The legendary advertising guru—Ogilvy UK’s vice chairman—and star of three massively popular TED Talks, blends the science of human behavior with his vast experience in the art of persuasion in this incomparable book that decodes successful branding and marketing in the vein of Freakonomics, Thinking Fast and Slow, and The Power of Habit.
When Rory Sutherland was a trainee working on a direct mail campaign at the famed advertising firm OgilvyOne, he noticed that very small changes in design often had immense effects on the number of consumer responses. Yet no one he worked with knew why. Sutherland began taking stock of each effective yet nebulous trick—”the thing which has no name”—he discovered. As he rose in the advertising industry, he began to understand why these things had no name: no one was interested in quantifying them, cataloguing them, or really investigating them. So, he did it himself.
Like classic behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler, Sutherland peels away hidden, often irrational human behaviors that explain how the world around us functions. In How to Be an Alchemist he examines why certain ads work and the broader truths they tell us about who we are. Why do people prefer stripy toothpaste, and how might that help us design retirement plans that young people would actually buy? Why do we think orange juice is healthy, and how does the same principle guide our feelings about nuclear reactors? Why do budget airlines advertise services they don’t offer—and what might insurance companies learn from them about keeping healthcare costs low?
Filled with startling and profound conclusions, Sutherland’s journey through the world of advertising and its surprising lessons for human behavior is insightful, brilliant, eye-opening, and irresistibly fun.