I was very kindly sent an advance copy of Rob Walker's new book, Buying In, which I've just finished reading. Rob has written for the last few years the consistently excellent, fun and provocative Consumed column in the New York Times magazine.
Buying In, is in one way, a smart, readable exposition on the idea christened by Rob of 'murketing' ie murky marketing (think the Red Bull flying events, BzzAgents, the launch of Scion, etc.) that he has talked about weekly in his column.
But it is a much more fundamentally important book. In it, Rob tries to explain the relationship between who we are and what we buy by trying to crack the "desire code". A relationship far more nuanced than we may care to believe. And to do that he lays waste, with great precision and weight of evidence, to many widely held assumptions that are far too often mistaken for fact. That we are in fact no more marketing resistant and brand proof now than we have been before. That it is in fact not what marketers do but what other people do that matters. That brands do not simply transfer their meaning to us; rather, we, more often than we may care to believe or consciously register, give meaning to brands.
It's a great read, packed full of interviews and stories about brands from the new and relative underground (like the hundereds and etsy ) to the older and relative mainstream (Converse, Apple and PBR). And the section where he passes a very cool eye over his time with Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve is worth the read alone.
Until it's published in early June, you can read a sample of the book here