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10 seminal books (and their speed summaries) for a deep insight into human nature and consumer behaviour.

During times that are uncertain and dynamic, it is tempting to focus on what’s changed and what’s changing. But counter-intuitively it is more worthwhile to understand what is likely to remain constant. This is how we try and structure our thinking here at Brand Genetics – focusing on the fundamental human truth behind an insight. Or as Jeff Bezos put it:

“I frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ That’s a very interesting question and a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two – because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”

To help you change the way you think about insight and innovation we’ve selected 10 seminal books that each reveal a deep insight into human nature and the foundational truths that drive our behaviour. Plus, since we are all short of time, we’ve created 3min speed summaries capturing the key learnings from each.

These deep human insights are applicable across cultures, demographics, guaranteed to be “pandemic resistant” and make a great foundation on which to build long term brand and business strategies despite an ever-changing context.

Happy reading!


#1: Sapiens

What does it mean to be human? In a sweeping narrative spanning two and a half million years of human evolution, Yuval Noah Harari weaves insights from science and the humanities to reveal the untold story of our species


#2: Empathy

This book summarises a decade of research into the art, science and the practice of empathy – our ability to step into the shoes of another person and see the world through their eyes


#3: Thinking, Fast & Slow

The behavioural economics classic that shows how we must appeal to System 1 thinking, and persuade through intuitive appeal as well as rational argument


#4: The Human Brand

Using social perception domains from social psychology, this book argues that people relate to companies, brands and products, in the same way that we naturally perceive, judge and behave towards one another


#5: The Science of Why

To have psychological appeal products, services and campaigns must appeal to consumers motivations – and this book distils the latest motivational research (Maslow is old news!)


#6: The Consuming Instinct

An overview of how we buy things that appeal to our innate human nature; specifically to four evolved instincts – survival, sex, kin and reciprocity


#7: Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavour

How our minds have been hardwired by millennia of evolution to find certain things attractive – and our consumption choices are driven by signalling those things


#8: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

The six universal “persuasion cues” (mental rules of thumb or “heuristics”) that consumers use to make decisions at the supermarket aisle around the world


#9: Decoded – The Science Behind Why We Buy

A look at how marketing should be based around consumer goals (implicit and explicit motivation) and the five core psychological insights that will make your marketing better


#10: How Brands Grow

This is a business bestseller that has fast become an absolute must-read for marketers who wish to use science to debunk a lot of commonly assumed BS

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