connect them with consumers. There are also many great terms that come from this book – from Pretty Good Problem describing a plethora of “pretty good” products to choose from, to Desire Code, which comprises all of the factors leading one to buy something to Murketing, a contraction of the words “murky” and “marketing” which are themes throughout the book.

My greatest takeaway from Buying In is the consumer can make – and sometimes demand – an individual connection with a product. Going away are the days of mass-produced and mass-marketed goods. The Internet has broken down the technical barriers between consumers and companies, and now companies need to realize this and converse with their customers. Technology alone won’t do it all, as there needs to be a fundamental realization first that a company wants to do this!

Another takeaway is consumers don’t want to feel like they have been sold something. Call it a win-win situation - or call it consumers don’t want to feel like they are at the bottom of a pipe of products being fed to them. Scion is cited as an example of this, where they took a non-traditional approach to reaching out to the Generation Y-ers, their target audience.

A final takeaway is that it may not be your product or service, rather how it is marketed. American Apparel moved form promoting their Los Angeles-based manufacturing and selling to wholesalers to retail stores selling hip clothing. Timberland created a professional shoe line to reconnect with their traditional market after growing a new base of younger, urban consumers.

Shortly after reading Buying In, I attended the Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki and saw in action a lot of what I read in Buying In. There were those who were Nokia mavens as well as those who have built businesses around Nokia products. Even Nokia has gotten into this by buying all of the Symbian operating system that powers their phones and turning it over to a non-profit foundation, open-sourcing it for all to develop on and extend. Where some may see this as a lack of control, Nokia doesn’t, and has profited well from this.

There are many other studies and examples in Buying In that get you thinking a lot about what you buy and why or what you sell and how. I highly recommend it to entrepreneurs and business people – large and small – as well as to those interested in why they may have the things they have.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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