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Unthinking: The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy    by Harry Beckworth order for
by Harry Beckworth
Order:  USA  Can
Business Plus, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

In Unthinking: The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy, Harry Beckman purports to not only explain why we routinely make buying decisions without consciously thinking them through, but also to identify the forces that drive us to select one product over another.

With three decades in market research, the author looks at the three major sources that he believes influence our choices: our childhood, our culture and our eyes.

Along with sharing some of his own research, Beckman spotlights the masters of modern marketing and how they use subtle but compelling forces to influence our choices. He also includes numerous anecdotes that explain some of the most counterintuitive behavior he has observed over the decades.

As you read this entertaining narrative you'll learn which uniquely American traits may explain the plights of Krispy Kreme, Ford and GM, and the risks faced by Starbucks. You'll also learn about the single thing the Beatles and Nike both noticed about us that helped them win us over to purchase their recordings and shoes.

Deciding without thinking or the use of shortcuts in decision making often leads to making the wrong decision. The belief that older is wiser, accountants are analytical, and that huge animals aren't agile are not only an example of stereotyping, but based on these shortcuts, a person can make a bad decision.

The author cites an informal study made in 2009 that asked MBA players which player they would choose to take a final shot with the game on the line. The answer was simple. Over 75 percent of the pros gave their fellow player Kobe Bryant the nod. Was that a wise choice? No!

Scan the statistics and you'll see that the Lakers' star missed 75 percent of his shots in clutch situations! In fact, he is not even an average last minute shooter in these situations. The NBA last-minute shot average was 29.8 percent during this particular year (2008-09) and Kobe was a few points below that!

As you read this book you'll discover situations like this that illustrate the ins and outs of good and bad decision making. Reactance is another cognitive bias that can lead to poor decision making. This is our tendency to resist not just taking orders but also suggestions because we dislike giving up our freedom.

This explains why retailers on Valentine's Day get disappointing results when they post signs like 'Don't forget her flowers (or candy) for Valentine's Day!' In other words, don't tell me what to do or what to buy. Be more subtle; just remind me that Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching and that certain someone might appreciate flowers or candy!

Although you might not agree with everything Harry Beckwith has to say about how and why we decide what to purchase or watch on TV, this is still an interesting book. Both retailers and consumers will come away from Unthinking with plenty to think about!

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