The best books about why we buy – and what brands “mean”

Michael R. Solomon Author Of The New Chameleons: How to Connect with Consumers Who Defy Categorization
By Michael R. Solomon

Who am I?

I’m passionate about the extraordinary world of the ordinary consumer. Organizations are much more likely to succeed when they are, too. I’m a marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, U.S.A. I’m also a marketing consultant, an author (my Consumer Behavior textbook is the market leader globally), and a keynote speaker.  

I wrote...

The New Chameleons: How to Connect with Consumers Who Defy Categorization

By Michael R. Solomon,

Book cover of The New Chameleons: How to Connect with Consumers Who Defy Categorization

What is my book about?

Consumers are changing, but the marketing categories used to identify them have not. Engage with this new generation of consumers who increasingly take for granted that products and advertising will blend their multiple brand identities rather than market to them as a specific subculture.

Male or female, work or play, online or offline. These and other market categories are no longer relevant as modern consumers defy traditional boundaries and identify as members of multiple subcultures. The New Chameleons reveals how to engage with this new generation of consumers who change their social identities as often as chameleons change colors.

The books I picked & why

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

By Robert B. Cialdini,

Book cover of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Why this book?

The author is also a social psychologist (we were trained in the same Ph.D. program), and this book is one of the seminal works in the field. Bob Cialdini systematically applies well-worn rules of social attraction and power derived from voluminous research on attitudes and persuasion to marketing challenges. Many practitioners became aware of the complex dynamics of persuasion as a result of this book. 

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

By Paco Underhill,

Book cover of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

Why this book?

Paco’s Why We Buy has been the gold standard for shopper marketers for many years. This book (and its more recently updated new edition) opens our eyes to the seemingly “random” behaviors of store shoppers. This was one of the first attempts to systematically study and optimize the use of retail space – as such it was a precursor to the many books on the customer experience we see today.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

By Erving Goffman,

Book cover of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Why this book?

Erving Goffman’s work on impression management had a huge influence on me, beginning in my student days when I started to become fascinated by everyday interactions. The deliberate (and often convoluted) process of trying to control the impressions others form of us is integral to our modern-day understanding of brands and the social meanings they hold.


By Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein,

Book cover of Nudge

Why this book?

In recent years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of interest in the subtle, yet powerful environmental cues that regular our behaviors. This focus on behavioral economics is a bit of a concession by economists that consumer behavior is not necessarily governed by the “rational” laws of homo economicus, where choices are calmly and rationally made with full knowledge of all the relevant parameters. This holds huge ramifications for marketing applications, but also for public policy issues (e.g., persuading employees to save more for retirement, promote organ donation, etc.

Snow Crash

By Neal Stephenson,

Book cover of Snow Crash

Why this book?

Today, everyone’s buzzing about “The Metaverse” and the steady integration of our offline and online lives. Stephenson’s novel introduced this concept, and it really impacted my thinking and research on virtual social identity as consumers spend more and more of their lives enmeshed in virtual worlds rather than in the physical space. A very prescient vision of the future of marketing and consumer behavior.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in persuasion, decision making, and social psychology?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about persuasion, decision making, and social psychology.

Persuasion Explore 16 books about persuasion
Decision Making Explore 42 books about decision making
Social Psychology Explore 27 books about social psychology

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Four Agreements, Good Strategy Bad Strategy, and Social Intelligence if you like this list.