Brands are dead. Advertising no longer works. Consumers are in control. Or so we're told. In Buying In, Rob Walker argues that this accepted wisdom misses a much more important cultural shift, including a practice he calls murketing, in which people create brands of their own and participate, in unprecedented ways, in marketing campaigns for their favorites. Yes, rather than becoming immune to them, we are rapidly embracing brands. Profiling Timberland, American Apparel, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Bull, iPod, and Livestrong, among others, Walker demonstrates the ways in which buyers adopt products not just as consumer choices but as conscious expressions of their identities. Part marketing primer, part work of cultural anthropology, Buying In reveals why now, more than ever, we are what we buy—and vice versa.
Marked by meticulous research and careful conclusions, this superbly readable book confirms New York Times journalist Walker as an expert on consumerism. Disputing claims that today's savvy consumer is immune to marketing, Walker argues that, far from disappearing, marketing has simply become harder to detect the line between consumer and consumed has blurred as consumers interact more intimately with the brands, embracing them as a part of their own identity and a tool for self-expression. Smart marketers cater to this trend, and the book illustrates tactics such as sponsorships and word-of-mouth campaigns that target the new consumer. Walker wrings every relevant detail from his case studies; his insights into the rise of the Red Bull brand and the repopularization of the working-class Pabst Blue Ribbon beer are particularly illuminating. The result is a thoughtful and unhurried investigation into consumerism that pushes the analysis to the maximum and builds a thesis that refutes the myth of the brand-proof consumer.