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

The Books I Picked & Why

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. 


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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.


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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.


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Nudge

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.


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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.


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